Entries Tagged 'open education' ↓

Academic Research Publishing: People Get Ready

I’ve been thinkin’ about it, readin’ about it, and talkin’ about it for a while, as has Rosemary Arnesen, our esteemed and visionary Director of UMW Libraries. In the wake of launching our faculty aggregation interface, we are looking to expand faculty metadata to include their research publications. This is a technical challenge within the current paradigm of commercial journal publishing, but not insurmountable.

There is no one “feed” or aggregation of the multiplicity of journals to which one could type a faculty member’s name and get all of their publications. Current library subscriptions, and their online feeds, are all independent. Proprietary systems and faculty names, spellings, are not predictable across these  systems. This necessitates what is referred to as a mediated or curated data layer: Faculty self-reporting of publications with links to their online versions.

As our librarian posited, some type of feed from our FAAR reports may serve nicely to begin to capture publications as they are reported on by faculty without adding yet ANOTHER interface that faculty need to enter to aggregate their data. As long as a feed exists, we can capture it in the faculty aggregation layer, and I am very excited to work towards this during the coming year.

The current academic research publishing environment is shifting under our feet, and it’s all to the better. I say this while being married to a neuroscientist who was published earlier this year in the Journal Nature, with all the prestige that comes with it. I am painfully (read PAINfully) aware of what it means to his career to have such a feather in his cap, and what he needed to do to get this done.

But I despair at a model where the blood, sweat, and tears of a person as earnest as my husband, and as our UMW faculty, is bought and sold in order to be legitimized by a commercial brand’s imprimatur. This is not the same conversation as “Wikipedia will solve everything” and I’m not talking about doing away with peer review — I’m talking about academics and their peers really owning the content and the conversation, not giving it all away to large publishing houses.

Conversations about open journals are happening more and more, and places like UMW are well-positioned for this conversation. On the library front, SUNY just cancelled its exorbitantly expensive subscription to the ACS journal archive in favor of aggregating from other less expensive sources. The costliness of access to commercial journals to resource-strapped libraries cannot be overstated. Open access journals are growing in number, and, should the quality of research therein meet consistent standards and rigor, these journals will pick up steam in terms of legitimacy, just as the commercial journals have.

I would love to see UMW, with its forward-thinking approach to online publishing, consider our own in-house peer-reviewed, open, online journal. We have the Aubade literary magazine and we should begin to consider aggregation and tagging there. “Metamorphosis” is a COPLAC journal of outstanding student research work, but why doesn’t UMW create its own flagship student research online journal as a virtual (and longer-term, cumulative) partner to the Student Research Creativity Day? As part of our digital initiatives, we have talked about an online repository. I believe this notion of a journal needs to be part and parcel of this conversation. Let’s not just deposit our work, let’s bring it to life with peer review, online commentary, student citations, the works.

I guess, all this is to say, isn’t the university itself, writ large, not a legitimizer of scholarly research in its own right?

(Still, it was WAY cool that my husband was the first neuroscientist at UVa to get published in the Journal Nature — part of me may always be old school). Notwithstanding, Curtiss Mayfield has something to say to you:



Fear and Higher Ed Web

Alan Levine inspires as always when he blogged yesterday about the default attitude about privacy on the web in higher education. It’s easy to point to FERPA, copyright, and intellectual property concerns and their role in the development of the traditional authenticated LMS environment. But, there are other concerns that universities have with opening things up, and we have faced them quite boldly at UMW on multiple fronts.

Since before 2001, our web policy has had a few interesting passages in it, mostly related to clarifying the bright line between “official” and “non-official” websites:

“The University of Mary Washington assumes editorial responsibility for official University Web sites and official UMW on-line resources, which are defined as the official Web pages or on-line materials of UMW departments, divisions and other units. For these sites and resources, UMW is the content provider and not a content-neutral “Internet Service Provider,” or ISP. You may also find within the UMW domain — signified by the address “umw.edu” or within the range of Internet protocol addresses assigned to the University — Web sites or on-line materials over which the University has no editorial responsibility or control. Such sites include but are not limited to the Web pages or other on-line materials of individual faculty members or students, individual class sites and materials, and the Web pages or on-line materials of student organizations and other organizations not formally a part of the University. For these sites and materials, UMW is a content-neutral ISP.”

