Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Motivations in Higher Education

Over 7,000 Technologists and IT professionals descended on Indianapolis for the EDUCAUSE annual meeting last week.  Attending conferences for me has always existed in two streams of thought.  I am so incredibly inspired by the presentations and conversations that I long for a photographic memory to catch every word and an army of clones so I can attend all of the presentations.  However, as neither of those are current possibilities (and the latter would be quite frankly creepy), I will make due as well as I can.  Secondly, there is the realization that a majority of the institutions represented are either large private or public institutions. 

This is not in any way an attack on large research institutions, but merely an observation in the way content and perspectives are relayed to the audience.  It is sometimes difficult to recognize the role that a design process or technology used in a large format course can influence the small liberal arts classroom.  Small residential colleges have an added benefit of proximity to allow the creation of deep and meaningful relationships between students, faculty, staff, and academic leaders.  Conversations can happen in a digital or physical space, both formally and informally.   

This realization led me to think deeply about the first keynote presentation by Daniel Pink.  In this talk, the key factor to embracing change was motivation.  What motivates the individual to be creative and experiment with different ideas and concepts?  According to Pink, creativity cannot exist in a task-oriented environment, and the old “carrot and stick” approach is ineffective if you want to spark creativity.  Instead, creating an environment that encourages exploration, experimentation and allows failure is a recipe for success.

As I was listening to this presentation, I began to think about the way professors on a small residential campus teach and the conversations that have come up while traveling through the ACM.  Technology can be a powerful ally when it comes to influencing students, but the most powerful component is a faculty member who is passionate and invested in the success of every student.  The conversations I have had with faculty and staff do not center around what the new cool technologies are, but on more effective ways to reach students.  Technology is an enhancement and not distracting.  Technologists and IT staff members are also committed to student success and recognize the importance of the “right” technology and not just checking a box.


Where does this leave us?  Do we now have to throw away all of the cool toys?  Absolutely not!  I am still in awe of the possible implications surrounding adaptive learning, active classroom design, wearable technology, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.  I will continue to write and post on all of these topics and more.  However, this first presentation caused me to examine my own motivations and explore why it is so important to encourage experimentation, failure, and discovery.  What motivates you to continue to innovate, create, and drive forward?

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