Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campus Technology 2010 – Day 2 – Wrap up

EDITOR’S NOTE: I meant to post this last night, but I was so tired by the time I got home, ate, and finished my chores I was too tired to remember to do this.

Today was the first main day of the Campus Technology 2010 Conference; yesterday was a preconference workshop day. Today you had all of the session attendees, the trade show opened its doors and the breakout sessions were the full monty of the conference experience. Of course the day did not get off to a great start, but I thought I showed an amazing amount of patience waiting for Amtrak to arrive almost an hour late. And arrive they did and arrive I did in Boston…only an hour late, but again it didn’t bother me…then.

All I missed was the opening keynote address, titled Technology as the Architect of Self: Implications for Higher Learning presented by Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mause Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I’m writing this on the train home without Internet access (I know, what a noobie traveling without internet access) so I can’t just throw a link in to describe the focus of her talk and I can’t guarantee I will remember to do so when I get home, although I will try. But in recognition of my situation I will type in the relevant portion of it from the conference program.

Tuckle will consider how contemporary digital connectivity is changing the nature of the “self",” including our “selves” in academia. What are the deeper implications of changes in our students, especially those whose generation has grown up “tethered” to connectivity devices and in a new regime of privacy.

The folks I ate lunch with were all digital immigrants and the thought of loss of privacy seemed to scare them. I know in a pique of anger (or fear) I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, only to find that when I calmed down and learned to accept the risks inherent in what I call the wild, wild internet I returned to re-engage with these programs. Facebook greeted me back like a long, lost friend who held on to all my digital possessions until I returned. Once back it graciously turned them back over to me without expecting any payment on return.

Twitter on the other hand was willing to take me back, but not under my old user name it said it was still in use despite no one apparently using it. I’m not sure which I am more chagrined about.

The privacy issue came up again (probably spurred on by the keynote address) in the second session I sat in on. This involved the presentation by Amy Stewart of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts who was speaking about her institution’s efforts in developing an ePortfolio service for their students. She indicated that they used the privacy issue, specifically around Facebook to encourage students to focus chronicling their college experience within the school’s ePortfolio system. She said they remind their students that employers now regularly research potential new employees on Facebook so they should not be posting materials that could be considered as unacceptable by those employers.

As much as a cold shower the thoughts of privacy are, the final session, which I posted about earlier (Campus Technology 2010 – Day 2 – Part 3) left me with a genuine feeling of elation of how learning centers can be created and run in order to make learning comfortable. Libraries have always had a warm place in my heart. I don’t feel a visit to a place is complete without experiencing the local library. Largely this is because I am an unbelievable bibliophile (I think I am using the term correctly), but the integration of technology into Santa Clara University’s library and the willingness to allow the students to arrange their study spaces (wheeled tables and chairs, fully equipped study centers, etc.) left me feeling exhilarated. I would love to be able to visit that facility and see it in use. It would put to lie the claim that with the internet the library is dead.

In between those sessions was lunch and what I call the dog-and-pony shows. Between the hours of 12:15 and 3:45 participants were basically set free to roam as they might with the hope they will visit the various vendors who have set up shop in the main convention hall. To perform this trick lunch was served at the rear of the hall, so you had to walk pass the vendors to get to lunch and then, after you finished eating you feel so fat and sassy you can’t help but wander about the hall and chat up the vendors. I did my share, while scoffing up free pens, brochures and, from Pearson Learning Solutions (whose parent company I was employed by for a whole two months before they sold my section off to another firm) a computer cleaning brush.

One recurring theme I heard over and over again was “we have apps for the iPhone and Droid.” Those last two words were music to my ear. I’ve always been appalled by Apple’s insistence on being the only source for software for their mobile devices and insisting on putting all proposed apps through their morality filter. So, the fact that Google’s Android system is now competing evenly with the iPhone gives me hope for a continued open system.

The other trend I noted revolves around the Learning Management System wars. As Blackboard continues to buy up competitors, it seems that open-source Moodle is beginning to take a meaningful bite out of BlackBoard’s market. As the competing firms (because Blackboard and Moodle are not the only players, just the two that are still in my sleep-deprived memory) duke it out there are a number of niche players offering their wares as applications that can seemlessly blend into the various LMSs.

Well, that’s about it. It has been a long day, but a hopeful day, a day in which I heard educators of all stripes talk of how they are struggling to make learning meaningful. I hope I contributed to the discussions with my questions and observations during these sessions.

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