Friday, December 29, 2006

MBA Programs Get Much-Needed Update

As mentioned over at The Kept up Academic Librarian and The Universities Weblog, Yale University has responded to (entirely justified) criticism from the business community, and scholars, that MBA programs are not giving students the experience/skills that are required in the global economy.

Starting this year, study abroad is required of all MBA students. "During the first two weeks of January, Yale students will travel to one of eight destinations around the world for intensive study. They will meet business, government and nonprofit leaders."

I am certainly on the lookout for international experience/perspectives relevant to the classes I teach, and my work in the private sector (more on my dual life here). Such a shift toward what has become known as "Social Capitalism" has been celebrated by such mainstream business publications as FastCompany (for instance, see this article on Social Capitalism). If the likes of BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and FastCompany have taken notice, you can bet that a major shift in values/expectations is well under way among the nation's successful businesses.

"Doing well by doing good" isn't just an organic-produce-eating hippie thing anymore. (By the way, the Organics Industry has become a 23+ billion dollar industry in itself---quite the change from the ex-hippie startups of the 1970s, like Boulder, Colorado-based Horizon Organic).

Plain and simple, the cookie-cutter educations that characterized traditional MBA programs of the past 30 years won't make you as attractive to employers as it once did...

The changes, implemented this fall, come after criticism in scholarly articles that MBA programs have failed to teach useful skills. Other business schools are implementing or considering similar plans.

Business schools increasingly compete for students and faculty as the number of MBA programs has soared. Universities are trying to differentiate themselves with special programs, such as a growing emphasis on ethics courses in the wake of corporate scandals.

“There is a trend to being responsive to the needs of the marketplace,’’ said Arthur Kraft, chairman of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Next fall, a new Stanford University curriculum will emphasize the skills a business manager needs and require students to have a global experience.

Yale’s new curriculum aims to elevate the 30-year-old business program, its newest professional school, into the ranks of elite business schools such as Harvard, Wharton and others. Business Week ranked Yale 19th out of its top 30 MBA programs.

Mindful of the global economy, Yale and other business schools are placing more emphasis on studying abroad.

You can read the full article here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Friday, December 22, 2006

More on Engines of Inequality: This Time at the Primary and Secondary Levels

Interesting article from the AP on the distribution of Federal funds at the Primary and Secondary level. It would seem our broken aid system extends to the Primary and Secondary levels, in addition to Institutions of Higher Education.

As we've seen from the report published last month by Education Trust (I've posted the .pdf of the full report here), the nation's public universities have spent the past decade abandoning their original mission to serve as the best hope for the advancement of young people from the middle and lower classes.

Perhaps, the universities have simply taken a que from the Feds. Here's a sample from the AP article:

Poor students are shortchanged by federal and state school aid policies, a report released Wednesday says.

At the federal level, the Education Department gives states nearly $13 billion a year to help students in low-income districts.

The complex formula used to determine each state's share guarantees a minimum amount for small states. That means Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota, for example, can get more money per poor student than do more populous states.

Federal school dollars also are tied to the amount that each state spends on education. States that spend more get more from Washington.

But this link rewards states more for their wealth than their efforts to educate poor kids, according to the Education Trust, a Washington-based children's advocacy group.

For example, the report shows Maryland has fewer poor children than Arkansas but gets about 50 percent more federal aid per poor child, $1,522, than does Arkansas, at $1,009.

The gap occurs even though Arkansas dedicates a larger share of its resources to education than does wealthier Maryland, the report says.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Michigan Tries to Lure Tech Firms, as Manufacturing Fades

This article deals with the problem of change in the Rust Belt (I'd written about it earlier this week).

Michigan has lost more than 300,000 jobs since 2000, its unemployment rate stands at a nationwide high of 6.9%, and its college graduates are moving out of the state to find work.

It gets worse.

A University of Michigan study released last month predicted the state will lose 33,000 more jobs in the next two years, marking eight consecutive years of job losses. That's its longest streak since the Great Depression. The state's unemployment rate will hit 7.7% in 2008, the highest since 1992, the study said.

You can read the full article here.

Another Interesting Post on Creativity

Richard Florida's blog, The Creativity Exchange (if you haven't read it, definitely do yourself the favor) has yet another interesting post on what it takes to foster creative spaces, and global competitiveness.

Here's a sample:

Here's an oped by Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a federation of the CEOs of hundreds of the largest employers in the Bay Area in today's San Jose Mercury News.

"We suddenly live in a truly global world ... the Bay Area Council released a survey in which 36 percent of the region's CEOs said their company now actively participates in the global marketplace, buying or selling goods or services. Among small companies with one to 49 workers, an astonishing 26 percent said they are now 'global.'"

Engines of Inequality, Continued...

Well, The Kept-Up Academic Librarian has found an article from today's New York Times dealing with the Education Trust report Engines of Inequality, which I posted about, just over a month ago...

The NYT may be slow on the up-take, but it's good to see they do care about the issue.

The more press this situation receives, the more likely it is that something will be done about it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Guest Article: Controlling Classroom Rudeness: Some Suggestions

Today's guest post is from John M. (you can see his earlier post, "Helicopter Parents and Needy Students" here).

I found this article on CNN, and it seemed very timely. As a grad student, I find myself in the unique position of being both a student and a faculty member depending on the day and time. So I've seen the the phenomena from both sides. I've had students take calls in class, inform me they were leaving early because they had "something else to do", and email me to let me know that they weren't doing their assignment because they didn't like it.

Being a student, however, has helped me to think about how to handle these situations. I've been a student in classes where my peers were acting in similar ways. I found myself very frustrated when my professors wouldn't address it at all. That motivated me to try and bring up issues of manners in my classes when I can, publically.

As an instructor, I see, though, how difficult it can be to do so sometimes. So in classes, I will try and ask people who are being disruptful to pipe down, trying to help the teacher out by not placing the full burden on them.

The largest problem, from my perspective is technology. Folks thinking that it is now ok to text message in class. To IM their friends or to surf the net while in class is also no longer seen by many students as inappropriate. There is the need to be in constant communication with one's world and class isn't seen as important enough an event to warrent not being able to send and receive communication for 2 hours.

What the article doesn't mention is that some students are learning this behavior from their own professors. I've had faculty take calls during class, or answer emails on their blackberry. If that is their level of respect for their own course, how can we expect students to honor it more?

That said, I think the professor Kirk's suggestions below are a good start to returning civility to the classroom. The tone that is set early on makes a strong impression and lets folks know what to expect from a class as well as what is or is not appropriate.

Copyright 2006 John M.




During lectures, they answer their cell phones, text message their friends and play games on their laptop computers. Are college students really that rude? Yes, says Delaney Kirk, a professor of management at Drake University in Des Moines. But, she adds, it's not their fault. "It's the same behavior we're seeing in the rest of society," Kirk says. "There's a general lack of social skills."

Part of the problem is the lure of the techno-gadgets that students bring into the classroom -- cell phones, Blackberries and laptop computers. "Students think they can e-mail, text message, check the Web and listen to you, and they can't," Kirk says. During her workshops, Kirk presents a top-10 list to help college instructors better manage their classes.

Among her suggestions:

  • Establish credibility by telling students how they will benefit from taking the class.
  • Decide how formal or informal the class will be.
  • Set clear expectations and enforce them.
  • On the first day of class, emphasize its importance by giving an assignment that students must turn in at the next class.
  • Handle discipline problems immediately.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On the Generational Digital Divide

There's an excellent article on the growing importance of computer skills (in the workplace, and beyond) over at FastCompany's site. I posted a sample from it below. The full article is definitely worth a look.

More and more of your social interactions are moving online. Here are 10 major cultural implications of social software's growth.

Social software is a subset of the broader set of technologies often called "Web 2.0." Traditionally, the Web (1.0) was comprised of simple HTML pages. Web 2.0 is a read AND a write medium. Because Internet literacy is now so widespread; because so many people have become comfortable with virtual interactions; and because of the penetration of broadband, the Web has become a social medium. Web 2.0 applications take advantage of that evolution. Quoting danah boyd, "The advances of social software are neither cleanly social nor technological, but a product of both."

We see 10 major cultural implications of the growth in popularity of social software, or more loosely, the fact that more and more of your social interactions are moving online.

Implications for Individuals

Basic computer skills really matter...and fortunately the next generation is much more technologically skilled than the current generation. It is harder and harder for blue-collar professionals, let alone white-collar professionals, to do their job without basic computer literacy. Think how often people of all socioeconomic backgrounds email one another, participate in web-based training, or apply for a job via an Internet portal. Just to get a job in the first place, you need to know how to type and how to learn new software programs reasonably rapidly. The good news: given that 33 percent of online teens share content (artwork, photos, stories and videos) on the Internet, the next generation will have an even higher comfort level with this technology than the current generation working in corporate America.

Change Sometimes Comes Painfully

I was born in an agricultural and manufacturing region of the US, better known as "The Rust Belt." Over the years, I've watched as the vast majority of young people (especially those with talent and sought-after skills) have left. And that includes me. I remember the shock after the year 2000 census, when the extent of this exodus of talent finally had solid numbers associated with it.

My region was forced to watch from a distance during the economic boom of the '90s, and they are in the process of repeating that, as tech has been taking off yet again. My home has the potential to be much more successful than it is: there are a number of very fine colleges/universities in the area. But the powers that be held on to the dream of a return of manufacturing for far too long, and have missed a great many opportunities over the past two decades.

The region has most definitely suffered disproportionately during economic downturns. Things aren't exactly improving, as the American auto industry suffers (it was one of the last local manufacturing bastions).