This is a perfectly normal and accepted type of policy on any higher ed website. The University is both protecting what is considered official messages AND protecting the first amendment rights of students and faculty. Like may policies, this does not exist to explain so much as to prevent legal action against the University.

The above is much easier to enforce when there is an LMS involved. Once UMW Blogs came online, and the website began to openly link to it, the game changed. Although the letter of the policy is still being followed, the spirit of it — to draw a bright line between official and non-official communications — becomes harder to enforce. How can a university celebrate and share what can be controversial academic debate in the context of its public communications and still maintain control of the message?

I was part of a presentation to the UMW Cabinet with Jim Groom addressing the fear of potential disaster should a student post something untoward. Jim made the argument that, for every possible “f-bomb” that is posted, there are thousands of great ideas that are shared every day online, and showcase the depth of the academic conversation at UMW. He was asking them to take a gamble, and they have.

I do believe that this fear of exposure of possible offending language — or (gasp!) bad grammar — on the part of those managing the public message is a contributing factor to institutional desire to hide academic conversation within authenticated environments. Once the classroom is exposed to the web, it’s in the ether and the bright line between official and non-official seems parochial at best. At worst, it’s a technique to avoid conversation about more complicated issues regarding free speech and what makes a university different from a corporation. If we are peddling the development of free thought and critical thinking, why are we so afraid of exposing just what it is we hope to foster in our students?

I leave you with a video clip that I’ve used in presentations in the last couple of years. It’s a favorite metaphor of mine: the university public website as the ridiculous freestanding tollbooth that anyone can circumvent if they just open their eyes.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Net

We are a proud bunch, we grownups, with our internets and web sites and social networking tools. We’ve bifurcated our generation into the luddites and the tech savvys and turned the whole thing into some sort of religious war over whether technology is frying our minds or determining our future.

My immediate family spans a few generations. I have a 72-year old brother in New Jersey (19 years my senior) who offered to have my 8-year old daughter stay with him for a few weeks this summer. I saw close up how the issue of technology-or-no-technology can polarize people. He did not get a single email of mine, although I told him I had sent a long email with instructions about everything from hair conditioner to websites. He commented to my sister, “I don’t know why she didn’t just hand it to me.” He would not let my daughter use the computer for a video chat with us because that’s the computer on which he does his taxes. He sat dumbfounded as she tried to show him how she uses the web to play with her best friend online in Animal Jam. “I don’t get the point of it.”

When she was leaving for home, she asked me on the phone if she could chat with her friend that she made in New Jersey online, “Not write papers and notes and it takes so long.” Since returning, she has met her on Moshi Monsters, another inane game that provides kids with a pleasing visual narrative around which to build connection. For my daughter, for whom English is a second language, these kinds of environments have helped her, both socially and in terms of language, a lot more than stilted interaction with many of the the close-minded, hyper-protected kids she meets in our immediate neighborhood.

Meanwhile, back home, my 10-year old son learned about geocaching at camp. Now hooked, he, his father, and I have gone geocaching in Charlottesville, apps in hand. It got us outdoors with something interesting to do that connected you to a stranger in the most benign and serendipitous kinds of ways. He hid his own geocaches on Grounds at UVa, and watched online as someone found it and commented. Now there is no spice jar, or piece of pipe, that escapes his voracious search for geocaches to create and plant around town. My son suffers from severe anxiety and a profound mood disorder so debilitating that he must attend a special school. This type of technology connection to the world is a saving grace for him, a source of confidence and mastery that he can pursue at his own pace. Not to mention, it gets him to read and write, learn about geo-coordinates, collaborate with and trust a grownup, and visit places he normally would be too anxious to visit. (We did have one scary incident on the way to a geocache location in the woods, but, I think we were hearing things 🙂

