It has been over three weeks since EDUCAUSE 2008 and I just finished converting my session notes to blog posts. “Not very Web 2.0 of you Ken,” you say, “Shouldn’t you post your blog entries during the session?” I suppose. For me, it’s less about reporting and more about reflection and that takes time. Looking back, did I accomplish my conference goals?

  • Learning space design. On the upside, the U of M session on learning spaces was excellent and I am planning a trip up to the Cities with my team to get a closer look and exchange ideas. Their process is a great model from end to end. I saw some interesting tools, both in the informal learning spaces area and in the vendor showcase that fit into my vision for the classroom of the future. I think DyKnow (Vision), Tidebreak (TeamSpot), TechSmith (Relay), and TurningTechnologies (ResponseWare Web) are spot on in terms of supporting the critical transformation of the classroom from a crowded theater where student drones transcribe lecture notes to a primarily collaborative, flexible environment. On the downside, the plethora of commercial “lecture capture” solutions just depressed me. Why on earth would we spend such crazy amounts of money to capture instructors doing something that most do only because they are forced into crowded lecture halls for 50 minutes? Let’s use technology to relieve faculty and student suffering in the classroom, not perpetuate it.
  • Mobile teaching and learning. I left the conference with some excellent ideas, practical examples, and real people to contact. Mobile computing is alive and well in higher education and it will change everything, ready or not. The presentation by ACU on their iPhone/iTouch project was disruptive in a very good way.
  • Instructional multimedia content management. The Duke session was excellent and their service model is one to emulate. I was also impressed by Mississippi State’s poster presentation on their custom solution for managing multimedia assets and I am very interested in learning more about OpenCast.
  • Strategic planning, organization, and leadership. This was a bit of a disappointment for me this year, probably because I was drawn to sessions that did not have this as the primary focus. I am still amazed by the number of people I meet at this conference who are frustrated by faculty support and development challenges, specifically the lack of commitment to faculty and staff professional development at the executive level. At my table of 12 people in the Learning Spaces Constituency Group discussion, many were amazed that WSU was going to create a center with experimental spaces where faculty could practice using the latest technologies and methods. I realize that such things cost money, but certainly we can all see the value in real dollars of improving the technological knowledge, skills, and abilities of our employees. Do we really still need to make the general case for this?
  • Supporting collaboration across the enterprise. I really enjoyed the CMU presentation on their Project Management Office, a great example of collaborative project management that transformed the campus culture. There were several poster sessions that focused on the use of SharePoint, but I was not overwhelmed by great examples of administrative groupware use. It also seems that our portal passion has waned a bit.

My post-conference action items for December are:

  • Deliver an “EDUCAUSE at WSU” session to report back to campus some of what I learned at the conference.
  • Take a trip up to the University of Minnesota to check out their collaborative classrooms and other interesting spaces. Connect with Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt) to learn more about what they are doing to support experimental use of classroom technologies. Apply what we learn to our own learning space design process, including existing classrooms and the new Maxwell faculty-staff development center.
  • Take on as a research project the possible replacement of our standard eInstruction classroom response system with either a custom/open smartphone alternative or a commercial product like ResponseWare.
  • Explore the adoption of a service model in our Integrated Media Services Department similar to Duke’s. Work with ITS to take a good look at OpenCast as a possible open source capture and asset management solution.
  • Discuss with our CIO and VP for Academic Affairs the possible adoption of some features of the CMU PMO approach, especially the executive retreat. Contact CMU to get more information about how this retreat is structured.

Looking back on the EDUCAUSE 2008 conference, it probably had the most impact of any I have attended. I will close my blog book on it by referring back to what I thought was the koan of the conference, Casey Green’s question, “After all these years, why don’t more faculty use technology?” Compare this to Dr. Ramachandran’s question, “Why can’t everyone recognize faces?” A likely answer to the latter question was revealed only after the application of a good theory. Where are our good theories of faculty development, institutional effectiveness, strategic IT investment, and the impact of technology on learning? Sure these things are complex, but are they more complex than the human brain? Regardless, it’s the act of theorizing that’s important. Without a map, we might get there by accident, but we are more likely to wander around in circles.