My uncle's auto parts plant closed last year. After 40 years of employment, he, and hundreds of other workers, were out of work and forced to re-train for an entirely new economic environment, or make due with an early retirement.

[I'd love to link to an article on this from the local newspaper, but their articles don't have unique URLs. Too bad...]


Monday, December 11, 2006

Publish or Perish--in an Ever Diminishing Pool of Scholarly Publishers

Originally, university presses were created to publish the otherwise un-publishable--the research and "high art" of scholars in various fields. However, as the universities have scaled back formerly hefty subsidies, one of the most basic realities of economics has begun to set in: A press needs to sell books (at least enough to cover expenses) in order to stay in business.

Today, a young scholar is encouraged to do her/his dissertation on "marketable" subjects. And presses are increasingly looking for work with "cross-over" potential. Publishers want--need--to find work that will appeal to multiple markets/audiences. For example, a quick perusal of the University of Alabama Press catalog will reveal a number of titles with timely subjects such as, Religion, Politics and the American Experience: Reflections on Religion and American Public Life. This isn't a "bad" thing, unless you're a specialist in a field with little commercial appeal.

Now, couple this market pressure, with a traditional institutional aversion to popular, or generalist writing. For instance, while tenure committees haven't totally ignored publications intended for general audiences, they haven't exactly lauded them either. For a long time, there was an almost total lack of understanding from the senior faculty--I've encountered numerous instances where the general grumbling consisted of statements like, "They can't get published, and they expect us to lower the standards--which we were able to meet."

But the "good old days" of plentiful outlets for traditional scholarship are over--at least for publishers. Today, scholars must rely on professional journals, rather than traditional book publishers, to gain exposure for their work.

Professors seeking tenure have fallen into a double bind--"publish or perish" as the old saying goes...but in order to publish, you have to give the publishers what they want/need, and that isn't exactly what your tenure committee is looking for.

So what does a junior scholar do? What should the institution/tenure committee do?

The Modern Language Association has been working on an answer, or series of answers. The following is the opening to their report--which is available as a free download:

In 2004 the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association of America created a task force to examine current standards and emerging trends in publication requirements for tenure and promotion in English and foreign language departments in the United States. The council’s action came in response to widespread anxiety in the profession about ever-rising demands for research productivity and shrinking humanities lists by academic publishers, worries that forms of scholarship other than single-authored books were not being properly recognized, and fears that a generation of junior scholars would have a significantly reduced chance of being tenured. The task force was charged with investigating the factual basis behind such concerns and making recommendations to address the changing environment in which scholarship is being evaluated in tenure and promotion decisions.

To fulfill its charge, the task force reviewed numerous studies, reports, and documents; surveyed department chairs; interviewed deans and other senior administrators; solicited written comments from association members; and consulted with other committees and organizations. The most significant data-gathering instrument was a spring 2005 online survey of 1,339 departments in 734 institutions across the United States covering a range of doctorate, master’s, and baccalaureate institutions. The response rate to the survey (51% of all departments and 67% of all institutions) provided a solid basis for the task force’s analysis and recommendations.

The information gathered by the task force substantiates some worries and mitigates others.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Is the Job Market for Liberal Arts Graduates REALLY as Bad as Some People Think?

It is amazing to me, how so many academics have internalized an outdated, limited view of the career paths available to those with a Liberal Arts education. In particular, I hear a consistent drone of pessimism from professors, graduate students, and professional organizations in the Liberal Arts disciplines.

I believe that this pessimism is a largely the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Granted, if you want to become a tenured professor in, say, English or American Literature, the prospects are not very good. However, is teaching the only career path open for undergraduate and graduate students from the Liberal Arts disciplines? No.

There are a number of career paths available to Liberal Arts graduates.

If you're a grad student, I'd like to share a few helpful tips from someone who has recently made a go of it on the job market.

Take a moment, and ask yourself: If I leave the ivory tower, what skills would I have? You'd be surprised.

The most important part of your job search is that you need to remember that it's up to you to educate your audience. You'll have to focus on creative ways of "selling" your skills.

So be sure to put together a diverse skill set while you're in school, and your graduate scholarship/assistantship is footing the bill. Get publishing and editing experience, train yourself in basic/relevant applications of technology (such as starting, maintaining, and marketing a website about something you your field of study). In the process of your education, be sure to:

  1. Keep a professional portfolio of everything you're involved with, or have written/designed, that the public sees (such as posters/flyers, event advertisements, as well as school publications like literary magazines, departmental/organizational newsletters, etc.)
  2. Detail your activities/responsibilities if you run campus events (such as helping to organize academic conferences, recitals, or sports events), host guest speakers, etc.
  3. Take a few classes in Marketing and Communications--particularly those that deal with Online Marketing. And maintain detailed reports of marketing activities/campaigns for your professional website mentioned above.
These experiences and skills can then be used for positions in (and this is just a sample of what is out there):
  • EVENT PLANNING (entry level median salary of $54,000)
  • Promotional materials (flyers, etc.) and the writing/advertising you do for your website (coupled with a degree of training in Marketing and Communications) can be used for positions in ONLINE MARKETING (entry level median salary of $70,000)
  • ONLINE CONTENT GENERATION i.e. writing for a website (entry level median salary of $47,000)
  • ONLINE CONTENT EDITOR "Duh!" Any English Professor--with some basic training in Marketing and Communications--can do this today! (entry level median salary of $59,000)
  • LAW CLERK Another "Duh!" This position is focused on research--which graduate students can do better than anyone (entry level median salary of $44,000)
  • CORPORATE TRAINER You're already thoroughly trained in adult education (having been a college-level instructor), and by virtue of your graduate education, are one of the strongest candidates for nearly every position you could apply for (entry level median salary of $45,000)

Just do some research, and with a little creativity, you can land a great job with the skills/experience you've assembled on your way to earning that Ph.D. in English. If you want, you can always go into teaching later on in life. Many professors in Business, Engineering, and many other industry-focused disciplines take this career path. They consider teaching to be their retirement--a working retirement--where they can give something back to the next generation of professionals in their respective fields.

Of course, while you work in whatever position you secure, you can adjunct at a local college once or twice a week, to keep current in the discipline, and earn a few extra dollars in the process.

Graduates just don't receive adequate training/mentoring in how to "market" ourselves in the private sector. This is particularly true in the Liberal Arts disciplines (such as English). I'm not faulting the faculty for this... It's an institutional/administrative oversight, which leaves many students lacking when it's time to enter "the real world."

So, as you can see, there are plenty of jobs out there for graduates of Liberal Arts disciplines. The trick is to do your homework, get creative about ways to sell yourself, and develop complimentary skills from outside your field.

Be an interdisciplinarian. Like a good investment strategy, diversification = security.

As grad students, we know we're smart, and we know that what we do has value. The problem is that most people outside of our respective disciplines don't know that.

It's up to you to reveal the treasure you are.

More at my Web Biographies page

*All info on salaries from and, based on the Denver, CO market (median salaries will vary from one geographic/economic region to another)


Monday, December 04, 2006

Google's Educational Initiative: Just What the Dr. Ordered?

Here is an interesting development. It seems like a win-win for Google and for cash-strapped schools (at all educational levels).

Schools are no longer forced to pay ridiculous prices for multi-installation licenses, just to run Office on a classroom of computers. And students don't have to worry about software-compatibility issues.

For example, one of the greatest obstacles to the greater use of technology in the classroom (in my experience) is that the software on the school's computers isn't always compatible with the software your students have at home. After all, not every student's laptop comes with Excel. And even with educational discounts (since it's the X-mas season, you may have this on your list), buying a copy of Office for your child's computer will still cost over $100.

There is also the possibility that your students may have older versions of the same software. They probably bought it for pennies on eBay or it’s unable to open files saved with newer versions of the same program.

All things considered, most of your students simply won't have the ability to open their class projects outside of the computer lab.

There seems no need worry about this any more. Google has launched a program to meet the needs of teachers, schools, and students--at the expense of Microsoft's old-school revenue model.

The free-software approach poses a challenge to Microsoft Corp., whose success revolves around sales of its long-dominant Windows operating system and Office suite. The programs -- including Word and Excel -- are installed on hard drives and information is usually stored locally as well.

Google views its educational initiative as a public service for teachers who often lack the money and expertise to introduce more technological tools into their classrooms. The company doesn't allow advertising in its word processing and spreadsheets programs, leaving it unclear how Google expects to make money.

"We think it's good to get people familiar with the other things we do (besides search), but it's not like we are trying to get some kind of lifetime value out of each student," said Cristin Frodella, a Google product manager overseeing the education project.

"We just want to help teachers engage kids with technology that makes learning seem less like drudgery."

Google is trying to engage the teachers first.

In October, the company posted an online guide to provide instructors with ideas on how to incorporate the applications into their curricula. In November, Google invited about 50 Northern California teachers to spend the day at its Mountain View headquarters to learn more about the advantages of the program.

You can read the full article here.

You can see Google's online spreadsheet and wrodprocessing software here.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Development in the Fight Against Blackboard

Blackboard's dominance of the academic market seems ready to take another hit. After EDUCAUSE fired off their public letter of complaint against Blackboard's software patent, apparently, others took it as a sign to take legal action.

Cnet's has a new report on this hot-button issue in higher ed:

The Software Freedom Law Center said Thursday that it has asked the U.S. Patent Office to re-examine a patent awarded to education software company Blackboard. It claims that the patent is bogus and could undermine three open-source education software projects it represents--Sakai, Moodle and ATutor. The patent, No. 6,988,138, is titled "Internet-based education support system and methods" and relates to a central feature of Blackboard's software: The ability to grant different people, such as students and teachers, different access rights to online resources such as grades, files or quizzes.

"It's a junk patent that should never have been given by the Patent Office," said Richard Fontana, a patent attorney with the Software Freedom Law Center. And the patent's claims could have an impact on the three projects, he said: "They do effectively cover just about any e-learning software that is currently in use."

Apparently, after Blackboard stalled and stonewalled and refused to budge, it seems possible that the patent will be stripped from them after all.

You can read the rest of the post here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Interview with Gerald Graff

Michael Roy, of posted an interview with Gerald Graff that is worth a look.

For those who aren't familiar with Graff, he's been a major figure in the field of Rhetoric since the '70s--and is one of the founding fathers (so to speak) of Reader-Response theory.

Gerald Graff is a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His recent work has centered on how for most students and members of the general population, academia in general and literary studies in particular are obscure and opaque, a theme taken up in his CLUELESS IN ACADEME: HOW SCHOOLING OBSCURES THE LIFE OF THE MIND (Yale University Press, April 2003).

AcademicCommons: Much has been made of the neo-Millenials (also known as the Net Generation) who are presently enrolled on our campuses, and how they learn differently than past generations. Do you see this description as accurate or useful when thinking about how educators need to change their teaching strategies?
Graff:I have always been skeptical of claims about learning differences between generations. Formerly, it was the ‘60s that purportedly made the adolescent mind non-linear, more visual, and so forth. Now pixels and megabytes supposedly produce a new kind of non-linear consciousness, or one wired into simultaneity, or whatever.

How is technology helping higher education?
Probably only in rather narrowly technical ways, so far, e.g. making registration processes more efficient. Communication across campus has been made much easier, but this benefit may have been negated by the overload problem: we now get information much more readily, but it comes in such excessive volume that the chances of our recognizing the information that is really relevant and useful to us are correspondingly lessened.

How is technology hurting higher education?
Aside from the overload problem just mentioned, I think there has been a failure to recognize and exploit the potential that technology offers for improving and transforming day-to-day instruction.

Let me give one example.

I have long thought that there is something infantilizing about the standard classroom situation, where the very face-to-face intimacy that is so valued actually encourages sloppy and imprecise habits of communication. That is, the intimate classroom is very different from--and therefore poor training for--the most powerful kinds of real-world communication, where we are constantly trying to reach and influence audiences we do not know and will probably never meet. We should be using online technologies to go beyond the cozy pseudo-intimacy of the classroom, to put students in situations that force them to communicate at a distance and therefore learn the more demanding rhetorical habits of constructing and reaching an anonymous audience. We have begun to do this to some extent, but our habit of idealizing presence and "being there," the face-to-face encounter between teachers and students, blinds us to the educational advantages of the very impersonality and distancing of online communication. Indeed, online communication makes it possible for schools and colleges to create real intellectual communities rather than the fragmented and disconnected simulation of such communities that "the classroom" produces.

Can you point to examples of such communities?
I meant possible intellectual communities rather than actually existing ones. I do not know any campus in America that has what I would call a real intellectual community, online or otherwise, in the sense of everyone--or almost everyone--on campus engaged in a continuous conversation about ideas all the time (as occurred for a brief time during the campus protest era in the ‘60s and early ‘70s). I think online technology makes something like such a community of discussion possible even without a crisis like the Vietnam War, but I do not know of any campus that has come close to creating such a potential community. Of course there may be many things going on that I do not know about.

How do you use technology in your own teaching?
I love using e-mail for writing instruction. I can get right inside my students' sentences and paragraphs, stop them and ask them "can you see a problem with this phrase?" or "can you think of an alternative to this formulation?" or "please improve on this sentence," with an immediacy and turn-around speed that handing papers back with comments cannot begin to match.

I have also used class listservs, which seem to me to have great potential.The big benefit for me is the creation of a common space of class discussion that everyone can (and in my case must) contribute to, a space that prolongs the in-class discussion and enables us to pursue issues that had gotten short shrift in class. I wish these listserv discussions were more controlled and focused than they have been in my classes, and I think they can be when and if I learn better how to structure them.

One interesting thing I have learned from listservs is that most students see electronic communication as an extension of informal oral discourse, whereas I see it (when used in a class anyway) as properly an extension of formal writing. When I chastised one class for writing sloppy, prolix, and often unreadable blather on the class listserv, they objected that I was trying to shut down the liberating spontaneity and informality that is inherent in electronic media. I think this was a rationalization, but one that has to be anticipated.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wikipedia's Stubborn Refusal to be as BAD as Many Academics Fear

I just saw this on The Wired Campus, and thought it was a perfect follow-up to my Wikipedia assignment:

Several scholars have taken stabs at assessing the credibility of Wikipedia, the open-source encyclopedia that seems to harbor more errors in theory than it does in practice (The Chronicle, October 27). And most of those experts -- including, most famously, the editors of Nature -- have come back with at least guarded praise of the site.

You can read the full post about Wikipedia's stubborn refusal to be as BAD as many academics fear here.


A Good End-of-the-Semester Assignment

We're closing in on the end of the semester, and the stress levels are up for everyone (faculty, students, staff, our respective family members who have to live with us at this time...).

As we're all facing the year-end blitz, I wanted to share an assignment that my fellow professors are welcome to use.

Recently, I took my own advice and assigned a "Class Editing Project" to my students. We tackled Wikipedia.

We started off the class by making a list of all the subjects/niches/etc. in which we felt we were "experts." I allowed 10 minutes to write down everything--and I made it clear that anything counted ("Are you one of those people who can list off baseball stats from thirty years ago? Do you know every detail of your favorite author's life and work? Are you a pro at Photoshop? Are you godly at Warcraft?").

At first, they looked frightened, or embarrassed. However, once they started listing their talents, they warmed up to it. (I think some of them didn't realize how much they actually knew, until they started listing the subjects/topics.)

Then we hit the computers. We went to Wikipedia, and I showed them the basics via the SmartBoard (walked them through things, while I contributed to an article). Once they saw how easy it was for "anyone" to edit Wikipedia...well...those who didn't understand why I wouldn't allow it as a scholarly source for a recent paper assignment had that "Oh! Now I get it!" look. I think Wikipedia is a great resource (obviously), but it's just not 100% accurate, 100% of the time--though it's certainly not the virtual train wreck some claim.

Next, those who didn't already have Wiki accounts signed up--and everyone sent me their usernames (which allowed me to track/grade their contributions).

I gave them the next 20 minutes or so to just read articles in their areas of expertise. When they saw an article that was lacking something--whether it was an issue with the article's content, an external link that would be a good addition, or a reference that ought to be included--they were to add it to their watchlist.

Once they had at least 3 articles in need of revision (the minimum number of contributions for the assignment), they were welcome to get to it.

It turned out wonderfully. They had a blast. And I learned a thing or two as I read their articles/contributions. :-)

Friday, November 24, 2006

What IS Professionalism?

As a professor and IT professional, I've encountered various positions/preferences regarding the subject of professionalism.

I'll discuss some of my experiences and musings on What is professionalism? in a series of future posts.

However, I wanted to share a little something, which I saw over at
Despite patient preference and other compelling reasons for dressing up, author Erin Marcus, an assistant professor at the University of Miami's medical school, claims that more and more young doctors are slumming it at work. "Among older and middle-aged physicians (like myself), tales of salacious and sloppy trainee attire abound," Marcus observes. "One Midwestern medical school dean reported that her school instituted a formal dress policy after administrators noticed students revealing too much flesh while sunbathing on a small patch of grass outside the school building, directly below patients’ hospital room windows."

This article focuses on the medical field, but I think there's a simmering tension in the broader business community over workplace attire.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

I'll be back on Friday 11/24.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Universities Becoming Less Accessible

There is a new report from The Education Trust: Engines of Inequality: Diminishing Equity in the Nation's Premier Public Universities (click to download the full report).

Included in the report is damning evidence of practices which betray the heart of how I and Richard Florida (as seen in my earlier post) view the mission of higher education.

As Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, noted in a conversation with The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"In an attempt to purchase more and more prestige, universities are ... turning their backs" on low-income and minority students...

For example, she noted, from 1995 to 2003, public flagships and other research-extensive universities increased institutional grant aid per student more for those from families in upper-income brackets than for those in lower-income brackets. Over that period, such aid rose by 29 percent for students from families making less than $20,000 a year, but grew by more than 186 percent for students with family incomes of $100,000 or more.

When the "Virtual" Gets Dropped from Virtual Reality

Man's Best Buddy

Monday, November 20, 2006

Richard Florida Podcast

If you're interested in hearing a presentation by Richard Florida (from the Pop!Tech 2004 Conference) on his research into creative economies, you can listen to it here:

Richard Florida on the Creative Class

Talent vs. Human Capital: Is There a Difference?

There's an interesting post over at Richard Florida's blog, The Creativity Exchange.

Advanced institutions of higher education, when considered in the context of talent/human capital, are not only prerequisites for a healthy economy, but are essential for liberation and empowerment.

In my view, the supply of talent is virtually limitless--limited only by the number of humans and our human abilities.

Right now, my rather crude guesstimate is that we are tapping but a small fraction of total human ability. If, say 35 percent of the workforce in the advanced countries work in creative occupations, a safe guess is that we are tapping at most 10 percent of total human ability. That means there is at minimum 90 percent out there to harness and utilize.

So the real key is how to do that: How to harness this incredible unused reservoir of human ability in ways that can power economic gain, fuel rising living standards across the board, improve human happiness and make the world a better place generally. This, as I've said before, is exactly what Toyota did in moving beyond fordism by integrating workers' knowledge and intelligence as a source of continuous innovation on the factory floor, in effect transforming the factory itself into a living laboratory.

This, I have argued, is also the next great frontier of competitive advantage...

You can read Richard Florida's full post here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Rise of America's New Class System

Here is an excellent piece by Jim Webb, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Whether or not you agree with him, it's an enlightening--and disturbing--read.

The most important -- and unfortunately the least debated -- issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. ... It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools...

Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bill Gates on Education

For some time now, Bill Gates (of Microsoft) has put the immense resources of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work in a series of attempts to reform America's public education system.

Mr. Gates was recently interviewed by the Associated Press:

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Monday that the U.S. higher education system is the envy of the world but primary and secondary schools are failing to adequately prepare students for college. ... He said the U.S. education system needs higher standards, clear accountability, flexible personnel practices and innovation.

You can read the full story here.

Nothing new there--calls for accountability, higher standards, etc. However, what is noteworthy is the fact that his foundation has the necessary financial means to actually make a difference.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Widespread Instability in Iraq Hinders Students

I heard this interview on NPR today, and felt that it was important to share.

However you may feel about the state of higher education in your country/state/city, you can count yourself lucky...

As you probably know by now, Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education was forced to cancel all classes until further notice, due to the mass kidnapping of roughly 100 academics today.

The gunmen went through a secured government building, separating the men from the women. They locked the women in various rooms, and took the men away--to an unknown fate.

The gunmen were dressed in police uniforms, and were waved through the security checkpoints...

The academic community of Iraq is largely in flight from the country, just at the time when their expertise is needed most.

Melissa Block talks with Omar al-Farouk al-Damluji, professor emeritus of civil engineering at Baghdad University, and former Minister of Construction and Housing, about the poor security situation at universities and elsewhere in Iraq, as well as the brain drain.

Al-Damluji says many students cannot attend classes due to lack of security at their schools and in their neighborhoods, and that some classes are being taught by post-doctorate students.

You can listen to the story from NPR--here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Guest Article: Helicopter Parents and Needy Students

Today's Guest Post is from John M.:

Are you:

In constant contact with your child?
In constant contact with school administrators?
Making your child's academic decisions?
Feel bad about yourself when your child does not do well?

This is part of a self-test published by the College Board to see if you are a helicopter parent. There have been a bunch of articles in papers across the country about helicopter parents, those parents that attempt to swoop in and solve all their children's problems for them. If you trace back the trend you see it creep through the educational system. The first folks to talk about the phenomenon were elementary ed folks, then hs teachers, now mostly college professors and administrators.

One recent article describes helicopter parents in the following way:
They saw their youngsters as "special," and they sheltered them. Parents outfitted their cars with Baby on Board stickers. They insisted their children wear bicycle helmets, knee pads and elbow guards. They scheduled children's every hour with organized extracurricular activities. They led the PTA and developed best-friend-like relationships with their children. Today, they keep in constant touch with their offspring via e-mail and cell phones. And when their children go off to college, parents stay just as involved.

Now, even employers are feeling the swinging blades of these folks. As reported by
Some parents are writing their college-age kids' resumes. Others are acting as their children's "representatives," hounding college career counselors, showing up at job fairs and sometimes going as far as calling employers to ask why their son or daughter didn't get a job.

It's the next phase in helicopter parenting, a term coined for those who have hovered over their children's lives from kindergarten to college. Now they are inserting themselves into their kids' job search -- and school officials and employers say it's a problem that may be hampering some young people's careers.

"It has now reached epidemic proportions," says Michael Ellis, director of career and life education at Delaware Valley College, a small, private school in Doylestown, Pa. At the school's annual job fair last year, he says, one father accompanied his daughter, handed out her resume and answered most of the questions the recruiters were asking the young woman. Even more often, he receives calls from parents, only to find out later that their soon-to-be college grad was sitting next to the parent, quietly listening.

Jobs counselors at universities across the country say experiences like those are now commonplace.

This really serves to make colleges look very poor, I think. If they do not do a better job of weaning students away from their parents, they are doing them a great disservice. How to do this is very compicated though. Many of the students surveyed in these articles are thankful that their parents are taking care of these things for them; they do not see it as problematic. Neither do the parents. Colleges need to come together to decide on the developmental goals they would like for their students to achieve while at their institutions and find ways to communicate to parents how their hovering is preventing these goals from being reached. I believe that these folks really do want to help their kids. We need to show them that sometimes by helping, they are doing harm.

Do others have thoughts on this topic? Ideas on how to address it?

Copyright 2006, John M.
  • More articles by John M.
  • Friday, November 10, 2006

    Are You at a 2.0 Campus?

    The folks over at IntelliGrad have started a ranking of the most tech-savvy campuses.

    They've begun assessing/ranking colleges based on a number of factors:
    After doing some research IntelliGrad has arrived at what we believe to be the first 2.0 Campus Rankings. We base these results on numerous factors including: innovation of alumni, innovative use of technology in teaching, school size, school location, entrepreneurship/web-related course offerings, “wiredness,” endowment and number of students, student voice/engagement.

    It's an interesting list, and well worth a look. The list is the first of its kind (that I'm aware of) and I'm sure we'll see a more in-depth ranking soon--perhaps from the likes of The Princeton Review.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Record Numbers of Students Taking College Courses Online

    It would seem that the future is upon us, in academe. The numbers of higher ed students taking at least one course in an online format has risen to a new astonishing high (up from a previous record high).

    Some questions that immediately come to mind are:
    What are we (academics and administrators) going to do about this growing trend?
    What are the challenges these teachers and students face?

    Roughly one in six students enrolled in higher education — about 3.2 million people — took at least one online course last fall, a sharp increase defying predictions that online learning growth is leveling off.

    A new report scheduled for released Thursday by The Sloan Consortium, a group of colleges pursuing online programs, estimates that 850,000 more students took online courses in the fall of 2005 than the year before, an increase of nearly 40 percent. Last year, the group had reported slowing growth, prompting speculation the trend had hit a ceiling.

    "The growth was phenomenal," said Jeff Seaman, Sloan's CIO and survey director, who also serves as co-director of the Babson College survey research group. "It's higher in absolute numbers and higher in percentages than anything we've measured before. And it's across the board," at schools ranging from doctoral institutions to those offering associate's degrees to for-profit colleges....

    You can read the full story here.
    You can see the full Sloan report here.

    Invisible Universities: Is There Room for Elitism Among Scholars?

    Dr. Reid Cornwell has posted another gem for thought.

    After reading it, I wondered: If, as I've seen elsewhere, online spaces (such as Wikipedia) have a de-professionalizing effect, is there room for elitism online?

    In writing about scholarly networks in Netspace, Barry Wellman, Emanuel Koku, and Jeremy Hunsinger have described such groups as Invisible Universities. We accept their opinion as both personal and professional.

    Invisible colleges provide forums for sharing, disseminating, and testing new ideas, as well as for exchanging information about teaching, research, funding opportunities, academic bureaucracies, and personal situations. They promote scholarly identity and purpose and stimulate discussion of theory, methods, and findings. Ideas get transmitted more quickly and innovatively than in formal journals constrained by publication lags and orthodoxy promoting refereeing, though this too is changing in the online era. Typically, they contain:

    * a core group of elite scholars
    * a high degree of communication through formal (conferences, papers) and informal channels among members
    * frequent communication between prominent core scholars and subsets of less prominent, non-core scholars
    * interactions among core members and their adherents hold the invisible college together
    * contacts between members of invisible colleges and outsiders enable mutual exchange of information

    You can read his full post here.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    "What we teach" vs. "What they actually need"

    I found this instructional graphic over at Preoccupations yesterday. It's a perfect example of what I'm struggling against on a daily basis in my classes.

    I teach at an engineering college, and am trying to share creative values with my students.

    In general, our freshmen are very bright and hard working. They're a wonderful group, and I don't think I'd be happy teaching anywhere else. However, their previous educational experiences have largely ignored the spectrum of skills/knowledge in "What they actually need."

    I do what I can to rectify this...

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    "Let's have tomorrow's meeting on the Wiki."

    Teachers and students can already get free wiki-spaces (the same software that powers Wikipedia) over at, but for some, this may not be the right option.

    Many schools, and corporations, have compelling reasons to create their own wikis, and other social networks (for instance, IBM is using social networking to help fuel creativity in their R&D labs). These groups may need spaces which are totally customized to their needs, with their own graphics, logos, links, layout, etc.

    The same qualities which make social netwroking a goldmine for educators--i.e., its facilitation of collaborative learning and group activities, its "always on" nature, its culture of sharing and free thought, etc.--make social networking an exciting tool to energize Research and Development throughout the business and academic communities.

    Here are a few interesting perspectives on social networking's value in creative business endeavors:

  • Intel unveils 'Web 2.0' software suite

  • Web 2.0 a catalyst in Oracle's Fusion

  • 'Office 2.0' startups knock on business doors
  • Monday, November 06, 2006

    New Technologies Starting to Rattle Online Self-Expression

    "New technologies are starting to rattle the foundations of online self-expression," Hyman writes in his own mog. "Coupling these tools with technology to help you find people who share similar tastes will usher in a new wave of relationship building.... New communities will flourish and become the most powerful means of discovering what we want to consume." (Read the full article here.)

    Interesting! Certianly, sites like Blogger, Web Biographies, Gather and others are making a stong impact in the arts. These new technologies--these creative communities--can definitely be adapted to educational use.