Sometimes it feels as though we grownups in the tech fields are so busy being fascinated by the technology that we can never imagine just how organic it can feel to our kids. And not in the “online learning” hamhanded way that many other grownups talk about computer-aided instruction, with the school-based labs and computer carts and standardized tests that have replaced bubble sheets. For my kids, the kind of connection they have from these technologies is nothing less than a presumption that they simply need to reach up and touch this networked world whenever they want. They don’t view things as devices, or interfaces. It’s more than a cool iPhone, it’s a window to a world they know is there, a biosphere of ideas woven throughout the visual biosphere, connecting our disconnected minds the way the earth connects its waterways, organically, but through the power of language and action.

While parenting magazines fret over “too much technology” and whether our kids brains are being re-wired, our kids are beyond that. Where some see alienation and danger, our kids feel a presumptive connection. Whatever jigamabobs and thingoes they have when they grow up will not matter. What will matter are the open ideas that flow this way and that, no longer encumbered by time and space, no longer hindered by geography. This world they enter is not a scary one at all, and those among us who are frightened, like my older brother, need not be so.

Are their brains being rewired? Yea, probably. But, if it means that at the age of 72 my son won’t fear the unknown and will have tasted the world in all its glory, and my daughter assumes a multiplicity of valid viewpoints and cultures outside of her geographic region, I’d say the rewiring may not be a bad thing.

Hard-core 12-step types have a snappy comeback when people accuse them of being brainwashed by recovery: “Who says my brain didn’t need washing?”


Online Learning: The New Buzz Phrase Waiting for a Definition

Just read this article in the Atlantic Monthly regarding online education. And I read the comments afterwards — as usual, the comments lack a certain, shall we say, civility. But, there is something to be said regarding reading what’s between the lines in the aggregate of these knee-jerk, non-edited tidbits.

I come to this conversation while currently steeped in two online courses: DS106 and Udacity Intro to Statistics. It is a bizarrely schizophrenic experience. I feel when I am in one course, I am somehow “cheating” on the other one. Like, I’m having an illicit affair with an alternate learning environment.

My love of DS106 notwithstanding, there are some pragmatic advantages for my wandering mind in Udacity. Udacity frees me from the distraction of the whole teacher (“I wonder if he’s married — he really should shave more.”), the view from the windows, the students half my age, my innate anxiety over being in public groups. When I am doing the Udacity course, it’s a matter of listen, check off the box, listen, check off the box. This limited, focused activity with little distraction seems well-suited to my having to internalize very linear concepts like statistics. My sense of visual memory and tendency to be visually distracted respond well to the forced focus of the camera tightly framing the disembodied hand on the whiteboard.

But then the DS106 in me creeps into the picture. I imagine this lecturer as the whole person. I want to do a mashup of the Udacity course, mocking Sebastian Thrun’s accent, turning the statistics lecture into a comedy sketch complete with charts and graphs.  The possibilities for using video, audio, writing, and acting are endless. I break out of the checkboxes and lectures and have a chance to explore my alter ego’s needs.

If one person can experience such extreme differences in online learning environments, how can we even discuss “online learning” as though it’s a monolithic thing? The Atlantic article is doing what so many articles I read these days are doing: discussing online learning as a thing you do, and then it’s done. Apparently, we need more of it, so let’s get some already. Who makes it?

From where I sit, the rock star projects in online learning — EdX, Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy stuff (let’s call it “EdUCKA”) — seem to concentrate on scale and technology. What they prove, to me, is that today’s web and networks can handle rich media over a wide scale. That’s great to know, but it’s not, by definition, “online learning.” It’s a proof of concept for how to scale an authenticated LMS beyond a single institution. Although this is touted as “open online education” it’s not really open to the web. If you’re NOT enrolled in a course, if you don’t have an account, you can’t see in. If you ARE enrolled in a course, you can’t discuss the course with the larger world, unless someone from that pool of experts chooses to enroll as well. So, really, it’s not open education. It’s more like open enrollment in the Blackboard mothership (albeit, with a slicker interface and no pesky admissions process).

