3 Observations

... from the Teaching Professor Technology Conference.

October 6, 2013

You know that feeling when you come back from an amazing conference?  

You are re-energized and recharged. You have a list of action items and ideas that can be applied to improve your work. 

Yesterday's challenges seem like tomorrow's opportunities.   

That is how I feel after attending the inaugural Teaching Professor Technology Conference this past weekend in Atlanta.

A spin-off from the popular Teaching Professor Conference, this intimate gathering (the organizers purposely keep it small), has joined the "must attend" list for educators working at the intersection of learning and technology.

I was fortunate enough to give the opening plenary talk on Friday afternoon, "The Teaching Professor in 2020: Shaping the Future in a Time of Rapid Change", leaving myself with plenty of opportunity to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

I'd like to acknowledge the great work of my fellow plenary speakers. Brian Kibby's talk "Gradually, Then Suddenly: How Technology Has Changed Teaching in Higher Education" and Ray Schroeder's session "The Vortex of Technology: Enabling and Enhancing Engagement with Students", were both examples of how keynote addresses should be done.

The 3 big ideas that I'm taking back to my institution from the Teaching Professor Technology Conference are:

1. Not Satisfied With the Status Quo:

The group of faculty that I met at the conference in Atlanta were definitely not a laid back bunch of folks. This is an energized cadre of educators eager to participate in improving educational quality.  

The format of the conference allowed time for lots of unstructured conversations, (something I always appreciate).

The common thread that ran through all of these discussions was the changes that faculty were making in their own courses and at their own institutions.  

Technology may be the lever, but the goals of the faculty members that I spoke with all revolved around improving student learning.   Nobody seemed satisfied with how their own courses are going or how teaching was practiced at their institutions.  

Everyone saw the potential to do things better.

2. Faculty Are Looking For Campus Partners:

A theme that kept emerging in my discussions with  teaching professors was a desire to find partners for change.  

I'm always amazed at how grateful and positive teaching faculty sound when they talk about the learning designers and educational technologists on campus.  

What I was hearing amongst the teaching faculty was a strong desire to build collaborative relationships with a wider range of administrators around technology and learning.  

The faculty that I spoke with were all doing innovative and interesting things in their own classes and in their own programs.  What they spoke about was a lack of opportunities to share this work with campus administrative leaders.   Classroom innovations are often invisible to the wider campus.   Faculty realize that getting their administrative and academic leaders to understand and talk about these innovations is an important goal in order to sustain and spread this work.

3. Future Campus Leaders:

The thought that kept coming back to me as I spoke to faculty at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference was that I was speaking to future higher ed leaders.  

My prediction coming out of the conference is that we will start to see a generation of Chairs, Deans, Provosts, and even Presidents who have been campus leaders in integrating technology into teaching. These are faculty with energy and passion.  

They are positive about the future of their disciplines and their institutions. They are excited to bring their colleagues forward as they experiment with new ways to improve learning.  

Our tech forward teaching professors are also our future campus leaders.


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