    The "Information Age" is over...

    A few wise words from John Moravec, over at (you can read the full post here):

    We are now in the Knowledge Age, maximizing what we know from information and new knowledge production; and, we are swiftly moving toward an age focused on the innovative and new contextual use of knowledge. Of course, 19th Century production line models of education need to be replaced. Human beings in knowledge and innovation societies cannot be educated as automatons with “download” forms of knowledge. They need to embraced and cultivated as creatives.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Foreign Workers Help Keep High Tech in America

    Earlier this week, I spoke with the Director of a local R&D lab.

    He told me that this year, he had openings for 3 positions. He spent months searching for native-born PhDs (engineers) to fill the positions, but to no avail. He couldn't find one. Eventually, he was forced to take his employment search abroad, and help secure H1B visas for foreign workers.

    This is a common concern, and last September, the National Academy of Engineering published a report on the essential role foreign-born skilled workers play in the US. Simply put, the US doesn't graduate enough science and engineering PhDs per year to maintain the R&D that is necessary to fuel a healthy economy and society.

    Younger Employees Lack Basic Skills

    I just found an interesting article over at (a publication focused on the various issues facing the small business and entrepreneurial communities).

    Time and time again, I encounter similar complaints from the business community about recent high school and college grads. We (that is, academics) are placing perhaps too much emphasis on exclusive professionalization--at a time when the workplace requires more generalization and interdisciplinarity.

    As I've said before, the business community needs students who can work collaboratively and creatively--with superior communications skills (written, and verbal).

    A new survey of employers finds that recent high school and college graduates fall short in a number of areas...

    An overwhelming majority cited problems new hires had handling such routine tasks as writing memos, letters, and other reports, the survey found...

    In September, just over half of the nation's small businesses hired or tried to hire at least one new employee, based on a monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington-based lobby group.

    Of those with positions to fill, more than 80 percent of small-business owners reported finding few or no qualified applications, with as many as 12 percent citing a lack of qualified employees as their biggest business problem -- the highest number in five years, the group said...

    You can read the full article here.

    Changing Needs and Expectations

    When promoting creativity at the workplace, or in the classroom, it is generally a good idea to have as thorough an understanding of one’s employees, or students, as possible.

    Both academe and the private sector are facing a new generation of students/graduates—a demographic much unlike those that have come before.

    When scholars and commentators refer to the millions of “tech-savvy” members of generations X & Y, no one is implying, as far as I can gather, that there are suddenly 100,000,000 computer programmers in our midst. However, the last two generations do a wonderful job of using the tech skills they already have, in order to navigate new technologies as they are encountered. And while I use “their,” this includes me, as I’ve been an avid “geek” since the early 1990s. (My first Internet experiences were via Gopher and Mosaic—and that definitely dates me.)

    With a little research, there is plenty of hard data to back up the general tech-familiarity of the under-30 demo, as well as their changing work habits and lifestyles. But the main issue professors and teachers ought to address is that our students’ needs are changing, and that this cultural shift includes the work habits and expectations of many recent graduate students.
    In academe, we all too often forget that in the end, we are teachers. And as such, our primary duty is to educate and prepare our students for what they will meet/need after they’ve left our classrooms.

    If we listen to the business community, we hear a steady call for students who are prepared to work collaboratively, and think critically—as well as creatively.

    Certainly, academe has always moved at the proverbial snail’s pace, and change has never come without hundreds of man-hours spent in committee, etc. to study cost/benefit analyses, etc. Inevitably, there will also be the persons of privilege, who perceive any change as threatening—or at the least, a softening of the “standards.”

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    New Challenges: Managing and Teaching Gen X and Gen Y (the Millenials)

    Young people use technology like no previous generation. Unwired's Richard Leyland explains what to expect from them in the workplace and how to adapt your business to take advantage of their strengths.

    You've seen them hunched over a PC, performing bewildering tasks at breakneck speed. You've watched with suspicion as they created an online community of friends, blurring the boundaries between 'real' friends and those they may never meet.
    You took note when MySpace, their chief playground, was sold to Rupert Murdoch for about half a billion dollars.

    Now the killer - today's tech-savvy young people are the office and boardroom faces of tomorrow. We need to understand them and change, if we're to create an environment where they can thrive.

    So here's what I know about them...

    You can read the full article here.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Students Unable to Keep Up with Rising Costs

    I just read an interesting article dealing with this issue (one close to my heart, and my pocketbook).

    The increasing descent of students (at the undergraduate, and most of all, graduate levels) into a lifetime of indentured servitude is astonishing...

    The size of tuition and fee increases at four-year public colleges has declined for the third year in a row, according to the College Board's annual tuition survey, which was released last week. But lagging federal grants left many lower- and middle-income students still struggling to keep up with the rising cost of college...

    Read the full article: Public Colleges See Slower Rise in Fees: 6.3% in a Year

    American Tech Grads Moving to India

    More on global creative economies:

    Nicole Dun made her way through customs at Bangalore International Airport, then onto a bus bound for Mysore, India, 86 miles away. She was understandably nervous. A freshly minted 22-year-old computer-science graduate of the University of California at Davis, she was leaving the United States for the first time and on her way to her first serious job.

    It wasn't at Google, or Cisco, or eBay. Along with about 300 other American college grads over the next year, Dun has signed on as a software engineer with Infosys Technologies, the red-hot Indian engineering firm that plans to add 25,000 employees to its 58,000 over the next year. She'll train in Mysore for six months before joining Infosys's Fremont, California, office.

    You can read the full article here.

    You know you're in a college town, when...

    No WiFi For You

    Ireland: A Lesson for America

    Over the past decade, Ireland has been transformed into what’s become known as “The Celtic Tiger.”

    Wise economic and educational policies have taken the country from its unenvied status as one of the poorest European nations, to one of the most dynamic, creative, and technologically advanced economies of the developed world.

    To give you an idea of just how dramatically this creative and well-educated country has been able to turn itself around, take a look at this: Ireland considering immigration deal with U.S .

    Last year, Americans moving to Ireland outnumbered Irish moving to the US by 2.5 to 1.

    A recent job fair in New York, for employment opportunities in Ireland, drew crowds that created a line more than 2 and a half blocks long!

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Teachers can make a real difference--to students, and to the future of their areas of study

    Situations like the one pictured below reaffirm my belief that professors and teachers have a duty to not only familiarize ourselves with sites & services like Wikipedia--but to contribute accurate and valuable information to them.

    The least we should do is keep an eye on articles in our specializations...

    The Whole Internet Truth

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    The Fight Against BlackBoard!

    I just saw this, and had to spread the word...

    BlackBoard has long been one of the top software platforms in use at colleges and universities. BlackBoard has also been in hot water over its aggressive enforcement of policies that often seem counter-productive to the educational process...

    For instance, their Terms of Use state that they own the copyright on any student and faculty writing that is written/posted via their software. Wow... All of the educational materials, creative writing, content of student discussions, etc. is no longer your own the moment you hit "Post."

    That's why I've migrated my courses to a more copyright-friendly platform.

    Well, after the latest unfair BlackBoard action, the people over at EDUCAUSE have written this public letter:

    Mr. Michael Chasen
    Chief Executive Officer
    Blackboard, Inc.
    1899 L Street, 11th Floor
    Washington, DC 20036

    Dear Mr. Chasen,

    I am writing you on behalf of the higher education IT community, the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors, and our executive team to express in writing what we have conveyed in prior conversations. Our community is deeply concerned by Blackboard’s patent and its recent law suit claiming patent infringement against Desire2Learn. Our community feels these actions go beyond competition to challenging the core values and interests of higher education.

    One of our concerns is that you may not fully appreciate the depth of the consternation this action has caused for key members of our community. Among those who have been most directly involved in the development and evolution of course management systems—customers whom Blackboard has relied upon for ideas and advice—these concerns are most pronounced. Their anger over the law suit is so intense that many are simply not communicating with Blackboard. We have seen this intensity of anger only a few times before. In those cases, the corporations involved were unaware of what was happening outside their official channels. Please do not underestimate this consternation which we believe will impact Blackboard in both the short- and the long-term.

    We are sure you are aware of the many blog postings discussing the law suit. Web sites have been established to gather evidence of prior art to refute the patent claims. The expressions we hear range from the vilification of Blackboard, to stories about the cold reception Blackboard is receiving at presentations, to the embarrassment of your employees who are asked to explain this corporate action. Even those members of the community who counsel taking a wait-and-see approach are not necessarily less concerned, just more focused on what they might have to lose by speaking out against the dominant vendor in the CMS market. The fact that these perceptions exist is not likely to lead to greater market share or profitability for Blackboard.

    EDUCAUSE is a non-profit association dedicated to serving its 2000 college and university members, as well as its 200 corporate members. We do not endorse products or take the side of one company over another. Our corporate guidelines, established in 1998, are very clear that EDUCAUSE is primarily accountable to its institutional members. In the event of a conflict between corporate and institutional member objectives, we must support our institutional members. Let me clearly state that we are not siding with Desire2Learn at the expense of Blackboard. Our discussions and actions are based solely on the collective interests of our institutional members.

    There are two core tenets behind the community concern. One deals with co-creation and ownership; the other deals with innovation. Course management systems were developed by the higher education community, which includes academics, organizations, and corporations. Ideas were freely exchanged, prototypes developed, and refinements continue to be made. The new EDUCAUSE Catalyst Award, given to course management systems this year, celebrates that course management systems “were conceived and developed among faculty in pockets of innovation throughout the world. They originated simultaneously at a number of institutions,” as stated in the award announcement. One of the reasons course management systems were singled out for this award is because of the “fluid movement of ideas and initiatives between academia and the commercial sector as individual limited-use efforts evolved into enterprise-wide systems.” Our community has participated in the creation of course management systems. A claim that implies this community creation can be patented by one organization is anathema to our culture.