Where I DON’T see the discussion heading in the popular media, and I am probably missing something, is with regard to the very real TEACHING that goes into the classroom-transcendent course. If UVa had succeeded in ousting Theresa Sullivan, if they had then developed or purchased a MOOC-sized system, what then? Would all of the professors simply attend a training session on how to “use” it, propelling UVa into the forefront of online learning? You see how ridiculous it all is.

This happens a lot. Large systems are purchased with the intention of solving all of our problems, and they don’t. On the website, this results in bland department content that simply migrates from the old system to the new system. Or publications move from paper to the web. In the world of online learning, I see a similar preconception that we simply replicate what we have done using newfangled tools in exponentially larger packages.

I say (and I am not the first to say it by a long shot), screw the investments in large expensive teaching and learning technologies. The web these days is relatively cheap, and according to “EdUCKA,” it scales quite nicely. What is LESS discussed in the popular media is how to teach online in engaging ways not to REPLACE the classroom, but to transform teaching and learning. The institution that can bottle that vision and scale it as a cultural movement, with the same vigor and budget most others put into launching enterprise systems, will be the institution to define what online learning is and can become.  That will be the institution to watch, and I have a feeling it won’t be Harvard, and it won’t be UVa.

Conflating MOOCs with Money

I posted last week about the UVa fiasco and asked a question: Faced with diminishing government support, what IS the answer for public institutions of higher education who want to exist in 10 years? I got no takers. I’ve searched online this week for possible answers from folks who are outraged at what happened (For what it’s worth, I’m among them). But all I’ve seen so far is a defense of why radical change to make more money is WRONG, and things should continue as they have been, progressing slowly, but no one seems to say where they should progress TO (pardon my ending preposition).

Let’s be grownups. Barring an all-out commitment by the government to revitalize its funding for higher education, alternate revenue streams need to be tapped to keep public institutions alive and relevant without slashing programs. Absent that happening, the UVa Board’s alarm about finances is not without merit. It is the panic-driven and naive philosophy, however, that MOOCs will somehow save them fiscally that is the problem. They are succumbing to a very seductive notion about online learning. They cite Sebastian Thrun’s talk at DLD, and a few NY Times and Chronicle articles, in the flurry of emails obtained per FOIA by the Cavalier Daily.

The inability to resist this seduction is a symptom of the fact that few educators reside on the BOV. If you are mostly business people, in today’s justifiably fear-based business environment, you are going to hang your hat on some articles in the Chronicle, some lectures on YouTube, and Frank Rich’s editorials more than on the input of the very competent digital educators you just might have on the payroll.

Conflating MOOCs with money for an institution is simply not borne out in fact. When you are Stanford, or MIT, or Harvard, MOOCs become a logical extension of the brand. They are not bringing revenue in. They are, for all intents and purposes, awareness-drivers, keeping those brands in the marketplace wrapped in a relevant “online learning” package.

I’m not qualified to comment on whether Udacity, or Coursera, or edX are effective learning environments. I’m not an educator. When I saw the students in West Africa who are engaged in DS106 setting up labs for Udacity, I saw the amazing potential of MOOCs on a global scale. There is true value in that. But their value is not, at least to date, to funnel revenues to their institutions (In the case of Coursera and Udacity, those brands have led to startups that sever ties to the University from which they were born, forming alliances, but not being run or directly accredited by the institution that spawned them).

That’s why UVa’s conflation of MOOCs with revenue is so puzzling to me. I guess Helen Dragas wants to attract a “star” faculty member to use the UVa name to begin a MOOC and then take the money with them in a startup?

