The EDUCAUSE Conference 2013: Highlights, Trends & Takeaways

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 10.07.19 PMI was one of seven thousand participants that descended upon the Anaheim convention center last week for the three-day EDUCAUSE annual conference. The conference attracts educators, administrators and Information technology leaders from higher education institutions from near and afar; there were 52 countries represented. The conference is by no means limited to Information Technology topics. This year the conference featured 300 sessions within five categories —the majority of sessions I attended were within the teaching and learning track, and a handful in the leadership and management category. Though I usually attend conferences virtually, I chose the face-to-face option given that Anaheim is slightly more than a stone’s throw from where I live. I’m glad I did. I was able to experience the vibe of the conference, pick up on the buzz from other participants at lunch, in the exhibit hall, and impromptu meetings. I also was able to meet a handful of fellow bloggers, an added bonus.

Conference Themes in Teaching and Learning
There are several good articles on the web summarizing key events and talks from the conference—I’ve included respective links at the end of this post. I prepared a summary of the conference via Slideshare [below], and included three themes from the teaching and learning track. Themes that I believe will be significant in higher education over the next few months, 1) competency-based learning, 2) personalized learning, and 3) disaggregation. In the Slideshare I also provide key takeaways associated with each. Fortunately, MOOCs are NOT on the table. In fact, of the 300 hundred sessions offered at the conference there were only seven or eight about MOOCs. I attended two of those sessions. Between the sessions, listening to other educators over the three days, I get the sense that MOOCs are not the disruptive force that the media has made them out to be. However, they have been catalyst for conversations about face-to-face and online learning, and the role of technology in higher education.

Keynote Speakers
The conference featured three first-rate keynote speakers, Sir Ken Robinson, Jane McGonigal author of Reality is Broken, and Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University. Though all were good, my favorite session was Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on ‘Leading a Culture of Innovation’. Being a Canadian I love British humour and Sir Ken Robinson, a Brit himself, infused his dry wit throughout the talk. It was not recorded, though I wrote a post about it here, and Tara Buck of EDTECH wrote a good summary here.

Exhibit Hall
The exhibit hall was very large. There were rows and rows of exhibitors featuring vendors and  providers servicing the education market, from LMS platforms, to lecture capture solutions to analytics software providers and more. There were over 270 vendors. Some of the platinum and gold sponsors had mini classrooms, seating areas with mod furniture and giant screens featuring demos of their product. Walking the hall I realized the amount of money committed to the higher education market—it is vast…and disturbing.

Slideshare: Highlights, Themes and Takeaways

Related Resources:

Leading a Culture of Innovation with Sir Ken Robinson

3753935-expressionless-young-woman-with-usb-cable-in-her-neck--ready-to-be-plugged-in-isolated-on-white-backYesterday I heard Sir Ken Robinson speak live at the EDUCAUSE conference in Anaheim, CA.  Readers may know Ken Robinson by his acclaimed talks about education on TEDx. Robinson, professor, author and advocate for education reform, is originally from Britain—his humour dry, self-deprecating, and quite funny. He did not disappoint on Wednesday despite the early hour of his keynote talk Leading a Culture of Innovation. Robinson spoke of culture and technology, technology’s influence on human behaviour, and in turn its impact on cultural values and norms. Culture, according to Robinson, ‘manifests itself in every part of our being’.  In response, cultures around the world are changing significantly. Though I’m not clear on what Robinson believes—whether its humans driving the change or if it’s the other way around. But the point is moot given that our ‘digital culture is transforming the face of our earth’, to the point that ‘information systems will soon merge with human consciousness’ according to Sir Ken. I found this idea quite disturbing. Not something I like to think about, but it seems we should. Robinson believes that machines, artificial intelligence, at some point will be able to make decisions independent of human intervention, in other words machines will potentially be as smart as, or smarter than humans. This concept is singularity; a theoretical point in time when robots are smarter than humans. It seems Bill Gates of Microsoft and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google don’t deny that this time will come, though both are mum as to exactly when that time might be.

The statement made by Robinson in his keynote, ‘information systems will soon merge with human consciousness’ sounded familiar. I had just read something remarkably something similar last week. It was in The Global Village: Transformations in a World Life and Media in the 21st Century (1989) by Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Powers. McLuhan, (1911 – 1980) a professor communication theory, author of the critical text the Gutenberg Galaxy among other books, was a futurist in his own right. In the introduction, of The Global Village co-author Powers writes this:

“McLuhan believed in an investigation of this book’s precepts, his last collaborative work, would prove out his most profound thought: that the extensions of human consciousness were projecting themselves into the total world environment via electronics, forcing humankind into a robotic future. In other words, man’s nature was being very rapidly translated into information systems would produce enormous sensitivity and no secrets.”  McLuhan and Powers

Robinson’s statements about technology and its role in the future echoed McLuhan’s.  I found Robinson’s language somewhat softer, though the messages similar—technology is driving change around the globe, impacting how we communicate, how we relate to one another, and function in society.  What’s more, artificial intelligence will be a reality for better or worse. On the brighter side of Robinson’s talk, he spoke of creativity and imagination, referring to his recently re-launched book Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative. Originally published in 2001, the book has been revised and updated.  I wrote a review of this book a few months ago. It’s an excellent read.  Below are highlights of the other key takeaways from the keynote.

Key takeaways from Sir Ken Robinson’s Keynote:

  • How people use technology creates cultural shifts; impacts how people feel, think and act.
  • Conversely, human ‘feelings’ impact how technology is used.
  • Humans are unpredictable. How they use technology may go far beyond what the developers intended or imagined.
  • Imagination is unique to human beings. Imagination leads to creativity. Creativity is the act of creating something of value (to the beholder).

For Educators:

  •  Perception is everything when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of technological innovation.
  • We need to allow for creativity by not seeking the ‘right’ answer
  • What questions should higher education be asking?
  • Exercise in creative thinking: watch this  two-minute video on when there is a correct answer
  • Creativity—original thinking, most often comes when people ask a different question.

Video Sir Ken Showed in his Keynote: When There is a Correct Answer: Exercise in Creative Thinking