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The Best Writing in Educational Technology
October 29, 2009 - 7:38pm

Full disclosure. I am an ECAR fellow, in the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, which was founded and is run by Richard Katz.

The single best piece of writing in recent memory on the large scale structural forces shaping higher education and the role of technology in impacting these forces is the first chapter of The Tower and the Cloud, "The Gathering Cloud: Is This the End of the Middle?"

You can read Katz's chapter here, or better yet go and get the whole volume. I'm focussing on Katz's introductory chapter, but the whole book contains a series of wonderful essays that flush out the ideas raised by Katz in his chapter and are worth the investment to read.

Rarely does a piece of writing stick with me like Katz's chapter has, one-year on from when I first picked up the Tower and the Cloud at last year's EDUCAUSE conference. We live in such a fast world of micro information, tweets, disposable blog posts, quick YouTube videos, online presentations, and RSS feeds. We ed. tech. people like the new new, we like innovation, we are suspicious of the status quo and firmly believe that if technology has changed everything else it should (and can) change the academy as well.

Katz's writing is an important antidote to the "right now" nature of much of our information consumption, communication and work in learning technology. He takes the time to tell the long story of the development and growth of higher education, and then situates the disruptive innovations slamming into our institutions as part of this larger story.

In placing the current disruptions brought on by ubiquitous, cheap, and abundant computer power within the long-range story of the academy we gain a better understanding of both the importance and promise of emerging technologies as well as the challenges and opportunities our institutions are likely to face as result of these developments. Katz writes: "The move to bring the tower to the cloud before the cloud grows to envelop the tower will engage nearly every institutional leader and challenge every institutional policy." The salience of this conclusion has only grown over the past year, as the questions, challenges and opportunities raised by the emergence of the cloud (specifically the move from scarcity to abundance of learning content, authoring opportunities, collaboration tools, storage and computer power), has emerged as higher education's dominant story line.

Spending some quality time with The Tower and the Cloud is the best way I know to get in the "deep think" mindset on learning technology as we prepare to fly to Denver for EDUCAUSE 09.

Also, don't forget to sign-up for Richard's EDUCAUSE Live Tower and the Cloud presentation on November 13th.

What recent piece of educational technology writing most resonates with you? Can you share a recent article, chapter or book that will significantly shape our thinking on the place where learning and technology intersect? What are your nominations for what we should be reading going into EDUCAUSE 2009? What would you argue to be the best writing in educational technology?


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