The other elephant in the room is how little internal teaching and learning technologies departments in public higher education institutions seem to matter at the BOV level. Neither UMW nor UVa has a CIO or an educational technologist at the Cabinet level. If information technology and online learning is so darned important and transformational, who are the INTERNAL voices speaking to the University leadership about them? Why are the Boards getting more information from outside voices rather than from their own boots on the ground?

Our own Jim Groom, and DTLT, to my knowledge, have never spoken directly with the BOV. Yet, you’d be hard pressed to see a group getting more consistent national (and international) coverage on UMW’s activities than that group. I can only wonder if UVa’s Board is similarly deaf to the voices within their own institution. Why are our own teaching and learning technology folks invited to speak at TED, but not to the BOV?

But that speaks to acknowledging technology’s importance to the mission of teaching and learning, not to this issue of keeping the institution alive financially. I don’t know what the answer is for that. But, I think that if CIOs and educational technologists were given an unmediated voice at the table of leadership, we may tease that answer out a lot more quickly.

Until that day, it looks like the anxiety-provoking media coverage about “the latest web thing that the cool schools are doing” speaks louder to these business-types than the actual business of teaching and learning, and that’s pretty darned sad.

UVa, UMW, and What are we to Do?

Yesterday’s abrupt announcement about Teresa Sullivan’s departure from UVa left me wondering more than ever about what’s going to happen to public higher education.  Dr. Sullivan was well-liked, enrollments increased, and the reputation of the institution remains intact. Still, she failed to meet fundraising goals. In addition, current board members seem eager to move into the online learning space, now that Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford seem to have made it respectable.

Regardless of how we feel about the UVA Board’s decision, it is indicative of the level of anxiety I think many of us feel in the current environment of public higher education. It would seem that institutions with the mission to encourage the growth of the imaginative spirit seem to meet ideas for innovative programs with a persistent lack of resources. In short, we all seem to have enough to keep going, but not to grow.

The bottom line appears to be that, whatever Thomas Jefferson may have envisioned as quality education for all, “The State” is distancing itself from the business of higher education; private funds will increasingly fill the gaps, eventually dwarfing what public funds can provide. At UVa, that is already the case.

In the short term, it’s painful and exciting both to watch and live through these times, when existing ideas are being dismantled. My question is, is there an upside to this re-creation of how public higher ed is funded? What is your vision of public higher education in 10 years if traditional funding sources continue to dry up? UVa aside, does UMW have the fortitude to make the transition and not lose our soul in the process? Is it wise to approach online education simply from a fiscal and “keeping up with the Joneses” perspective? Finally, and perhaps most painfully, how many of our long-loved “darlings” are we willing to sacrifice on the way to an affordable education for our children?

I have no preconceptions, but change seems inevitable. What do you think?

DS106 and Tracdat: Perfect Together

Constant back and forth between detail and strategy is one of the things that make my job challenging. I feel most grateful that I have Curtiss Grymala and Pam Lowery to count on for a lot of the deveIlopment and user training work. This allows me to focus more on strategic planning, trends research, testing, meetings (and meetings and meetings), and even some experimentation during the day. Which isn’t to say that I don’t do my own fair amount of user support (I really love the folks at UMW so it’s not a problem), content management, coding, image editing, and the like. It’s just no longer the main thrust of what I do on a day-to-day basis.

The balance between creating tangible product and advancing intangible ideas is a line I am uncomfortable straddling. Last year, immersed in the implementation of a new website, there was no time to think of such luxuries as strategic planning for the Web. The past year I’ve been getting my sea legs with “well, we’ve got the site, now what?”

Enter Tracdat, our institution’s technology tool for assessment and reporting of each administrative and academic area’s activities throughout the year. The past few days, I’ve immersed myself in the narrative of what we planned and what we did and what we have to do. Gathering documents and screenshots together, I’ve tried to represent an accurate picture of what we hoped to accomplish, and what we have accomplished this past year. It’s an anxiety-producing exercise for me.

