Monday, September 14, 2009

Yammer - an experiment in organizational micro-blogging

Image representing Yammer as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
I've heard quite a bit about Yammer over the past few months and truthfully, I didn't think a walled garden space for micro-blogging made sense. After all, isn't the potential upside of sharing in a open spaces like Twitter so much greater due to a much larger audience and network? After reading a Techcrunch post a few weeks back I decided to give Yammer a shot and I have to say that I'm glad I did. While we don't have and overwhelming amount of traffic and users from our school in the space, it certainly does have the potential to be a wonderful way to share links, resources, classroom doings, questions for discussion, etc.

What is Yammer and why might it be useful?
Yammer is essentially a private mircoblogging platform for organizations. Posts are not limited to 140 characters like in Twitter and may include text, images, links, etc. Yammer offers a decent desktop client and the iPhone App is pretty decent (soon the iPhone app will include photo sharing from the iPhone camera, which will make a great on-the-fly classroom sharing tool). Groups inside of the network may be created and Yammer supports threaded conversation, which is something that Twitter does not offer. In comparison to email, I believe it has the potential to be a much more effective space to share information across traditional organizational boundaries. For years I've found email to be too linear and one dimensional and I think many folks share my thinking. In email I've found that many folks typically do not share with the entire organization, but instead only with their department or mail group. As we consider multi-disciplinary learning opportunities in our schools, we're going to have to look at using communication systems that move us away from 'island' communication. After all, there is a very good chance that the math link or teaching idea that a math teachers shares with other members of her department department could have relevance to a much broader audience that even includes students.

My experience in setting up the network for our organization:
The first step involved my going over to Yammer and creating my account. I had to so with my Castilleja email address as the registration system is dependent upon email verification. Once I verified that I indeed owned that email address, I was in the network and Yammering. After getting into the space I invited a few of my colleagues in the tech department and a couple of faculty members. Initially traffic was pretty light, but eventually  invited some other colleauges who invited others, etc. After about a week or so I posted a notice to our faculty & staff distribution list and I eventually sent an invitation to a few students who work on our radio show project and also to my advisees.

Our Progress in Yammer:
We currently have nearly 30 faculty, staff and students in the network and my guess is that we average around 5 posts a day. This isn't very many posts, but in comparison to the kinds of email posts we see going to our faculty & staff distribution list, it has potential to be an excellent platform to discuss teaching and learning. The vast majority of emails to our faculty/staff distribution lists are operational in nature while the 5-10 daily posts at Yammer have some relevance to learning. I'm not convinced entirely that Yammer will work for us, but it certainly should be an interesting experiment.

If cross departmental, multi-constituent (eg-teachers, students, staff, administration), and open sharing regarding teaching and learning isn't happening in your school's email system, then where is it happening??

I'm including a few of our recent Yammer posts so you have an idea of what some of our folks are sharing (I won't reveal the identities of those posting)...while these posts aren't earth shattering, I'm convinced that this type of sharing is really important. After all, the ideas of an organization's employees are quite possibly its most valuable asset.

"the library has obtained a KINDLE for the casti community to experiment with. loading new content. any requests?"

"Kristin sent me a link to a great blog, Letters of Note which posts interesting and historical letters (with transcripts)."

From "Red Scarf Girl" to WorldBook Online, check out English 6 students engaged in a lesson:

"Just watched the ISS and Discovery pass overhead, and so can you! Palo Alto viewing times for the next few days can be found here:   On Tuesday and Wednesday the space shuttle Discovery will appear a few minutes ahead of the ISS, along the same path. Lower magnitudes are brighter, so Tuesday evening's pass should be quite bright, even though the sky won't be fully dark yet."

"i am trying to cultivate a habit of searching youtube for interviews with Latin American authors and other juicy tidbits for my classes."

"I just watched Dan Pink talk on TED. Great recommendation Matt. Great talk and quite appropriate for our mindsets discussion. TED never fail to amaze me. Make sure to check it out at TED.Com"

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