I’ve always thought of Bill Warters as a kindred spirit because he works in higher education, is an ADR professional, and loves and writes about innovative technologies to support our work. He blogs, too. Bill is way ahead of me on the tech front, though, which means I learn something interesting or useful every time I visit one of his sites. And when I attended his workshop at last fall’s ACR conference, I came away with head spinning from all that Bill had to offer. Bill has kindly agreed to an interview for my Success Leaves Clues series.
If you’ve not yet had the good fortune to cross paths with Bill, here’s a bit about him: Dr. William Warters is an Assistant Professor in the Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution Program at Wayne State University. His work explores innovative ways to support conflict resolution knowledge and skill development, and his training and research experience involve using qualitative research approaches to explore the lived experiences of research participants. Bill’s also the author of Mediation in the Campus Community, a terrific book I most recently recommended to someone just yesterday. When I finally met Bill in person last fall, I found him to be the kind, very smart and innovative soul I had always supposed him to be.
Tammy: For mediators looking to build successful private practices, what do you think is most important for them to understand about the intersection of practice (managing, delivering services, marketing, etc.) and technology?
Bill: Technology works best when it enables enhanced information sharing and dialogue between you and your key audiences. Technology may do this simply by freeing up more of your time for conversations, or it may directly contribute to the dialogue by establishing a narrative about you and your work that your audiences can pick up on and join in with. It’s important to remember that technology changes rapidly over time and it is good to just jump in and try things that interest you. Waiting for mastery of a technology only leads to it becoming outdated or surpassed by something new and more refined. If you jump in, you’re already swimming with the current and can adjust and explore new tools as needed.
Tammy: What’s the most successful way you’ve leveraged technology to build your ADR-related work?
Bill: One of my areas of special interest is conflict resolution within higher education. I’ve had a number of good experiences with technology in that area, starting perhaps with the CCRNet discussion listserv I moderated while I was in Florida at Nova Southeastern University. CCRNet (Campus Conflict Resolution Network) was alive in the early-to-mid 1990s with about 750 active users. Sharing ideas and listening in really extended my network of campus conflict resolution folks. I think it may also have helped pave the way for the grant I received from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in 2000 for the Conflict Management in Higher Education Resource Center. The grant provided three years of support for me to build the web-based clearinghouse that lives at Campus-adr.org. I had intended to rely on a programmer to help build the site, but instead the out-of-state person we had hired for the position announced at the last minute that he wasn’t moving to Detroit after all. So I just jumped into the breach and ended up learning more than I ever could have dreamed about web development, coding and databases and information sharing. While it is getting pretty old in web years, I’m still quite proud of the Campus-adr.org website. I just relocated it to a newer server last week, finally putting to rest the Mac G4 (OS 9 and Webstar) it was running on. A few things may have been broken by the move, but all in all there is still lots of great content there. With respect to my teaching, for years I have been using Moodle for my courses. Moodle is an open source teaching and learning platform similar to Blackboard but powered by an international community of users, and I think my Roots of Social Conflict course has flourished within it.
Tammy: What one tech gadget do you find most essential to managing your day-to-day work and why?
Bill: Obviously my laptop rules supreme in this area. For a long while I was in love with my apple Newton PDA, which was finally replaced by a Palm LifeDrive. I’m holding out now waiting for Apple to releases a “non-phone” iPhone-like device. I want web-browsing and video and music playback and such, but not a phone, and for less than $600!
Tammy: What are your favorite three online resources for learning new information you need to keep your ADR-related work healthy and forward moving and why are they your favorites?
Bill: In addition to my old standbys CRInfo.org (comprehensive and integrated nicely with BeyondIntractability.org) and Campus-adr.org, I’m a big Bloglines user, reading news and blogs and more through the wonders of RSS. There is always something good waiting there among my “curated” list of information sources. I’ve also found inspiration of late via QuakerQuaker.org, an ongoing stream of posts from blogging Friends. New on my frequented list is Wikimindmap.org (great information display and organization) and SlideShare.net (lots of good items found via browsing related items) and of course my newest web development project, CREducation.org which should be ready for prime time by this Fall.
Tammy: Tell me a funny or inspiring story involving your use of tech to build, manage or market your teaching, ADR practice or other related work.
Bill: When I was in Florida working at NSU, my now-wife Loraleigh Keashly was still working in Guelph Ontario. We were both subscribers to the CCRNet discussion list, and one Valentine’s Day she accidently hit reply-all and sent her sweet, meant-for-my-eyes-only valentine to the whole list! A few weeks later, she was in Toronto introducing herself at a conference workshop and someone in the audience piped up “Oh, so you are the one who sent the hot valentine!”
What a sweet story! As usual, I learned a few new things from Bill as a result of this interview and have some new ideas buzzing around my mind. I’d particularly like to echo his early comment about not waiting to master technology before making use of it. I hope you’ll visit Bill’s sites and tap them for all they offer. It’s no small feat to land a FIPSE grant and Bill’s having done so says a great deal about the value many place in his work.
There are some more interview responses coming from Geoff Sharp and Diane Levin, and I’ll share those soon.
Thanks, Bill, for your generous spirit and innovative mind,
Copyright © 2007 by Tammy Lenski. All rights reserved.