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Brainstorming OWEA Outreach Focus for 2010

Written by Chris Mills, Opera Software ASA (

I see this as a three stage plan:

  • Creating outreach material
  • Spreading word about this material (and the curricula part of our work also)
  • Delivering outreach sessions/events (either ourselves, or better, via local representatives)

Creating outreach material

A lot of this is centered around creating material no only that we can use, but also that anyone else to wants to help with the movement can pick up and use to run events, etc. I know we have a limited amount of free time to contribute to this, so I am going to start small for now and list only a few action items. Feel free to make suggestions for additions to the list.

  • A blog page to go on the InterACT site somewhere, where we will mainly publish case studies showing off departments/faculties that are teaching best practices, share some of their ideas, etc. I don't just want to produce a list of departments/faculties that we approve of/endorse, because they may change for the worse as staff members leave, plus there are often conflicts in the same department between staff who do get it, and staff who don't. This means that we could potentially come under fire if departments do change and start producing students that don't do good stuff. I don't want us to have to keep policing the educators about this, so it is better to produce blog posts that are "of the moment" and will stay credible even with later change.
  • Material to explain our purpose and mission, and e-mail templates to be used when contacting the different people we would want to win over to our cause and view/use our curriculum, including educators, designers/developers, parents and students, politicans. We need to think carefully about which groups we want to approach most urgently, and what language we need to use for appropriate communicate with those groups. How would the correspondence need to differ?
  • An information storage system (eg a database) to keep records of all people who are helping us do outreach in all the different territories of the world, and a plan to acquire said people. We can't be everywhere all the time, so we need to have local agents in different places to do outreach for us. This is especially critical for places where English isn't the first language. I'd say that for this part, we need to work out what information we need to store from each person, how we want to communicate with them and what we would expect them to do, and then what method to use to store the information.
  • Some "packages" for people to grab and then use to run events, talks, etc. One idea I want to implement early on is a package that I'm currently referring to as "one designer, one school" - which will be a bunch of slides, examples and other material to allow anyone to go into their local school or college and teach the teachers the best practices and overarching concepts they need to "get" to put web students on the right path. Maybe in a 2-4 hour lecture format. If we could get every interested industry figure or student (or whoever) to go and give such a session in one local school or college, this would be REALLY powerful.
  • Ideas on how to piggyback OWEA outreach on top of other outreach activities we are involved in, for example I am doing OWEA outreach as part of the Opera university tours, Pamela could do it as part of Google developer days, etc. If our companies are happy with us doing this, of course.
  • Other ideas - give them to me! I want to get as many good outreach ideas as possible recorded, and then just prioritize the top 3 or 5 to work on, at least initially. we want to start with a few simple solid activities to work on, so we don't immediately start to drown with all this stuff.

Spreading the word

So with all the above in place, how would us as OWEA start getting the word out to people. Again, we need some kind of database to store info on everyone we have contacted, and what has been said to each person. We should probably split this up by region, and develop a priority list of what regions to tackle first. We need to first contact people who can act as local representatives, assemble our troops, as it were, then get everyone doing outreach to forward our goals.

We also need to work out what metrics to use to measure goals and success. Thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

Delivering outreach sessions

As I mentioned above, I want to start empowering people to do outreach, beyond our immediate core nucleus. The main challenge beyond giving them the tools they need, is to keep them motivated to do the outreach. To do this, I propse the following:

  • Produce different grade levels that people can get involved at, to make them feel like they can still play a part, regardless of the free time they have to contribute. In each grade level, detail what activities they can do to help with outreach, give them the plan to follow, so they don't have to think too much. So it could be as little as sending out a few tweets, or e-mails to local colleges, or it could be as much as actually meeting up with teachers and delivering guest lectures/classes.
  • Give contributors awards for all the contributions they do, so perhaps every time they deliver a guest lecture and send in a brief report, or fill in details of an educator they have contacted on the database, they get some award points, and their avatars on the site get a higher rank, go up levels, etc. We could even start buying contributors small awards for contributions above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Of course, this would need to be policed a bit...maybe Glenda and the other membership group folk can help out with this.

This is all I have for now. I'd love to hear your thoughts at this initial stage, and get volunteers to help out in producing materials. What else do we need to start going forward?