Now that I’m back at home and work, I’ve had a chance to think about my time at the conference a little. My overall sense is that I’m glad I went. I had a great time getting to know some of my fellow MW colleagues better, seeing New Orleans, and getting a glimpse of new technology, much of it with usable applications for the classroom.
In numbered points, the valuable lessons I learned in those three days are:
1. Never take a flight that leaves from Terminal G. Any time the shuttle bus drives past the place where broken people movers go to die, you’ve gone too far.
2. Mary Washington has a proactive IT leadership that is actively and unusually engaged in supporting the integration of faculty, pedagogy, technology infrastructure, and informational technology experts.
Case in point: Sending to this conference an adminstrator of DoIT, 3 professors and an ITS. No other school there had that kind of diversity of background, and almost everyone I talked to from other places were impressed by the idea of having faculty (especially non-CS faculty) and IT people talking . [Actually several were amazed at the way we all got along. That indicates a kind of fundamental animosity between faculty and IT at many institutions that thankfully doesn’t seem prevalent at our school.]
3. When I talked to people about the work that Jerry Slezak and I have done in teaching history students in my courses about how to build significant research-based web sites, people were intrigued by the idea, interested in the process, and jealous that we had the backing of a school that had committed resources to truly integrating technology and pedagogy in realistic ways.
In fact, several people indicated that they would love to see a presentation on the topic at next year’s conference; hopefully Jerry and I can make that happen.
4. Before you go to your Terminal G flight, stop at a real restaurant (one you’ve heard of) to get breakfast, because all you’ll get at Terminal G, is a slightly warmed, greasy, day-old pizza.
5. Watching others get inspired is nearly as much fun and as rewarding as being inspired yourself.
6. A rather large number of people recognized the name of our school and commented on how impressed they were with our IT leadership. Personal contacts matter, and they are the first step in building a much stronger national presence for the school itself.
7. The Horizon report issued by the NLII was the perfect close for the conference for me. Rapid five minute examples of the 6 key technologies that are coming in the next five years(which I blogged about before) only hammered home the possibilities of technology in (and out of) the classroom. [See the report at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2005_Horizon_Report.pdf]
8. Finally, people at many of the sessions (especially faculty) argued about whether the arrival of new technologies in and out of the classroom was a good thing. For me, more important than judging those changes good or bad, was the assumption among all parties that those changes are coming. Perhaps they’re wrong about the speed and/or direction of some or all those changes, but it seems better to prepare proactively rather than bemoan them.
For what it’s worth, those are my thoughts.