Universities need to be less scared of technology


Interesting article, although I may contest the ‘digital generation’ stuff #seemybook

And remember, this is the digital generation, born wired for wi-fi with huge expectations when it comes to the delivery of information. (However, tolerance for anything that requires an attention span is at an all-time low.)

When it comes to teaching, we’re all going to have to up our game. The days of standing at the front of a lecture theatre and talking to the masses from behind a lectern are numbered. But precisely what we might replace it with and how future content might be delivered is less clear.

The digital revolution has invaded almost every aspect of our lives. But somehow, higher education teaching has managed to remain more or less insulated from it. Sure it seeps in, carried on the mobile devices that students bring to lectures, but up to now we have been mostly successful in fending off the attack.

Read full article.


Are Innovation and Technology Synonymous?

Is technology at the base of all innovations?

Someone told me recently that there is a correlation between economic recession and the frequency of the use of the word “innovation”. The correlation is a positive one. I have no idea if it is true, or even how you could find out, but I suspect there could be something in it. Once you start looking, “innovation” crops up everywhere, sprinkled like confetti in print and broadcast media, blogs and, of course, on the professional workshop circuit, where people make a living telling others how to achieve it.

I don’t mean to criticise – I refer to it several times in my introduction to the University of Northampton’s latest annual review. But what exactly is “innovation”?

There is certainly no shortage of innovation-support organisations working for and within the higher education sector, the Technology Strategy Board among them. Their help and guidance notwithstanding, one thing these organisations and many others seem to share is a sense that innovation is synonymous with technology. This is short-sighted.

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"Google Goggles": Augmented Reality Glasses

Will you be queuing up for them?:

Academic Digital

MIT 'The new new thing'

I’ve had quite an interest in MIT since I heard that they put all their lectures, etc. online (on YouTube, etc. under Creative Commons licences), something that is resisted by many an academic… and have found that it has increased interest in their courses. Here, Times Higher Education looks at their Media Lab…

Joichi Ito does not have the kind of background that would normally catch the eye of an appointment committee searching for someone to head a prestigious university research lab. To start with, he is not an academic – he is an internet entrepreneur, a venture capitalist and a former disc jockey. And, if that were not enough against him, he dropped out of university. Twice.

But not every lab is like the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which turned 25 last year, is world famous for its “renegade” research environment and creative and wacky projects that combine design with cutting-edge technology. It is responsible for, among other things, the electronic ink technology that e-readers use to simulate printed paper; for Guitar Hero, the hit video game in which players simulate playing the guitar in rock songs; for Lego Mindstorms robotics building kits and for the XO-1 laptop, a budget computer designed to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world as part of the One Laptop per Child project.

Nicholas Negroponte set up the Media Lab to explore human-machine interaction and the life-enhancing possibilities of new technology. He led it from its start until he stepped down as director in 2000. Ito, who took over in September, is the third person to head the lab since the departure of its founder; he took the reins from Frank Moss, professor of the practice of media arts and sciences at MIT.

“I was surprised as well,” Ito says of his appointment. The 45-year-old, who recently served as chief executive of the open licensing technology non-profit organisation Creative Commons, was an early investor in more than 40 technology start-ups, including Twitter and Flickr. But he admits that, until now, his experience of universities “hadn’t been great”.

Ito says he dropped out of university – once from studying computer science at Tufts University in Massachusetts and once from studying physics at the University of Chicago – because the learning environment did not suit him. This was not because he lacked respect for formal education but, as he sees it, because his brain was wired to learn by pursuing passion and interest rather than by attempting to absorb the contents of lectures and books. For this reason the Media Lab is a good fit, because it is a “whole class of people who are kind of like me”. The appointment committee wanted someone whose sole project was going to be the lab, Ito thinks.

Read full article.

Academic Digital Event

University of Staffordshire, Change & Innovation, #pelc10

Undertaking – innovative stuff in a traditional institution

  • Most staff trying to be innovative, doing in isolation- not aware of top-level… how do we start to engage staff, understand how strategy is changing… Handout – resource basis,everything was coming from top-down and external influences, not taking on board internal.
  • Enable: portfolio management (strategy development, change management, organisational growth) – curriculum is growing, why is it just growing, how manage.why not culling?
  • Initiative (project) management – analysis, planning, implementation, review! Needed to be holistic in what was doing – P3M3 – mentioned by JISC, picked up by industry… Executive level strategy – focusing on traditional learners – campus learners, etc. not what their partners are doing… need to recognise that business is growing outside the traditional learner.
  • Impact, Business Case, Focus, Grants.. we need to stop doing this as it costs money, and impacting out curriculum, etc. Information was ring0fenced in course databases -info only online/the net… Projects running without direction – didn’t understand why they were doing something, lost sponsorship and going off in diff directions – project was trying to do too much… too much narrow focus – not getting the right people involved, ignoring funding…
  • Think where are you going? Enterprise architecture approach… (a tool that is difficult to communicate, so don’t discuss with others). Gives roadmap, overview and idea on how things will change… lots of info online – tends to be v. dry… Scoped to curriculum design & development. Models/maps, ideas of technologies needed to move forward…
  • Keep the staff engaged… have a history in institutions of people feeling imposed upon by central services or QAA, ensure they’re informed, and that they are consulted about thoughts/feelings/ideas… often difficult as each Faculty wants to do things their own way! Support rather than a control mechanism… communicate benefits from bottom up to senior management…  Global view – how do you ensure it goes across to other systems, thinking what is the best way forward fro everything else…
  • Job to find out what people want and make it possible, get rid of barriers, get rid of the mundane, and can then focus on curriculum design, etc. rather than endless committees… Traditional teaching materials on the VLE, but think what you want to do with them…
  • Said “they must have this” – need to think about WHY they have it up there, and contextualising their PPTs, etc…
  • Creating systems until it becomes embedded in practice – too many people doing things in pockets, not scaleable – e.g. they’re so keen, drag out old hard drives, etc. – not sustainable, but how do you keep that innovation going… No initiative/closure/evaluation documentation… Encourage those pockets to talk to the right people… Manager of Elearning projects – doing projects without her knowing about them… that’s good, means is not ALL having to come from top down?!
  • Why does everybody feel that they have to run a pilot when one department already has? James hates the word project – what about initiative? Why do you think it’s not going to work in your Faculty? Lot of resistence, just need to deal with it sensitively, tend to talk perceptions re reality. Blogs heavily, including internal (anonymised) … whether it’s real or not, it’s a perception that exists! “This is what they’re telling me”…