The Value of Collaboration (and Graphic Design)

As I reflect on this week, one theme I find unifying many events for me is the value of collaboration.

This first came to mind on Monday when I presented at the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) District Technology Leaders (DTL) meeting. I was sharing the Internet Awareness and Safety curriculum (for parents and educators) that I’ve been developing in collaboration with the Laguna Beach Unified School District and the Laguna Beach Police Department. The project would not have been possible if Victor Guthrie, the IT director at the Laguna Beach USD, hadn’t approached me about a program that would provide participants with both sides of the web 2.0 story… the benefits and the concerns. Also, there’s no way the workshops would be what they have been if we hadn’t have worked with the police department. It was downright sobering for me to hear the real stories of what has happened locally right in their small (but admittedly attention attracting) town. Now, the OCDE is helping to pay for the project, and I certainly would not have been sharing the curriculum with the other district technology leaders without the support of Sandy Lapham, the administrator of educational technology at the county office.

When I posted some Internet Safety links in preparation for this talk, Anne Bubnic of CTAP Region 4 left a comment about the cybersafety site they’ve created for their region. I checked it out before the DTL meeting and was humbled by their graphic design (in comparison to my bare-bones approach)… their site is very thorough, but very accessible – and it looks great. (In defense of the work we’ve been doing, I think we still contribute an effort to focus on telling both sides of the story… on educating about the benefits to off-set the danger of fear-mongering.)

In any case, I serendipitously happened to then spend Tuesday traveling up to Oakland to present to the equivalent of the DTL group in CTAP Region 4… the Bay Area Regional Council (BARC). Again I was humbled by their work. The presentation used to introduce my talk (prepared by Kathleen Ferenz) was beautiful, animated, full of embedded video, and included interactive elements… complete with toy laser swords! On the fly, I ended up contrasting the elegant design of their cybersafety slides with my barebones design as an example of a 21st Century Literacy I needed to work on myself. (The topic of the meeting was “new literacies.”) In any case, the meeting would not have been what it was without Kathleen’s introductory activities.

I also realized that there is no reason I shouldn’t collaborate with someone to be sure that my work takes advantage of better graphic design. After all, I’m learning that in many ways the “media is the message” – or perhaps the media is at least as important as the message. In any case, my old friend Benton Melbourne may have some new work headed his way next time I am developing any curriculum… or presenting anything for that matter.

So I could go on about all the other collaborations I worked on this week (like the upcoming podcasting workshops put on by CUE, CSUF, and the OCDE), but I think the real value comes from boiling this down to it’s essence: that pursuing collaborations, particularly in place of competition or to shore up weaknesses, is a valuable strategy for success.

Where is the collaboration aphorism that I’m searching for here? Any ideas?

4 Responses to “The Value of Collaboration (and Graphic Design)”

  1. Adrienne DeWolfe Says:

    Hi, Mark,
    Nice to meet you Tuesday and thanks for plugging the CTAP IV work on cybersafety. Let’s continue the conversation in the spirit of collaboration.
    Adrienne

  2. Mark Wagner Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Adrienne! It was good to meet you, too, and I look forward to continuing the conversation. :)

  3. Kathleen Ferenz Says:

    Hey Mark,
    Ok, the lightsabers and the embedded video was our attempt to “act like a native”. But the immigrants in our audience jumped right in and played, right? More important in your post here is your theme of collaboration. I did not work alone on this action of using toys to making learning memorable and interactive. Sandy and I worked together. Working together is a way of constructing a mosaic of learning opportunities that would not be nearly as good. Sandy was my thinking and presenting partner. We believe deeply that two heads working on an idea is best. We keep at an idea until it gels. This is how we work together at CTAP. In this case, we collaborated on all aspects of the design of our intro for your presentation. Who would combine lightsabers with taking a Geek test? Two minds working on a project late at night of course! We tried other ideas but they did not pan out. So we said, ok, find the swords like Yoda. We had to search the net for the right video clip, comb all the dollar stores in the bay area to buy out the swords everywhere. Alas, the fun, the learning was all done in collaboration. Glad you enjoyed it!

    So, we are thinking that the power of blogs is collaboration, just like we are all doing together on this post. Thanks for your thoughts on the idea.

  4. Mark Wagner Says:

    I’m catching up on comments today, Kathleen, and just wanted to say thanks for the comment and for setting the record straight here. :)

    There’s a new GTA down here soon and I look forward to my colleagues here being plugged into your group up there – and to the collaboration that is sure to follow.

    -Mark