Keene State’s AT Vision as a model of productive engagement

So one thing the word-that-must-not-be-named craze has got me thinking about is frankly how much we all have been doing.

I had forgotten. Then all these people popped out of the woodwork and assumed we were frustrated do-nothing tenured faculty with an ideological axe to grind.

And what that did was remind me, because of how ridiculous a misconception it was, how much we have all been doers, working within the university and college system effectively to bring change. Jim’s work on UMW Blogs inspired me to follow suit — we’ve launched a WPMU site that is changing the way the college thinks about publication and information sharing. D’arcy’s bliki is brilliant, as Brian’s most recent work on syndication oriented architectures (which was bought with blood, sweat, and tears). Leigh Blackall, who might reject the term EDUPUNK but is certainly part of this group IMHO, took his college into the age of open education, getting support for the Cape Town Declaration at his school (while expressing his reservations about some of the language) and getting buy-in to the wikieducator project.

I really could go on — someone should catalog what we’ve done. It’s a lot, and it’s been done on top of the day to day tasks of running university tech. And it comprises everything from support, to building and coding, to policy creation.

But what I wanted to point out today is one of Keene State’s emerging triumphs (and honestly only one of many). One that shows that while EDUPUNK may be over next week, edupunks are making a difference, and will continue to change higher education.

Keene State, like a lot of places, had an academic technology focus that was focussed on centralized vendor software and support. The major question, just two years ago, was whether we were going to upgrade to the Enterprise version of Blackboard, and what a support plan would look like for it.

Academic Tech was like email, accounting software, or a dining commons access system.

Here’s what we’ve done — our current AT Vision, which we put together over the past year, turns that model on it’s head. Take, for example, our Integrative Learning portion of the plan (the plan is constructed to map to the strategic goals of the college, of which Integrative Learning is one):


Integrative learning leads students to synthesize learning from a wide array of sources, learn from experience, and make significant and productive connections between theory and practice. This approach to teaching and learning is necessary in today’s world where technology and globalization transform knowledge practices in all disciplines and professions: disciplines are now less bounded, with new areas of scientific knowledge emerging on the borders of old ones, and with a significant exchange of concepts, methods, and subject matter between the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts.


In the past curriculum design in higher education has often been fragmented, without much allegiance towards the education of the whole student. The intent of the codified approach was well meaning in that it would provide the student with a deep and focused examination of a given subject. However this often led to limited internal coherence in curriculum or programs, and little opportunity for integrative learning. Our current emphasis on academic technology further enforces the traditional approach in higher education and does little to make transparent the interconnections of seemingly disparate information.

Presently our measure of technology adoption has focused on the use of our learning management system (LMS) to deliver course material. Whether used for a course syllabus, email, discussion post, or for more administrative tasks such as online grading, the use of the LMS has been primarily focused on content presentation. While a very useful tool when taken in context, its architecture and intended use limits how a student might engage with the subject and does little to encourage cross course learning or knowledge building outside of the classroom. If our current understanding of academic technology starts and stops with the use of a LMS then we will be able to do little to support integrative learning and student engagement. Showing, sharing, and educating campus on how effective use of technology can be a path to engagement pedagogies is key to moving beyond the LMS as the lone academic technology metric.

Contributing to our heavy reliance on the LMS as our academic technology metric has been the absence of a strategic plan that places value and importance on technology integration. Many faculty considered technology innovators have done so on their own or with limited support from the college. Pockets of early adopters soon followed and some success was seen but widespread use of non-LMS technology has never really flourished. There are many factors that contribute to this but perhaps the biggest obstacle has been the lack of a clear and concise message to campus that technology used to engage learners and enhance teaching and scholarship is a priority.

Is this my manifesto? Not by a long shot. It certainly has some compromise in it, it’s somewhat to the side of how I think about things, and the presentation is meant to tie it to college aims broader than mine.

But it’s a massive step forward, won with a lot of hard work from everybody involved, and the vision has been accepted by the appropriate councils, backed by the right people, and given a thumbs up by the college at large. At a meeting on the vision last month, we saw some of the most intelligent open debate about technology I’ve seen at the college in a long time.It was invigorating.

Here, let me back up and say that again: we got this plan approved, and faculty, while anxious to see how this plays out, were generally positive about the change in focus. And the vision will have teeth. It will radically change how budget is spent, and how staff time is allocated.

That’s worth a lot, and about as far from detached ranting as one can get.

I’m glad of what the edupunk moniker has done for all of us in radically expanding the people we are engaging with on the web. And I know we’re getting to that embarrassment phase, where we feel a strange compulsion to walk away from a term quickly made meaningless by all the knee-jerk reactions.

We can walk away from the term if we choose (although I’d advise we not for practical reasons). But before this is laid to rest I hope we all take an opportunity to show everybody what we’ve been doing in the trenches. Because before the term is shown a watery grave I’d like it to be identified with what we are doing and what we have done, which to my mind is the point — not what edupunk is, but what it does.

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