When Tracdat was getting me down, I switched over to DS106, and my alter ego. There were the intermittent tweets as my alter ego, and tweets as me. Mid-morning, I attended a Google Hangout in full character costume (wig, sweatband, sunglasses), listening to the brilliant Bryan Alexander actually saw fit to respond to one of my questions (what a privilege), horsing around with students, online educators, and assorted Camp Magic MacGuffin aficionados. Pure chaos of the stealthily productive variety.

Following the 90 minute online discussion, I removed the wig and returned to Tracdat. At about 4 pm, after picking up my daughter at school, I went outside and took a photo for the daily create, uploading it to Flickr. Then, I went back and finished up not only Tracdat, but my IE Report for the year (a summary for the Board of Visitors about what happened this year, and what we recommend for next year).

I submitted my final Tracdat report at the end of the day and received a rating of “Awesome!” from our institutional research person. (To the extent that a coherent report in an institutional assessment tool can be considered an accomplishment, well, that’s an argument for another day. Mastering the mundane realities of employment are not so sexy as nailing that final philosophy paper, but it’ll have to do for now.)

I have to admit that in the past couple of years, I’ve watched DS106 from the sidelines, wondering what the heck Jim Groom in a bald wig had to do with higher education. I began to make a connection yesterday between what it means to be a liberal arts institution and the core mission of enabling students to be able to think, a rare skill in our supposedly skill-obsessed world. DS106 appears to require that I develop a nimbleness needed to bounce among the array of digital and creative possibilities in service to advancing coherent ideas.

That would put Jim Groom in a bald wig right in the crosshairs of our institution’s mission of “providing a superior education that inspires and enables our students to make positive changes in the world.”

What a logo that would be.

Walkin’ the Talk

In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, part of my summer’s intention is to immerse myself into the social media culture that’s all the rage with the young folk. Nothing’s worse than a “we have to have better social media for the university” pronouncement from someone with a Blackberry who relies on Outlook for most of her online conversations. Not that I am describing myself, but due to a focus on the conventional meaning of what a web communications professional does, I’ve been only a hair’s breath away from that. I’ve dipped my toes into social media, but never dove in.

Email is where I have to live for the mechanics of my job. It’s not, however, an entirely habitable space when it comes to conveying larger ideas and for connecting beyond my comfort zone. I have found that traditional web conferences, which are rich in information about technology and trends, tend to not push creative boundaries beyond the immediate group of self-selected web developers, all talented and capable for sure, but not largely discussing what I’d like to be discussing, which is the notion of connecting people and ideas as the goal, with technology as a way to do that. When ideas about effective higher education web communications arise, they are frequently in service to marketing, which implies that the web is nothing more than a marketing space. I believe that this is deadly on the web, particularly the increasingly mobile web, and that universities who think they can formulate an effective social media strategy from a marketing perspective have essentially lost the battle before it is even fought.

Nothing smells more phony than marketing in social media, and the prospective student knows it. IMO. FWIW.

So what to do? Well, to me, Twitter is now feeling like a game of jump rope where the rope is turning, turning, turning and it’s up to ME to hop into the conversation. This past week, I’ve made a point of jumping in, getting back to blogging, creating an alter-ego presence on the web, and participating in conversations about stuff I’m wholly unqualified to converse about! I’m doing this in service to the joy that comes from the connected mind.

This is an entirely different mindset than my familar one which sits in the office and pours over information architecture and page layouts while answering email. Those are mechanical tasks that must be done, for sure, but done in the consciousness that what we create when we create a web presence for a university is not to pander, but to invite, not to preach, but to inspire, not to tell someone to “click here,” but be vulnerable enough to put out authentic experience and deeply held, half-baked ideas, trusting that someone new and interesting will want to jump in and play, simply out of the joy of discovery.

Gotta go check my email now.