    We realize that what one believes is not necessarily legally binding. As a result, EDUCAUSE engaged the services of a highly reputable, independent law firm to review the patent. The preliminary conclusion is that the patent was very broadly defined and was inappropriately approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That is certainly the view of the higher education community, many of whom are contributing evidence of prior art.

    The other core tenet is to promote innovation. The free exchange of ideas fosters innovation. The open sharing of ideas does not preclude commercialization or profiting from ideas. Innovation is critical to the higher education community and it is critical to corporations. Blackboard has espoused the importance of listening to customers as its source of innovation. This law suit will certainly have a chilling effect on the open sharing of ideas in our community.

    We believe that Blackboard should disclaim the rights established under your recently-awarded patent, placing the patent in the public domain and withdrawing the claim of infringement against Desire2Learn. We believe this action would be in the best business interests of Blackboard and in the best interests of higher education. We do not make this request lightly or underestimate the courage it will take to implement. However, we believe it is the right action for your corporation and our community.

    As EDUCAUSE members convene this week, this patent and its implications for innovation in education will be discussed more broadly. Now is the time for Blackboard to demonstrate why it is a leader in course management systems and listen to the marketplace that has been a primary source of collaboration and innovation. I, along with members of my executive team, are willing to meet with you at any time.


    Brian L. Hawkins

    On behalf of the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors
    Robyn R. Render, EDUCAUSE Chair of the Board, Vice President for Information Resources and CIO, University of North Carolina, Office of the President
    John E. Bucher, EDUCAUSE Vice Chair, Chief Technology Officer, Oberlin College
    Ellen J. Waite-Franzen, EDUCAUSE Treasurer, Vice President for Information Technology, Dartmouth College
    Jeffrey W. Noyes, Secretary of the EDUCAUSE Board, Director, Student System Consolidation Project, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
    Rebecca L. King, Director for Information Systems and Services and Interim CIO, Baylor University
    Lucinda T. Lea, VP for Information Technology and CIO, Middle Tennessee State University
    Marilyn A. McMillan, Associate Provost and Chief Information Technology Officer, New York University
    Margaret F. Plympton, Vice President for Finance and Administration, Lehigh University
    David L. Smallen, Vice President, Information Technology, Hamilton College
    George O. Strawn, CIO, National Science Foundation
    Brian L. Hawkins, President, EDUCAUSE

    I truly hope that the brave people at EDUCAUSE come out on top...

    The State of Higher Education

    Another fun 'toon

    Seeing as how this blog is created and maintained on a 4-month-old Intel MacBook, I figured this was applicable:

    Mac vs. PC


    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Education: A National Crisis

    Another Guest Article from Dr. Reid Cornwell:

    Education: A National Crisis

    In 1948 I entered South Fork School in Forsyth County, North Carolina. It was a rural school with K-12 in the same building and there was one class per grade. Unlike my peers, I had already learned to read. In fact, I was reading National Geographic mainly because I loved the pictures. I was also able to count and do basic math. In other words, except for the socialization, I had completed the first grade.

    Mrs. Smith, my teacher, recognized that there would be a problem and suggested to my family that I should be advanced to the third grade. My family, not wanting me to be treated as different, rejected the suggestion.

    Thus began a saga of boredom which led to acting out and ultimately dropping out. I then went into the Marine Corps. Six weeks later I took the GED scoring a perfect performance.

    John Moyles, a gifted systems analyst, walked this same path and is now a highly sought after consultant. My eldest son, an anthropologist, and co-director of The Center for Internet Research has a similar history.

    My youngest son, equally bright, finished high school with good marks and ACT scores got an early admission to a University and promptly failed all of his classes. He was unprepared for college curricula.

    A young girl was not allowed to start public kindergarten because she was a few days to young. Her parents sent her to Montessori where she excelled. Now old enough to enter the public system she was forced to repeat kindergarten. Her parents were told that the state would NOT provide the funds for the first grade because she was too young.

    Students were given a project to build catapults. The criteria called for the dimensions to not exceed one cubic yard. Creative students reasoned that decreasing the width of the base they could lengthen the throwing arm making it more efficient. Not so said the teacher, it had to be 3 by 3 by 3 feet. The student's grades were penalized.

    These stories span a time period of nearly 60 years. While some are personal stories, they are similar to ones I have heard hundreds of times. Simply put, the crisis in public education system is not new. It is an evolving problem made worse by changes in the demands of our economy. It has persisted for decades and will persist for decades more unless a concerted effort is made to alter our theory and practice of education.

    New technologies afford the opportunity for a revolutionary revitalization. Only an irrational fear of "something new" stands in our way.

    Albert Einstein once said, "A crazy person is someone who does the same thing over and over and expects a different outcome." Dressing up old practices with a new lexicon is not reformation. It is crazy.

    Many years ago, the American Negro College Fund had a slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Despite billions of dollars spent, public education continues to squander the minds of millions of kids. This project is dedicated to those children who struggle to find the skills necessary to lead full and productive lives.

    The Education System is not a failure. To our credit, we give an adequate education to millions of learners. The problems in our education system relate to specific national goals and interests. The problem is most profound at the extremes of ability. The system fails at exceptions.

    The most strident complaints appear to come when students of above average or gifted ability fail to reach their potentials. It is unfortunate that many of the students who to fail to graduate fall in this group. These students universally express the sentiments that they were bored, not challenged or did not see the relevance to their lives. Many of the students that do complete K-12 express the same opinion.

    We believe that computer technology offers the opportunity to remedy many of the problems that plague scholastically challenged students. These technologies can remove the arbitrary structures that impede motivation and curiosity while liberating teachers to provide the essential services required by the overwhelming majority of students.

    The "Connected Learning" project can be a panacea for the students that are indeed being left behind despite our best efforts. Connected Learning can be developed outside the mainstream of our system to serve the mainstream and also serve the minds we are wasting.

    At most every university in the U.S. effort is going forward to develop uses of technology that will provide opportunities that are embodied in the theory suggested by "No Child Left Behind". This effort is fragmented. Universities themselves are hobbled by practices that are atavistic. As one award winning professor (tenured 36 years) puts it, "Universities have not changed the way they teach in forty years."

    "Connected Learning" will attempt to provide a framework that will address both the myths and realities of education. Its goal is to provide organizing principles to guide empirical research and development. Although it is couched in the language of reform, it is believed that it is about reinventing education in the light of advances, not only in technology, but also in educational practice and learning science. Read the full whitepaper.

    Ambitious! Yes, and to the extreme. Daunting! You bet. Necessary! Absolutely!

    We believe that the crisis in education is more profound than terrorism. It is so, because you are hundreds of times more likely to fail to graduate from high school than be killed by a terrorist. Since 9/11, millions of students have fallen by the wayside of education. It is so, because it affects the heart of what America represents.

    Copyright 2006, Dr. Reid Cornwell

  • The Center For Internet Research

  • Other Writings by Reid Cornwell
  • Professors Can Learn A Lot From Web 2.0 Technology

    Another interesting article over at Wired Campus:

    "Professors can learn a lot from Web 2.0 enterprises like Digg, the technology-news aggregator, and Second Life, the fast-growing virtual world, Ms. Wagner said. By connecting users to online communities, she said, those services provide more memorable learning experiences than students may get from more-entrenched, less-interactive technologies.

    Web 2.0 may be a hot property among techies, but academics, it seems, have been a bit slower to embrace user-generated content." ---You can read the full post here

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Hot Topic Over at The Chronicle's Website

    Over at The Chronicle's "Wired Campus Blog," there's a seemingly innocuous topic post regarding the need for academe to create "genuine collaborative and cooperative structures in our colleges and universities."

    This topic has somewhat exploded... I recommend having a look at what's going on in the Comments section.

    "As Millennials reach 30 and move into faculty positions, colleges should be prepared to meet the needs of these tech-savvy people, advised John O’Brien, vice president of academic affairs at Century College in Minnesota, during a Tuesday afternoon session at the League for Innovation conference in Charlotte, N.C..." ----You can read the "discussion" in progress here

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Is Social Intelligence More Useful than IQ?

    In the News: NPR Interviews Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence

    "Daniel Goleman, author of the book Social Intelligence, explains why human beings are hard-wired to connect, and how those connections can actually change our biology."

    You can listen to it here.

    I wonder, how does social networking impact "social intelligence," according to Goleman's theories/research?

    Now that would be worth a conference paper (such as the call for papers below).

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Guest Article: Finding the Spark of Genius Within You

    Finding the Spark of Genius Within You
    (c) Copyright Bill Allin, 2006

    "You have to allow a certain amount of time in which you are doing nothing in order to have things occur to you, to let your mind think."
    - Mortimer Adler, American educator and philosopher (1902-2001)

    Busy people believe they accomplish a great deal. And they do, if you measure completing tasks as accomplishments.

    What we call genius may not be superior intelligence at all, but a different way of organizing thoughts and thought patterns. That takes time.

    Albert Einstein was convinced that every baby is born a genius. It may well be true that every baby born with a healthy brain has that potential.

    Something over the ensuing few years knocks that potential away so that most children are conformists by their early school years. The more involved with activities they are--the busier they are--the more they are apt to be social conformists and hardliners as adults.

    Thinkers tend to be social misfits--not that the reverse is necessarily true. Thinkers spend more time alone, building with their minds, creating, rebuilding, reshaping, continually making something more. Thinkers are not necessarily loners, they simply spend some due amount of time alone with their own thoughts and mental castles.

    It's not by accident that a large majority of good writers do most of their work alone. Artists, including musicians, tend to spend great amounts of time shaping their craft and crafting their shape in their own lonely cells.

    Thinking requires time, a commodity so precious that most people today claim to have litttle of it to spare. Therein lie great lessons.

    Just as Olympic athletes are great because they have taken great amounts of time to develop their skills, often practising alone for hours each day, thinkers become great by practising alone.

    A thinker may be alone, but never lonely. There is, after all, too much to think about: thoughts not yet thought, castles not yet devised, symphonies of thought not yet written, universes of thought not yet explored.

    Take time to do nothing. If you can handle the alone-ness, your brain will...think.

    Think enough and you will find the genius within you. The spark is alive.

    Bill Allin, MEd
    'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help you find the genius within you.
    Learn more at
    Reprinted with permission.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Call for Proposals: Scholarship of Teaching & Learning at the Liberal Arts Colleges

    Perhaps you have been using blogs in your classroom(s)? Maybe you've been using educational technologies such as Web Biographies, and would like to share your experiences with it?
    (You can read my earlier post on using Web Biographies in my classrooms here.)

    "We will be watching the planning for this upcoming conference with great interest, as it provides a view into the future of the scholarship of teaching and learning movement’s progress within a liberal arts context.

    One of the claimed distinctions of the education offered at liberal arts colleges is that the faculty there are genuine teacher-scholars, dividing their time equally between their research and undergraduate instruction. On the surface, these are ideal circumstances for many to begin to engage in thinking about their teaching as a form of research. Yet we wonder: How many of these faculty will shift the focus of their research toward the practice of teaching within their chosen disciplines? How many of our institutions’ tenure and promotion committees will accept such scholarship as a substitute for traditional scholarship?" --You can find the full call for proposals at

    (For some strange reason links to their posts only return server errors from their system. So, you can find the CFP for Scholarship of Teaching & Learning at the Liberal Arts Colleges under the section/tab titled "The Center for Teaching and Learning".)

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Guest Article: What’s So “Liberal” About Higher Ed?

    Are new digital technologies compatible with the aims and traditions of “liberal education?” Or do instructional technologies pose an inexorable threat to higher education understood as anything more than vocational training?

    The answers to these much debated questions are yes and yes; it all depends on how the aims and traditions of “liberal education” are understood. My observation, admittedly as a practitioner rather than a researcher, is that there is no consensus in the higher education community about what liberal education actually is; rather, the term invokes a range of sometimes-conflicting academic practices and values. Specific instructional technologies support some of these practices and values and challenge others. Both “liberal education” and “instructional technology” are terms that point to a wide array of different things. In discussing their relationship it is therefore necessary to unpack our assumptions about liberal education and to specify which instructional technologies are at issue.

    Some hypothetical, but familiar, cases might offer a useful starting point:

    College A is trying to decide whether to create a learning commons in its library integrating the help desk and reference functions. Even though projections from the business office suggest that this move would save money, the librarian, the IT leader, and the faculty are all rather passionately opposed to the idea. Their (much more expensive) priority is to add smart classrooms in other buildings. Meanwhile, a mile down the road, College B has a merged organization with a librarian at its head and combined its help and reference services years ago, largely in response to demands for better research support for both faculty and students, but it has yet to install wireless access in its student union and outdoor gathering spaces.

    College C spends more and more every year on subscriptions to electronic journals and databases but has not yet implemented a course management system because the faculty technology committee doesn’t see why so much should be spent to just “put our syllabi on the web.” College D, whose campus abuts College C’s, spent its first discretionary IT dollar on a course management system, immediately requiring its deployment in all courses and creating modules to make it an environment that student organizations can use -- even though it has not yet been able to increase its budget for digital subscriptions for several years now.

    Colleges E and F, meanwhile, have both decided that Internet 2 connection is a high budgetary priority. E’s reason is that a handful of leading faculty members have research agendas that require the transfer of enormous data sets. At F, the decision was driven not by the faculty but by the administration, which is concerned that if the campus isn’t on I2 it will be less attractive to strong prospective students. Asking anyone at College F what they will do with an I2 connection once they have it gets a blank look in return.

    And then there is College G, which has made all its course materials open to the secondary schools and community colleges in its region by putting them all on the open web with what some might see as a rather casual attitude toward intellectual property. College G equips students who are going off campus for their required internships with digital cameras and PDAs for data capture, even though it can’t afford to create the GIS lab several science faculty have requested.

    And in each of these cases, when these IT decisions are explained to the community, they are justified as “consistent with our college’s core commitment to liberal education.”

    One could conclude that there is little logic to the decisions campuses make when it comes to IT strategy. But the issue may actually be that there are multiple competing logics, all bundled together as “liberal education.”

    “Liberal education” is a little like “freedom” or “excellence” – a term invoked to convey a sense of undisputed good while encompassing a wide range of contested meanings. Academic institutions aspiring to offer anything distinct from vocational training justify important curricular and resource decisions with reference to it. (Of course, the value of non-vocational higher education itself is not universally assumed by either families or policy-makers; the high value on liberal education within the academic community is not currently shared by American society at large.) However, the claims and aspirations of colleges and universities reflect various theories of “liberal education,” some incompatible and some complementary.

    These competing understandings of liberal education are not discrete schools of thought so much as interwoven threads in institutional discussions: colleges end up looking different from one another in part because they weave the threads together in different proportions and patterns at different moments in their history. Tracing the threads can be a useful way of framing the values and goals that shape specific strategic decisions about the adoption and deployment of digital technologies. Further, understanding how their institutions think and talk about liberal education can help IT leaders frame important issues in terms of educational values and purposes, making them more influential advocates by creating a sense of shared mission with their faculty and administrative colleagues.

    The most venerable thread in the tapestry of liberal education is the curriculum-focused definition of “liberal education” as the study of the liberal arts and sciences – that is, as study liberated from the pressure of immediate circumstance and pursued by people free to explore the liberal arts disciplines without regard for immediate application or benefit. It is the commitment to learning for learning’s sake. The idea here is that liberal education emphasizes “pure” rather than applied disciplines and requires familiarity with the major areas of intellectual achievement in the Western tradition. By this standard, business, education, nursing, performance, and other applied studies are not seen as properly part of a liberal education. This is the logic that has some colleges giving credit for music theory and history but not for music performance, for economics but not for business or accounting, for developmental psychology but not for counseling, and so on. Further, in this view liberal education is above all else an academic pursuit. Colleges in which this tradition is strong are often leery about giving credit for non-academic work, so that internships, community service, and experiential learning are not highly valued.

    This definition has been on the decline for several years now and relatively few institutions remain “pure” liberal arts colleges from this point of view, but it still echoes loudly through discussions of curriculum, requirements, and mission. Just the other day, for example, I was seated at dinner next to someone from a college that doesn’t give credit for the study of introductory language – on the grounds that language acquisition is not itself a liberal study but simply a tool which enables the liberal studies of literature, history, philosophy, and so on. A college where language is taught specifically to enable literary analysis but just as specifically not to enable tourism or business dealings is, for example, acting on this logic of liberal education.

    A second, and increasingly influential, logic defines liberal education as operating from a pedagogical methodology that emphasizes active learning, faculty/student collaboration, independent inquiry, and critical thinking. This view is more pedagogical than curricular and emphasizes the development of intellectual skills and capacities over the study of any specific materials or content areas. To return to the example of language, in this approach the justification for teaching language is to develop the capacity to understand how languages work, to problematize the assumptions inherent in the native language, and to master new syntactic and lexical structures – goals that can be accomplished equally well in the study of any language without regard to the literary or historical inquiries that might follow.

    The defining characteristics of liberal education in this logic are not disciplines but practices -- practices like group study, undergraduate research, faculty mentoring, student presentations, and other forms of active learning. From this point of view, a discipline like nursing or education, for example, can be taught either liberally or illiberally, whereas in the first view nursing would never be seen as a liberal study. If nursing students are engaged in active learning with peer and faculty colleagues, doing direct research on important current issues in their field, encouraged to question dominant assumptions and procedures, and expected to solve complex problems independently, they are seen as being liberally educated. On the other hand, nursing students who are attending lectures, assigned material to learn by rote, rewarded for mastery of “correct” answers, and drilled in unvarying standard procedures are not. Liberally educated nurses are in this view learning to exercise judgment, understand the reasoning behind protocols and standards, and to be lifelong learners, while nurses who are illiberally educated are seen as being trained to be proficient technicians.

    This view of liberal education is strongly influenced by social-constructionist theories of knowledge, research in learning theory, and a high value placed on the questioning of authority. Colleges that emphasize small classes over large ones, seminars over lectures, student research, faculty mentoring, peer study groups, and similar educational practices, while including applied studies in the curriculum, tend to be acting on this logic.

    These two views reflect the complementary but tense relationship that exists between scholarship and teaching in the reward structure for faculty. Most colleges and universities are committed to both views of liberal education, just as they are committed to both scholarship and teaching. The ideal on many campuses is to teach a liberal arts and sciences curriculum (as in the first definition) using student-centered pedagogies (as valued in the second.) Just as with scholarship and teaching, however, while it is easy to agree that both the curricular and pedagogical understandings of liberal education are valuable, negotiating their competing claims presents real and specific choice points in setting institutional priorities. Colleges C and D took very different paths when investing in IT, for example, C choosing the discipline and content focused priority of subscriptions and databases while D chose the student centered and pedagogical priority of a course management system. These choices suggest that C acted more on the first view of liberal education and D more on the second.

