I’ve been thinking about the Flat World, ever since attending Alan November’s CUE 2006 session last March. Thomas Freedman’s book, “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” is an excellent look into how the world has changed the past six years. His previous book ” The Lexus and The Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization” shows us how globalization has connected countries and economies and how the “herd” of investors helps keep economies in check. I see both books as tightly connected, but it’s the flat world that’s been consuming my attention.
My question: Given how the flat world has moved jobs offshore, how will our mission at CTAP be affected? Our work is primarily customer service. We provide a great deal of professional development; we train districts to write their technology plans and then help groom them; we assist in helping districts meet their CDE obligations; and we create a yearly technology conference, ETC.
How, though, will the flat world impact our professional development work, and what should we do now, to combat the oncoming wave? This is the subject of a series of articles I’m writing for the onCUE Journal in our column, onCTAP. Episode one is below.
I’d appreciate your comments and your ideas.
Professional Development in a Flat World, Part 1
Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat describes how companies have become more competitive as educated workforces in other countries vie for the same work. Fueled by cheap, high-speed Internet, collaborative software, outsourcing, and global competition, few industries are safe from its effects. Call tech support and you might be talking to someone in India. Your drive-in order at McDonalds might be taken by someone in another state. Companies that don’t adapt to compete in the newly flat world will be among the first to go bankrupt.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the same forces that have flattened the world are poised to have the same effect on professional development programs. Cheap Internet, collaborative software, high-quality video conferencing, and global competition may just as easily allow your customers to outsource all or part of their local training programs.
However, just as in-person tech support will survive as we bring our computers to Best Buy for repair, face-to-face professional development will also continue to exist, although in a reduced capacity. As professional development flattens, more teachers and districts will have access to alternative training models to provide more timely and economical training that fits their needs. Teachers and administrators, who are working longer hours and facing increasing traffic congestion, may be the early adopters, but the wave has already begun to hit our shore.
To survive, how should your professional development program adapt to be more competitive? What technologies should you incorporate into your training programs? If you’re an educator, what flat world training opportunities are available you? We’ll explore these questions below and in future columns.
In The World is Flat, Friedman offers a number of rules companies (and we’d argue, trainers) should follow in order to compete in a flat world. Here’s a summary of some of his recommendations: 1) Instead of building walls to avoid change, we should get out our shovels and dig deep inside for solutions; 2) Small companies should act big and extend their reach by taking advantage of new collaboration tools; 3) To create value for your customers in an increasingly complex environment, improve your collaborations both within and outside your organization; and 4) Outsource to grow, not to shrink. Outsource to innovate faster and more cheaply.
K12HSN Video Conferencing
One important collaboration tool, video conferencing, will be an essential part of flat professional development programs as organizations expand their client base by creating one-to-one or one-to-many meetings. While instant messenger programs are popular with consumers, their cross-platform reliability and limited group size makes them incompatible for professional development. Quality video conferencing requires the H.323 protocol. Fortunately H.323 clients are available for both platforms. Xmeeting is a free, open-source video conferencing client for the Macintosh. For Window’s computers, Polycom sells equally popular room conferencing systems and desktop software.
To engage in a multi-party videoconference, connect to the K12 High Speed Network to schedule a meeting time and channel. Funded by the state, their services are free. Effective use of video conferencing will help you compete for customers in a flat world. We’ll explore other resources and ideas for competing in a flat world in our next article.
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