Did I say I was going to be blogging throughout the day? It appears that I lied. Sorry about that, but there has been just so much to do and so many interesting people to talk to that I find myself back in my hotel room after a long but interesting day of panels.
And this is perhaps the most valuable piece to come out of these conferences: the personal relationships that are begun and developed here. Instead of writing over the lunch break (which is what I had intended on doing), I had a conversation with a PhD student who works at WKU interested in distance education.
The keynote that opened the day was interesting, but personally (these are my views and not the views of the Kentucky Innovations organizers!), I can't help but feel like sometimes data analytics as applied to students (and, maybe one day really soon, to professors and instructors, too) is a bit Orwellian. I understand the importance of just-in-time interventions, but I worry about who owns the information and data collected, as well as ultimately what will be done with it. I recently read a dystopian novella dealing with education, The Evaluation (free to download!) where the teacher was punished (through cuts in his pay) every time he deviated from the approved curriculum speech, which was developed for maximum learning efficiency.
But that might just be a result of reading too many dystopian novels for my MA thesis.
I also wondered if and when the issue of the adjunct labor force would be brought up, as more and more classes are being taught by faculty who do not and will never have tenure, not to mention making little money per class. This also brings up the issue of academic freedom; these dedicated educators risk having these changes done to them rather than with them, as they rarely have any say in curriculum and other shared governance matters. I always bristle when I hear about how we need to increase efficiencies in the classroom when many of the classes are taught by instructors makes only $2.5K per class.
But that might just be because of my own contingent position.
I learned a lot about digital tools and their possible application in the classroom during the first session I attended (the number of tools that are out there continues to astound and overwhelm me), and I'll take this opportunity to remind everyone that on June 1-2, I'm organizing a THATCamp here at the University of Kentucky. It's an un-conference where will be able to learn more about the implementation of digital tools both in the classroom and in our own research. Fifty minutes is not a long time to go through 20+ tools and their potential application in our own pedagogical practices.
Badges are a concept that I have been struggling with ever since I read about Cathy Davidson implementing them in her classroom. On the one hand, the brain science is clear: students need their behavior reinforced within 3-10 seconds and badges (which can be automated) can provide that. On the other hand...Whatever happened to delayed gratification? I also can't help but think that we are more than rats in a maze, repeating the same behavior in order to get a treat. It's enticing to encourage my students to get their work done using badges, but what are they learning?
I was the only non-librarian in the room talking about digitization, access, and special collections, where we discussed balancing access while (among other things) respecting copyright, as well as meeting the demands of patrons from around the world. Increasingly, we expect libraries to provide whatever we want/need on demand ("Just scan the whole book and send it to me!"). It was a good reminder about the limitations we still face when it comes to Open Access and digitization. Just because it's digitized, doesn't mean that we can have universal access. I likened it to when Napster changed the way share music; we expect books and other forms of media resources to be just as available as music in a lot of ways. It's not a perfect analogy, but it's interesting (for me) to think about the different ways we have digitized and shared different forms of media and content.
Tomorrow, my colleague Deanna Mascle and I will be facilitating a double session on using social media tools (such as blogging and tweeting) to create community both inside and outside of the classroom. Hope to see you there!