An Open Letter About Emerging Technologies in Higher Education and at UM

I received a letter this morning from NextGen Michigan about the new IBM Equipment Grant opportunity. That inspired the following response, which I wanted to share more widely to hopefully provoke conversation and thought about the issue of how to help UM get ahead of the curve with emerging technologies in education.

Open Letter

I’ve been involved in many campus conversations lately about the need for a campus thinktank collaboration space to support and encourage emerging technologies exploration & engagement. There are a number of individuals, usually staff, who are not in a position to take a leadership role, but as hobbyists are doing things on their own time (lunch hours and weekends) like developing augmented reality applications and new virtual worlds and similar innovative explorations of new technology. On the other side, the Horizon Report annually identifies new technologies that are essential for institutions of higher learning to know about in order to proactively position themselves to engage with and effectively utilize new technologies in education. I’ve seen these new technologies used creatively and effectively in K-12 education and community colleges, but higher ed is generally lagging behind. At least that is the consensus of the groups who’ve been discussing this when I’ve been there.

This is not a new problem, and it is not one we (UM) haven’t already tried to address. The Enriching Scholarship week is one of the solutions that is working on this. CRLT and the TeachTech cooperative are huge! The University Libraries are supporting a lot of this in many ways, such as this week’s Electronic Textbook Symposium. When the Duderstadt Center was built, there were many aspects of its design and services that were intended to address these or similar concerns. There has been talk for a long time about setting up an equivalent to the Dude on Central Campus, and bits of pieces of this have crept into existence here and there. The Mobile Apps Development courses and competitions are also essential parts of this process. I don’t know that there is any one solution that would really tip the balance, but I am seeing this as an opportunity to yet again try something else to get at this issue, which is right now very active on campus, but in a fragmented way that is not as effective as we all wish it was at supporting awareness and collaboration across various reporting structures on campus.

Core problems that have come up in the conversations I’ve attended are the following:
– How do we build a lively community on campus that is aware of the core new technologies (such as the Horizon Report, for one)?
– How do we connect the existing communities on campus that share this awareness and concerns and interests?
– How do we connect with the local non-campus communities who are working in this area (such as a2geeks, a2b3, SPARK, etc), and facilitate more awareness and boundary-spanning activities?
– How do we discover and take advantage of the interests of individuals working at the fringe who are engaging with new technologies but not as part of their jobs, and leverage this on behalf of the institution?
– How do we disseminate the above into a pervasive awareness across campus, with reward structures and recruitment incentives and an intentional aggregation of content, resources, and PEOPLE?

My two cents. 🙂 I look forward to seeing what comes of this.

Background Reading

National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) 2009 Second Life Public Forum Final Report:

National Educational Technology Plan:

Horizon Report:
– 2011:

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Henry Jenkins et al.

Participatory Media for Education:


One response to “An Open Letter About Emerging Technologies in Higher Education and at UM

  1. Carolina Keats :)

    I’ve been thinking about this too, but more with regard to how we can meld bench-to-bedside expedience by facilitation of disciplinary boundary crossings. Seems to me that part of this has to be involved with cross-disciplinary info discovery (a la google scholar but extended, expanded, and … crowd source-able). No answers here, just thoughts and questions.


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