Getting Beyond Us vs. Them

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--> Our recent conference reveals the common ground K-12 and higher ed share in the effort to bring technology into learning.

Geoffrey H. FletcherAT CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY 2008,the annual conference hosted by oursister publication, Campus Technology,hope flared in my educator heart fortechnology's use in higher educationand K-12, which both struggle atintegrating technology into instruction,each tending to find fault with theother. "If they turned out betterpreparedteachers who understoodhow to use technology in teachingand learning," we argue, "our problemsin K-12 would be much fewer."

What sparked my hopefulness at the conference was the presence of so many prominent CTOs, CIOs, and other university technology leaders, all focused on how technology can help teaching and learning.

At one session, a group brainstormed about what tools will most impact education over the next five years. More than 80 percent of the technologies mentioned focused on teaching and learning, with virtual worlds and immersive education tools topping the list.

In another session, panel members were asked to name the most important aspect of their jobs. Driving IT toward instructional priorities was the consensus winner, while using technology to customize learning was second.

Why hasn't higher ed made these priorities into realities? As one panelist said, "The biggest problem is people, not the technology. We need to make IT easy for faculty, and provide time for both IT staff and faculty to plan for innovation." That sounds a lot like the K-12 environment.

Another hurdle is the reward structure for faculty-- or the absence of one. As in K-12, higher education does not seem to offer any incentive to change teaching and learning, with or without technology. But positive signs are on the horizon. Many conference attendees acknowledged that faculty members learn best from their peers, not from IT staff. As such, some institutions, such as Virginia Tech, are beginning to pay stipends to faculty to mentor other faculty. This model has proven effective in K-12, and there is no reason to think it could not work in higher ed as well.

Will we soon see the end of K-12's bashing of higher ed? Not likely, but if you had witnessed the excitement of normally staid higher ed administrators as they talked about and demonstrated how to use the online virtual world Second Life to test space planning, or how they are using e-portfolios and Web 2.0 tools to engage learners, you too would have good reason to hope that the new crop of education graduates will have had at least a few classes with tech-savvy professors, and that what they learned will make its way into the K-12 classroom.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.