Think It’s Going to be a Great Summer

The other day, I synced my new iPad to my iCloud. In so doing, I saw a song there that I had forgotten about. Whenever my kids like a song, I can frequently point to an earlier piece of music from which it was derived. They are probably sick of my doing this. But, my son, for some reason, heard on YouTube the Vanilla Ice song “Ice Ice Baby.” After downloading it for him, I also downloaded the song from which it samples its main riff: “Under Pressure” performed by Queen and David Bowie.

That song has a hook that is so infectious it should be illegal. So, I wound up listening to it in my car a few times in a row. I have a long commute between Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. So much cooks in my head on that ride. Suddenly, in an instant, as I was pulling into my driveway after a long day, it hit me that I’d love to do a cover of “Under Pressure” because it’s an amazing song. And, specifically, I wanted to do a crowdsourced cover.

Why crowdsourced? Because, this summer, my alter ego is a counselor at Camp Magic Macguffin, otherwise known as this semester’s DS106. As a member of this community, the instruments of creativity need not be limited to those I can master and manipulate. I want to see what it’s like to let my work go into the ether, and to see if we can accomplish a truly globally-produced piece of music.

Why a web designer doing multi-tracking of music? Well, back in my salad days, I obsessively multitracked endless numbers of original compositions in my one-room studio in the East Village, dreaming of stardom. My first encounters with computing, and with technology hardware, were through a Casio CZ101 and a TASCAM PortaOne. Music technology has moved on, and I have grown too busy with life to indulge in this activity in the last few years, and thought it was time I got back to it. I’ve got a room full of midi keyboards at home, and some old-style analog drum sound modules that are just gathering dust.  More importantly, my inspirations have been gathering dust as well.

It’s time to break out of the old studio apartment in my head, and be open to a world of collaboration. I’ve already received a vocal track from Australia. This is gonna be a good summer.

UMW:UVA :: Faculty Academy:Katie Couric

Faculty Academy, for those who did not take the time to go, was really exceptional this year. It’s grown so much more open and interesting in its development over the past decade, and the DTLT crew deserve so much credit. For two days, i was immersed in a group of people who are undaunted by doing things in a new way. There were no claims of “but you can’t do that in higher education.” The feeling is that everything is on the table, up for grabs, and everyone has a creative voice in the process. They even let me lead a couple of discussions, which shows how fast and loose they are playing it 🙂

The relative dearth of technology resources at UMW, compared with larger research institutions, is a double-edged sword. At a larger research institution with decentralized technology budgets and infrastructures, UMW would not have had to come up with UMW Blogs on a “sandbox” outsourced host. We would not have to develop an interactive map and mobile web presence using low-cost and free open source tools — we could have simply bought all of that, along with the vendor lockin that comes along with it.

This never-say-die attitude about the democratic nature of technology, the web, and now the physical world and “maker” culture, is at the heart of what it means to be at UMW. I left those two days reeling with ideas about how to do more with less, and how to help others do the same.

But the ultimate clash of cultures for me was my subsequent attendance at UVa’s final exercises on Sunday. It was not actual attendance because the crowd was so big I could not get a seat, and I saw it live streaming from a ballroom (when my kids were not dragging me to some open space to play lacrosse). Their speaker was Katie Couric, a UVa graduate. Her speech was not only sophomoric (talking about getting drunk as an undergrad and forgetting the tailgating parties, yuk, yuk), it was self-referential to the point of embarrassment. Katie, apparently, was a Delta Delta Delta, which I thought was Revenge of the Nerds, until I remembered that it was Lambda Lambda Lambda. The Deltas were in Animal House. UVa can afford a visit by a national TV celebrity reliving her sorority days with her fellow Delta Delta Delta sisters!

UMW, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. Not only does it eschew the “greek life,” but has to settle for speeches by non-tv-celebrity-visionaries like Guilia Forsythe, Grant Potter, and David Darts. I give you the following comparison, and leave you to parse the qualitative difference between the great minds and the great budgets: