Writer Russell Baker, upbraiding techno-philes for referring to education as an “information-transfer process,” once noted that “education is not like a decal to be slipped off a piece of stiff paper and pasted on the back of the skull.” Rather, Baker said, education's purpose is to teach students how to inquire.
That was in the early 1980s, before the World Wide Web and before gigabytes of data could be carried on a keychain. The stiff paper – in this instance, technology – is now much larger. But schools and educators are still grappling with the task of keeping students engaged by making technology a part of the educational process, while also keeping the focus on critical thinking, analysis and problem solving.
But the challenge lurks beyond the classroom as well. In administrative offices and departmental conference rooms, greater access to technology tools and the improved quality of these tools means that IT decision - makers have more touch points within the campus where their expertise is required to achieve the school's mission.
Harper College is an example of a campus that's using its technology infrastructure to provide services that students expect. Harper is centralizing its systems to streamline costs and make it nimble enough to serve the community college's diverse student population. (See “Exceeding Expectations ” on page 14.)
IT leadership at institutions of higher education was a tough job when Baker made his assessment in the 1980s, and it hasn't gotten any easier. Today's CIO not only must understand what technology products can and cannot do, but also needs to ensure that the people working with these systems can harness the full capability of new technologies. In Melissa Solomon's “No Girls Allowed ” feature article on page 26, EdTech spoke with five dynamic IT leaders about what they're doing to invigorate and diversify the IT workforce on their campuses.
In addition to ensuring that higher-ed professors have the knowledge needed to utilize technology to its fullest capability, IT leaders must look ahead to the challenges that will be presented by the wave of Millennial faculty who will begin teaching within the decade. When our current students become faculty, they will bring with them their own expectations, and the higher education arena must be prepared. For more on this challenge, read John O'Brien's “Meet the Millennials ” on page 32.
Technology is a strong undercurrent in all the programs mentioned in Ed Tech, but it's the IT leadership that makes these programs work.
Technology, per se, is neither the cause of nor the cure-all for academic and administrative stagnation. However, its thoughtful application can be used to improve the information-transfer process. This, in turn, can greatly improve the academic – and business – environments at higher education institutions.
Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief