We’ve been discussing workflows and how to support them in our teaching recently at ITLP. The idea that many applications can be dipped into to create a fluid workflow that modifies to the user’s specific needs isn’t that new – but it is difficult to anticipate in teaching support and still requires core knowledge of each individual part of the process. How do you teach people the freedom of creating workflows if you are not a master of all the components (an impossible task, especially when you consider the growing presence of web 2.0 in academic practice)?
I think in this arena, expectations have to shift. Teachers might adopt the approach of the adventurous scout rather than the master of a controlled environment. And users should adjust their expectations of a carefully planned master tutorial to something much more open-ended and introductory in nature. The pay-off is of course sessions that open up new possibilities of outcomes as well as greater knowledge of an applications use – teaching that genuinely changes accepted paradigms and gives academics fresh options.
Software manufacturers are aware of this trend – a core strength of iLife has always been it’s ability to share data amongst its applications and produce a blended output to the user’s wishes. Microsoft’s launch of Office 2010 will see further integration and key leaps into Web 2.0 output such as sharing a PowerPoint online with a single key stroke. How we disseminate our work (how to make this easy/simple) is sharply in focus at the present and there is no reason to think that this will change. We are living in an age when the user and his/her individual demands are being addressed by integration and sharing.
Where all this will end is not clear but it certainly makes new demands of teaching. Whilst there will always be a need for focussed and expert tutorials in key and specialised apps, there will be a growing demand to step outside of the parameters of a particular product and think creatively about delivering possibilities as well as givens. Our long standing relationship with our users will be a huge asset once again as we deliver teaching to meet these creative times.