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February 02, 2009

Lev Gonick: Blogging, University Culture, and the Leadership Challenge

This month, The Chronicle of Higher Education has asked me to be a guest blogger on their Wired Campus Blog. This is a re-posting from the first entry. In the next blog for Wired Campus I tackle the Wiki-Way and University Leadership.

I have been blogging since November 2004. At various professional meetings, like the CIO Executive Council and Educause gatherings, I have had the opportunity to share thoughts on the impact of blogging in the workspace. Sometimes the panel conversation is framed in terms of “whether” we, as CIOs, should support workplace blogging Alternatively, we’ve discussed the impact of blogging in the world of higher education. The framing and reframing of the topic of blogging can be, and should be, seen as a catalytic force for challenging received wisdom on the relevance of universities in the 21st century.

Over the past four years or so, I have tried to use my blog, Bytes From Lev, as a platform for three arcs of activities I see as key to my work as university CIO:

* Local Communication: I use the blog to raise issues and offer commentary to the professional technology community at Case Western. Almost every CIO in higher education will say that you can never communicate too much, especially to IT colleagues across the campus. IT organizations remain largely hierarchical, and it is often the case that communication does not flow as naturally as I might want across and down the organization. Using the blog is not a substitute for face-to-face exchanges, but I hope that the IT staff members at our university who care to read my blog will have a sense of the “big” issues that help frame my daily work, and that might have a derivative impact on the lives of other IT professionals. I think leading by example and using the blog as a communication device is an attempt to “lead from the front.” I have encouraged others to consider the same approach.

* Community Outreach: Our university has an important role in the life and aspirations of the broader community in Northeast Ohio. Through various activities, including the use of Bytes from Lev, I have attempted to reach out to the region to share in the development of a vision of a connected community. My underlying conviction has been that the long-term health and well-being of Case Western is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of Northeast Ohio. The future of the region is intimately connected to the process of reimaging, reinventing, and reinvigorating what we want to be in the 21st century. An intelligent, innovative, creative, connected, and educated community capable of charting its own future in the digital age is an important part of our future. I have used my blog as a platform for advancing insights and attempting to provoke dialog where I can on this portfolio of topics.

* A Handy Soap Box: Finally, I have long believed that an additional piece of advocacy and leadership that CIOs are professionally obligated to engage in is educating the public and our civic leaders. I have used the blog to comment, sometimes at length, on the importance of next-generation broadband connectivity and advanced technologies to any strategy for American competitiveness. I’ve also commented on the vital role of higher education in a wide range of public goods — from basic science to educating critically reflective citizens. CIOs have a tendency to bemoan the lack of knowledge and sophistication of members of the public and our civic leaders around technology and public investment in technological infrastructure. I’ve tried, in a very modest way, to use Bytes From Lev as a platform to invite readers to glean insights on issues that might inform their work in various settings. A week doesn’t go by in which a church committee, a civic organization, a staffer for an elected official, or a journalist or analyst doesn’t contact me about topics raised in the blog.

Blogging is one important tool in the professional repertoire of the CIO. Over the next several blog entries, I will link the blog to emerging and disruptive forces of change within the university and encourage engagement through Wired Campus.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44122

Posted by lsg8 at February 2, 2009 04:45 PM and tagged

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