But in our 2007 summer institute, we facilitators wondered aloud, “What if these responses could be put online?” Within minutes, Eric ignited a sea of change in Red Clay by creating a way for fellows to answer these questions via an online survey tool. Now, instead of mad scribbling, happy goodbyes, and plans for beer that night, the sounds at the end of any day in the summer institute have become mad typing, happy goodbyes, and plans for beer that night.
Facilitators still gather around a table, but each has a laptop, focusing on the content rather than the handwriting and having all the responses for each question collated in one place. What’s more, the e-archive of the reactions is immediately accessible to all of the facilitators at any point and at any time of day. Wake up in the middle of the night troubled by a comment on the reaction sheets, you can call it up on your home computer and try to figure out an appropriate response. Perhaps most important, more fellows, maybe supported by the ease of typing, seem to write longer, more detailed, more helpful responses.
One “what if” begat others. What if we had fellows write online reactions to readings on the afternoon we discussed them and their impressions were still fresh, rather than waiting till the end of the institute? What if those readings were all available online? What if we sent daily agendas through the listserv rather than copying them? All little shifts that saved us paper, expense, and effort while increasing our capacity to archive with greater accessibility and detail.