Presentation to Stony Brook Council

This morning I had my first opportunity to address the Stony Brook Council and share with them a bit about the work we do here at the University. I didn’t want to do a standard, “this is IT” update so I tried to share with them a handful of contemporary challenges we face every day across higher education and talk briefly about how we are addressing them. I wanted them to see IT in a different light, as what it really is — an enabler of success on our campus.

To that end I focused my remarks on a few core areas that I thought they might be less likely to associated with IT — teaching and learning, enabling access, security issues, and how we are helping to push the Operational Excellence agenda forward. I tried to keep it light, but also express how much we do to support the teaching, research, service, and administrative missions of the University. I’d be happy to share the presentation either face to face or online at some point.

Wireless Use

The talking points for the above slide really made an impact — people don’t think of the utter scale of connectivity we manage every minute on and around our campus. I pointed out that it isn’t just laptops anymore, that it is also phones, tablets, game systems, google glass, and other things consuming our connections throughout the day and night. I think it really hit home just how critical the network is when showed a slide that listed some of the other services that run on the network — door access, ticket sales, security cameras, digital signage, and more.

The other thing that was an interesting was to see the overall reaction to our focus on teaching and learning. They were very impressed with our participation and support of the first SBU MOOC … and I made sure to highlight bot the higher than normal completion rates and the unique local and distance students taking the course. I think it really illustrated how innovative we are. The other tidbit I made sure got in there was the rapid growth in technology supported classrooms … I made the case that technology is truly a competitive advantage on a campus, sometimes tipping a student towards enrolling here.

Classroom Growth

All in all I felt it was a good conversation and a good way to introduce our work to the Stony Brook Council.

Addressing University Senate

Today at 3:30 I will be addressing the Stony Brook University Senate. I was invited by Senate President, Dr. Fredrick Walters to both introduce myself to the Senate and provide a brief update. I don’t intend to spend more than 10-15 minutes talking, but will be sharing both my observations from the first 8o days here as well as my overall strategic priorities for DoIT.

Strategic Priorities

My DoIT Strategic Priorities

I think it will be interesting to see if there are questions afterwards … and know that I will either update this post or do another one after the fact. I am making an overt offer to attend department meetings and to invite the larger community to attend the Coffee with Cole sessions. Again, we shall see. At the end of the day, I am just honored to have the opportunity to represent DoIT and get to know our University Senate.

Keynote: Albright College, Reading, PA 5/23/2013

Next week I will be traveling to Albright College to provide the keynote for their annual Teaching and Learning Showcase. I am really looking forward to spending some time talking with faculty and staff about various topics. I have been asked to speak about emergent forms of teaching and learning and how recent trends have disrupted the traditional notions held within education. While I will clearly speak to new forms of conversations occurring online, I will also discuss recent disruptions not just to individual classrooms, but to the entirety of the academy. With the accepted rise of MOOCs and the vast amounts of dollars being poured into education technology startups by venture capitalists, I will work to expose the landscape as it exists today and help shape a discussion about what this means to us all going forward.

Connecting Alumni Communities

This morning I talked to a large group of Alumni Association staff about ideas related to connecting communities. The talk was titled, Emerging Trends for Connecting Communities, and focused on the emergent opportunities within social environments, content creation spaces, and the rise of mobility. It is always quite a bit of fun getting to talk to people outside my specific area of focus and I always discover that we have far more in common than I expect going in.

Another nice thing was that I got to give the talk in my old stomping ground at the IST Building … in the IST Cybertorium no less. That space has a lot of memories for me — I spent several years working on planning the building with colleagues and then several more spending nearly all of my work time walking the halls. Each summer I got to teach my PA Governor School scholars in the Cybertorium and loved every minute of it.


Nothing too earth shattering with today’s talk other than it served as an amazing reminder of how interesting all of what we do is to people in general. The ideas related to connecting communities move effortlessly from teaching and learning to alumni relations. I think one of the things it means to me is that the work we are doing in promoting digital expression and engaging via mediated platforms is in the sweet spot. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the technology per se, but instead in what the technology provides. I received a good question about how to get alumni service groups to break out and embrace the new environments (he was asking specifically about Facebook, Twitter, etc). I responded in a way that I think surprised him a bit — I asked him to ignore the technology and instead start to press on what it enables. Alumni Associations are all about staying connected with their communities … so if his administration is balking at Twitter, why not ask if being able to stay ultra connected to a very active network of people is important? Coming at it from that perspective it gives you a wedge to then introduce a solution that fits that scenario.

It was a fun and very thoughtful group of people. It is honestly a real honor to get to talk to people outside my domain and have it be received in such a positive way. I especially liked getting to tell someone what ROFLMAO meant when it came up in a Twitter search. This is powerful stuff and it is relevant in so many ways … if one stops and investigates the affordances and not just the tools.

Odd Week

Last week was strange on several levels. It was an odd set of experiences that have left me more confused than usual … so much so that I have been unable to figure out how to write about it all. I attended and presented twice at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Tech Forum event in Washington DC and while I was really excited to attend I left feeling a bit down. I don’t think it was the event that did it to me, I just think the overall vibe was way outside of my sweet spot. It was a crowd that seemed to be much more interested in yesterday than tomorrow — and as a critical reflection, that may seem a bit short sighted or jaded but that is how I left feeling. If you look at the Twitter search results from the hashtag I introduced I think you can see a bit of the tension, although there may have only been a dozen of us using our Internet voice while things were happening. It felt like an event that was working really hard to connect with fresh ideas, but was not quite ready to let go of old constructs and have some really difficult discussions. With that said, I did learn quite a bit and I met some really interesting people while there … to top it all off, I got to present and spend time with a great friend and make some new ones. I am honestly hoping the CHE does this again and maybe invites some of us to be a part of the planning for the event. I would definitely go back — if they’ll have me.

As a personal aside, I firmly believe my talks did little to stir up the crowd in any sort of proactive ways — there were lots of folks who dismissed what I had to say as being fluffy and not based on the perceived rigors of traditional scholarship. Of course I was running a risk by showing youtube videos of Charlie getting his finger chomped on, but I wasn’t using the videos as the message — I was using them as a metaphor for the explosion of new forms of conversations happening all over the social web. I know for a fact I missed the mark with at least one audience member who had his hand up even before I finished … his comment created a strange segue into the open discussion portion … and he was serious.

If that is scholarship, we are all doomed.

Never mind the session was titled, “Building the Classroom of the Future” … these folks wanted to hear something else. It was very comforting when a woman in the audience raised her hand and told an amazing story about her 8th grade son who decided to (on his own) create a new religion. At first I was nervous where it was going, but the way she described his passion and his intensity as he researched existing doctrine to come to his own conclusions was the exact right kind of example we needed to get back from the edge of being “doomed.” Interestingly enough I spent time talking to one of the other people in the audience who really challenged my notions and he was far more interested in having a dialogue in a more private setting, even telling me he found the talk “engaging and interesting.” He didn’t seem that way during the session as he told me that all this was fine and good for the soft sciences, but there is no room for distractions in the real sciences (he was a mechanical engineer). Not sure I agree and when we did talk he told me how he does use youtube to show difficult concepts.

But perhaps the biggest stir came after the event when the Chronicle ran two separate stories on my message … the first was titled, “Web 2.0 Classrooms Versus Learning.” I was a bit upset with the use of the word “versus,” but I am guessing conflict sells — I felt as though a more appropriate title might have used the word, “supports” or even “and” as a replacement. Oh well … it created some dialogue. The thing that seemed to blow the doors off it all came about as Jeff Young from the Chronicle called me as I was driving home to talk to me about some things I mentioned about how my colleague, Scott McDonald, and I used Twitter during our classes. In the piece titled, “Professor Encourages Students to Pass Notes During Class — via Twitter” my ideas come off as a product of a crazy mad scientist using my students as guinea pigs and my class as an out of control research lab. The comment stream speaks for itself — this is a heavy debate and one that I am really hoping to engage in here locally. I think we have a lot of new opportunities to capture students imagination and engage them in new ways — if we are looking to be a bit crazy … well, here’s to the crazy ones!

And so it was an odd week that has me wondering if what I have to say really does resonate with people or if I am getting the polite nod because people actually think it is all bullshit. Not sure, but I am working to check my own confidence level and working hard this week to get my mojo rising for our own TLT Symposium. I really need to hang out with a group of really engaged and excited educators to get my head back on — and trust me, we have them here at PSU! Maybe I’m not ready to deal with the truth that nothing we do will matter outside these walls — or maybe that is the bullshit in it all. Perhaps those who call it all fluff are holding onto something that no longer exists, maybe notions of control, or maybe that never did exist? I don’t know. Do you?

Home from ELI 2009

This past week I was in Orlando, FL enjoying the warmth that was the ELI Annual Meeting for 2009. I did my overall recap over in my PSU blog as a travel report … I also did that to provide some much needed reflection on the whole event and to be included in the PSU travel aggregation. If I had to sum up the event in a few words it would be really easy — the whole thing left me feeling really energized about the state of educational technology. It seems to me that ELI continues to push the edge of the conference on many fronts. They try new things every single year and work very hard to make the event both comforting and challenging. The level of participation is always high and this year was no different.

One thing that was different about this trip were the number of colleagues that I traveled with from PSU. I was lucky to be joined by Allan, Brad, Chris, John, Carla, and Hannah — all of us spent time in multiple sessions and lots of time thinking and reflecting together. I think having so many PSU folks travel together worked out very well. We actually took time to talk about what we were seeing, hearing, and feeling around the event. Having that opportunity was a real difference maker. The other thing I am noticing about these events is how many people I am beginning to really know from other Institutions and organizations — I got to see Bryan Alexander, Alan Levine, Jim Groom, Carl Berger, and so many others. The whole community is coming together in a way for me personally that is hard to explain. All in all it was a blast.

I loved the challenge and opportunity to present with Alan and Jim … figuring our how to structure a session when all three of us are in very different places wasn’t easy. Going in it felt like we hadn’t prepared, but in hindsight, the things we discussed have been part of our collective focus for so many years now the prep time wouldn’t have mattered.

Planning the Session

Planning the Session

I got to work with both Brad and Carla on an ePortfolio presentation that generated lots of discussion and some follow-up emails from people. I love to find time to present and share the work of our organization at events like this, so getting the chance to do two was great.

If you are looking for details read my reflections on the event, listen to ETS Talk 52, visit the website or the listen the audio from the Not Your Grandpa’s Blog session. For now I think I’ve said enough about the ELI 2009 event.