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Impressions of EDUCAUSE 2011

October 24, 2011

flickr: educausestaff CC-by-nd-nc

With EDUCAUSE in Philadelphia this year, I had the rare opportunity to glimpse the hot issues in higher education from an different prespective: IT. According to the website (…

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.

The attendees ranged from web developers and instructional technologists to CIOs and VPs of Technology. (And, yes, some librarians!) EDUCAUSE is a large conference with more than 20 sessions running concurrently in each 50 minute slot. There is not as much hands-on as one might expect; it was mostly amazing people reporting on amazing projects and state of the art talks. I found the experience to be very enlightening.

The first session I attended was “Developer’s View of Web Accessibility: Pitfalls, Gotchas, and Solutions” with a panel of Robert Crisler (Director, Internet and Interactive Media,
University of Nebraska – Lincoln), Sue Cullen (Program Manager – Universal Design Center
California State University, Northridge), John Foliot (Manager, Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Stanford University), Terrill Thompson, moderator, (Technology Accessibility Specialist,
University of Washington), and Christian Vinten-Johansen (Info Technology Mgr.,
The Pennsylvania State University). The panelists spoke about very different experiences and different approaches to the issue of access on the web. Some advocated having at least 1 developer in a web shop using a screen reader, while others felt that web developers should not be required to use a reader. One panelist pointed out that a page can be perfectly compliant and still totally unusable. Some of most memorable information concerned managing relationships between lawyers and web developers. One panelist admonished folks not to go down the path of ticking off Section 508 of the ADA requirements or you have already lost.

The next session was a riveting presentation on “The Remixed University” from Hal Abelson, Computer Science and Engineering, at MIT. With MIT’s OpenCourseWare project now 10 years old, the open education movement is coming of age with both positive and negative consequences. Students all over the world now have free access to courses from the best minds in their field – that’s the positive. The publishers, however, who have made a great deal of from the scholarly publishing crisis are now actively fighting back against openness and are starting to “open-wash” or feign openness in a traditional model. The other side of the discussion was faculty research and path from the DSpace vision to the current institutional repository (IR) model. The speaker was a strong advocate for libraries and believes that IR should be the domain of libraries.
Open Educational Resource Commons
Open Courseware Consortium

In the afternoon, Anya Kamenetz, Senior Writer, at Fast Company Magazine give a talk on “DIY U: Edupunks and the Future of Higher Education” that looked at new emerging models of education. This included the recent efforts of 2 Stanford professors to open up an Artificial Intelligence class to the world (which turned out to be over 160,000 people). She mentioned the possibility of a completely distributed system of educational badges whereby a student learns something in their own time and their own pace and upon demonstrating that knowledge to a badge issuer (museum, library, etc) gets a “credit” (the badge). These badges would be collectable online for viewing by potential employers or educational institutions.

Attending “GameZombie TV: Using Game Media Production to Construct a Project-Based Learning Environment” I was not completely sure what to expect. Once I learned what the project really involved, it was amazing. The idea of GameZombie TV is to make a public internet TV show as part of a core class for the Media Arts & Game Development major. It involves video production, audio production, graphic design, journalism, production management, theatre skills and pieces of other disciplines. The students learn true-to-life skills because the award-winning site IS real and really “out there” on the web. It gives students a sense of ownership and accomplishment.
GameZombie TV

The last session was “Wikipedia and Academia, Friends at Last: Curricular Initiatives in Higher Education” featuring a panel of Richard Knipel, Regional Campus Ambassador,
Wikipedia Education Initiative, Cristian Opazo, Sr. Academic Computing Consultant and Adjunct Faculty, at Vassar College and Christopher Smart, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Vassar College. The panelists discussed examples of editing Wikipedia as a graded assignment. This was interesting as a librarian because Professor Christopher Smart started from a place of skepticism about Wikipedia and was galvanized by student outrage at questioning Wikipedia to explore it further. His students learned a great deal about concise writing for a general audience and took personal ownership of their output. The Wikipedia Educational Initiative now has hundreds of projects of this type all over the world.
List of Educational Wikipedia Projects (Vassar’s project isn’t currently listed)

I would highly recommend taking the chance to go to EDUCAUSE in the future if you have it. More than just technical how-tos, EDCAUSE features leading minds in education with new minted ideas. It is not just relevant to techie librarians, but ALL librarians.

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