Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where do we go from here? Part 1

On Monday morning, I am giving the keynote address at the 2011 Tennessee Higher Education IT Symposium. My talk, entitled “Where do we go from here?”, is—in small part—a retrospective on the contributions that IT organizations have made to higher education over the past thirty years, and how these contributions have led to the challenges that IT organizations are experiencing today. Most importantly—and this is the larger part of the keynote—I explore how responding to these challenges sets the stage for where we should go in the future, and I do believe that the future is very promising for both higher education and the IT organizations serving them.

Reflecting on where we go from here requires a full understanding of where we have been. Greg Jackson, the Vice President for Policy at EDUCAUSE, laid out that history in The Chronicle a few years ago (“A CIO’s Question: Will You Still Need me When I’m 64?”, January 30, 2004). The first chapter was the data processing era, where we built computing service centers to provide our institutions with the processing power necessary to support administrative protocols such as payroll and registration and to provide our faculty with computational resources that would support their research. Next was the networking and desktop era, where the challenge was to put a PC on the desktop of every faculty and staff member and then connect them together, at first to institutional resources in the computing service center, and later, to what would eventually become the Internet. The next chapter was about leveraging the Web to automate key processes and services across the institution. At the same time, many institutions would implement packaged ERP systems in order to rid themselves of legacy technology and to provide the Web capabilities demanded by faculty, students, and staff. The current chapter, as envisioned by Jackson, is the era of “technology advocacy and evangelism”, where IT leaders become more important advocates for the transformative power of technology at their institution.

However, both higher education institutions and the IT organizations that serve them must change, in order to realize the transformative potential formed at the intersection of technology and learning.

I was reminded of this Wednesday night, as I sat through a fantastic keynote address by Marina Gorbis at the WASC Academic Resource Conference in San Francisco. Her talk, entitled “Education: Back to the Future”, has helped me to articulate something that I have known, but have struggled to adequately put into words: that, at the intersection of teaching, research, learning, and technology today, the role of leadership and authority changes radically. Whether it is in the classroom, the research lab, as an administrator, or as a technologist, leadership or authority becomes less about making decisions, controlling access to scarce resources, or imparting knowledge. Instead, leadership becomes more about credibly convening important conversations and equipping others to participate in the conversation and preparing them for the journey that results. This is an incredibly exciting proposition if you are an educator.

IT organizations have an important role in supporting and sometimes convening these conversations. But to be successful we must change the way we approach the design, implementation, and support of technology services in order to credibly perform roles beyond ordinary service delivery. Once we do that, then there are three areas that are ripe for exploiting the transformative power of technology in higher education: learning technologies, academic analytics, and business intelligence.

More to come.

1 comment:

  1. I attended this keynote. I almost skipped it. I am so grateful I didn't. By the first 5 mintues, my mouth was hanging open. That's all I can say. I have been feeling this for quite a while now. To hear that it is happening at other places puts it more in perspective. Thank you! Are the slides online anywhere? GREAT GREAT KEYNOTE. Kay

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