Sunday, December 9, 2012

Don't ban mobile devices from meetings; leverage them!

Just read a post on Techcrunch "Tech Is Making Meetings Worse, It’s Time For Digital Hat Racks" which recommends that we should make people check in their mobile devices before starting a meeting.  The author Nir Eyal feels that there are only rare occasions when attendees actually use their devices in a productive manner and thus these act as distractors.  
From Techcrunch linked to http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/09/digital-hat-racks/

This is issue is very similar to faculty members complaining about their students not paying attention during class, spending time on Facebook or texting instead.

My response to this post is that one can have very productive meetings when we use devices appropriately.  I find that meetings can be excellent working meetings when we have laptops and other mobile devices and use them purposefully.  I am involved in several standing meetings through out the week which follow the following model:

  1. The team has a shared folder on Google Drive
  2. Before each meeting, a document is created in the shared folder - the title is the date of the meeting
  3. Participants populate the document with agenda items prior to the meeting
  4. During the meeting one laptop is used to project the Agenda document on the screen
  5. At least one other person uses another device, usually a laptop to load the same document and edit it collaboratively.  This device is often passed around among the attendees depending on who needs to edit it.
  6. During the meeting we use the devices to
    1. Look up information - rather than assigning the task to someone to look up after the meeting and thus postponing the decision making to the next meeting
    2. Communicating - often via email or alpha pagers (yes we still use those) - send message to get answers or more information.  
    3. Project data or web sites 
    4. This information is entered into the agenda document which essentially becomes the meeting minutes.
  7. Since everyone has access to the document, no minutes need to be emailed, or approved.  
  8. While a lot of work does get done during the meeting, we of course make decisions about projects and this is captured on Trello.  We use Trello as a project management tool.  This serves to bridge the meetings by creating a list of to dos for each project and assigns these to a team member.  Team members review Trello between meetings and use this to organize their work and then update the agenda document for the next meeting.
This model has worked very well for us and we have expanded it to create a Google+ circle of team members.  This allows us to do hangouts for meetings where someone is unable to attend in person and also continue the conversation between meetings.  

The same model can be adopted for learning sessions, but the faculty need to be aware of and comfortable with technology tools that can help improve the learning experience and make the process more active, fun and efficient.