This week, I spent quite a bit of time playing with information. I was finally able to edit directly the School’s site (it will take another couple of days to publish the updated version), we were able to launch the bare-bones site for NCATE and RIPA Institutional reports (it is called http://RICreport.org), and we had another go at the on-line student teaching application. I actually enjoy this kind of work immensely. Every time a simpler, more straightforward way of conveying information is found, it makes me happy. Where does it come from? I am not sure; perhaps a hobby, an inclination.
Sometimes I wonder if a dean should be spending his time cleaning up the School’s website. Not normally, not routinely. But at this point of my life here, it is extremely useful. Understanding of information flows is understanding of the organization. Understanding something is simply organizing one’s thoughts, telling a coherent story about it.
Here is an example: NCATE and RIPA reports are both due in May. They have somewhat similar content, but very different structures. For example, NCATE wants to know about our technology resources in Standard 6, while RIPA - in Standard 2. We of course, could write two separate reports, but the problem is – each has to come with hundreds of pieces of evidence. It just becomes a logistical nightmare to collect and organize all of this stuff. However, we figured out that a website does not have to linear, and it allows the same document to be easily attached to two different outlines. Why is it important? Well, if you are working on the description of technology, we must wait until you’re done to incorporate it into the report, and you would put it in two different places. And then we discover an error, or additional piece of information – we then need to edit both places, and make sure it still connects to the previous and subsequent text. A website, however, can be used by all the members of the team as a working instrument – many pages can be edited at the same time, and retain their links.
Anyway, for me it is like a puzzle or chess – a somewhat abstract game of solving information flow problems. But in the meanwhile, I think I start to understand what we actually need to collect and how we should present the good work we do. I would not like to do it all the time – meeting with people, talking, listening are still by far more important and enjoyable parts of my work. But I like my puzzles, too.