    A third notion of liberal education, related to the second but distinct from it, holds that the defining characteristic of liberal education is preparation for democratic citizenship and civic engagement. The AAC&U, for example, has in recent years emerged as a strong advocate for this understanding. In terms of curriculum, this approach tends to value the development of skills specifically believed to be central to effective citizenship -- literacy, numeracy, sometimes public speaking, scientific and statistical literacy, familiarity with social and political science, and critical thinking. It tends to value curricular engagement with current social and political issues alongside the extracurricular development of ethical reflection and socially responsible character traits in students, seeing student life as an educational sphere in its own right in which leadership, rhetorical, and community-building skills can be practiced. Where this view is influential, you will find things like community-service requirements or credit-bearing service-learning projects, a high level of intentionality about the paracurriculum offered by student government and residential life, a tendency to focus course modules and assignments on recent or local cases, a sense of shared mission between faculty and student life staff, and a strong concern with extending access to higher education. (For many colleges, the framing of liberal education as preparation for service and citizenship dovetails with values derived from their founding religious traditions.) Campus G, providing open access to its materials on line and equipping students for their mandatory community service projects even when there are unmet needs on campus, is investing in this view.

    Finally, a fourth view associates liberal education with a specific institutional type -- the small, residential, privately governed, bachelor’s granting college. From this point of view the sum of the experiences such institutions provide is “liberal education.” Identifying liberal education with liberal arts colleges tends to emphasize structural characteristics and institutional settings as essential to liberal education and leads to skepticism that institutions with other characteristics can provide a truly liberal education. Do residential community, small size, and undergraduate focus in fact create conditions in which a distinctive educational experience can be crafted? Certainly there has been acknowledgement of the educational value of these institutional characteristics as an increasing number of large institutions have created units imitating the small, residential, living-learning community typical of the small college, often as honors colleges. And historically it is institutions of this type which have nurtured and attempted to combine all the educational priorities I have mentioned above. But even these small colleges, when attempting to do it all, face strategic choices and have to prioritize what to do when.

    To the extent that liberal education is seen as the product of an institutional type, keeping the small colleges alive and vital is essential to its preservation. Technology, from this view, is valued in so far as it supports the survival of this sector of the higher education industry. The president of College F, who feels his institution must have I2 connectivity to remain viable in the marketplace even though he isn’t quite sure what it’s good for, is thinking this way.

    There are no doubt other factors interwoven among those I have mentioned. But in general, this broad typology describes the main threads of the current discussion of liberal education: the curricular, the pedagogical, the civic, and the institutional – threads which are woven together on every campus but in different proportions on each. What, though, has all this to do with technology?

    Let’s return to the first, curricular, understanding. When a college or its faculty is strongly influenced by this view, it is likely to regard technology as valuable primarily as an extension of the library offering new access points for scholarly resources. These are the people who are most excited about technology’s potential to allow them to view incunabula on line, access massive scientific datasets, or share documents with a remote specialist in their subfield. Institutions influenced by this view are likely to see digital scholarly resources as a priority area for investment, to assume that faculty research priorities should drive many IT decisions on campus, and to see the library as central to planning for information technology and services. These may be institutions that will prioritize digital subscriptions and put a librarian over the information organization – but not really see much point in spending a great deal on a course management system or creating collaborative student work clusters. When College E connects to I2, even though only a handful of its faculty will actually use it regularly, it is acting on these values, as is College C every time it prioritizes subscriptions over course management in the budget process.

    What are the resistances to instructional technology that are likely to follow from this view? First, there is often a concern about ascertaining the quality and authority of materials located on line. This view worries that students, exploring cyberspace without the guidance of faculty members or librarians, will be misled about the value of what they find or will not be able to distinguish authoritative sources from irresponsible ones. Calls for “information literacy” programs therefore often come from this angle. There are also faculty concerns that technology offers distractions, erodes student’s ability to “read” and “reflect,” and values the quick and thoughtless over the deliberate and well-informed. In this view technology is valued for expanding the content of study but not for its potential to change the method or nature of study. In this model, the IT organization on campus is often most valued for supporting a powerful network with little or no downtime and easy access points and interfaces for accessing digital materials, but it may not be especially engaged in instructional partnerships with faculty or with maintaining student learning spaces, for example. Typically, in institutions where this view in influential, the IT department is seen as serving the library and faculty.

    The second, pedagogical, point of view is much more invested in what technology allows teachers and students to DO than in what it gives them access to. These folks are excited about the way technology can transform study, about new ways of thinking and perceiving that might arise from digital interactions and resources. To the extent that this approach is influential, institutions tend to emphasize a student-centered vision of IT and to prioritize spending and support for communications tools, classroom presentation tools, course and learning management systems, and the like. The hypothetical faculty at Colleges A and D who were advocating for more technology in the classroom and for more robust learning management systems are probably influenced by this view. In this model such tools are valued for their ability to encourage communication outside class, facilitate group study, and allow students to author multi-media assignments. Colleges where this approach is strong might therefore also prioritize upgrading multimedia centers or teaching and learning centers, for example, or might approach the design of networks and spaces by thinking about how collaborative groups as well as individual users will use them. From this perspective, the IT department can be seen as offering important professional development to the faculty, as creating important learning opportunities for students, and sought after as a partner with the faculty in instructional design.

    As for the negative side of this coin, resistance can arise when a commitment to digital pedagogy creates a sense of strain in faculty roles. The need for faculty to master new tools and develop the pedagogical skills to use them effectively leads to the perception of IT as an additional, onerous, and sometimes resented job expectation. Faculty and deans complain that there isn’t enough time for faculty to keep up with technology. Those faculty members who do engage in creative digital teaching may wonder if their efforts will be rewarded by tenure and promotion committees. Facing new demands to develop faculty skills and partner with faculty innovators, the IT staff itself feels pressure of time and staffing. And when the faculty/IT relationship is strong and focused on classroom pedagogy, it can be difficult to see what the appropriate role of the library can or should be, leading to tensions between the library and IT departments.

    To the extent that the third, civic, approach is present, campuses may be likely to emphasize the ways technology can help them extend beyond their own borders and engage with non-academic materials and activities. These campuses may develop digital projects in partnership with the local secondary schools or public libraries. These will be faculty who are excited about the way technology allows their students to mentor local high school students by offering 24/7 homework assistance or to document their experiences during a community service project. These educational values might lead, for example, to e-portfolio requirements integrating academic and extracurricular learning or investment in videoconferencing technologies to support the integration of on and off-campus learning. These institutions might be more interested in making campus collections and course materials available to community partners, like our hypothetical college G, or to using technologies to support extracurricular activities than in purchasing highly specialized database subscriptions or equipping smart classrooms.

    With its strong emphasis on community and ethical relationships, this is the position from which concerns about the impact of technology on the campus community and on relationships among and between students and faculty can give rise to resistance. I sit, as it happens, on the editorial board of a journal. At a meeting of this group we recently had a lively discussion related to a possible future issue. The discussion ping-ponged back and forth between excitement about expanding access to previously excluded students through technology and concern about the erosion of real, carbon-based interactions threatened by these same technologies. Both the excitement and the resistance were born of a commitment to liberal education as preparation for civic and community life.

    For those who understand liberal education as essentially identified with one institutional type, much of the value of IT is in making sure that small colleges remain competitive with larger institutions able to offer a more extensive range of opportunities to students and faculty. Many small colleges and faculty cherish the hope that IT will help them to offer the virtues of small and the benefits of big, leading to optimistic ideas about the ability of IT to help small institutions do more with less and save money to boot. However, as we know, technology demands scale, something these colleges cannot muster, leading to continuing and especially difficult assessments about technology costs on small campuses. Will an expensive application be bought for the one faculty member who is likely to use it? When an IT staff has only three positions, how many optional applications can it actually support? Collaboration is an obvious strategy for small colleges to achieve some scale and lower some costs, but it is a difficult strategy for this point of view to consider – since the primary goal is institutional survival, and since collaboration can appear to threaten institutional distinctiveness, collaboration can appear to campus leaders as a counterproductive strategy. Further pulling against the need to control costs is a strong awareness of the need to keep up with the Joneses, leading to resentment and a sense of coercion on the part of decision makers.

    All this is not to suggest anything more complex than that the discussion of technology and liberal education is entwined in debates about broader educational priorities and value. When institutions are facing decisions about where to put their IT dollars, they are often indirectly struggling over what their academic and educational values and priorities are. And this struggle can be particularly difficult for institutions committed to “liberal education” because of the multiplicity of competing goals and agendas subsumed within that term, particularly when resources are limited and difficult choices must be made.

    Faculty and administrators who express concern about the impact of technology on liberal education are sometimes dismissed by technologists and CIOs as simply resisting change or failing in imagination. However, campus resistance to new technologies is often a matter of defending perceived threats to important educational and professional commitments. IT leaders, for their part, do well to explicitly connect specific IT challenges and issues to the educational values and practices characteristic of their institutional and campus clients. IT leaders have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to their colleagues that technology can indeed serve many of the goals of liberal education. They also serve their institutions best by framing technology choices in terms of the various and competing goals of liberal education and promoting discussion of which should be central to institutional strategy and why.

    --by Jo Ellen Parker, Ph.D.
    First published at The Academic Commons (
    Reprinted here under the Creative Commons Liscense of The Academic Commons