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The 2009 CUNY IT Conference: Managing Complexity

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Creative Commons License photo credit: tantek

I was excited to get the Call For Papers for the CUNY IT Conference, scheduled for December 4.  This year’s theme will be “Information Technology/Instructional Technology in CUNY: Managing Complexity,” and the presentations will ask:

  1. What works? How has technology not just changed but improved our instructional and administrative practices? What tests have been met? What value added? What innovations deserve to be extended and duplicated?
  2. What works together? What mixtures of modes or services are available? Are we moving to the use of “mash-ups” in teaching and administration, combinations of applications that work together? How do we manage and sustain such combinations?
  3. What helps us work together? What innovations allow us to be mutually supportive? What are we doing in the way of training and mentoring? How are we spreading the word to colleagues, introducing them to new methods and technologies?
  4. What points to a shared direction? What changes on our horizon are most promising, most scalable and sustainable? What developments call for collaborative and strategic thinking? What changes are especially important to a multi-campus university?

Themes the past four years (there doesn’t seem to have been a theme in 2006) have included: “Instructional/Information Technology in CUNY: The Catalyst for Transformational Change,” “Instructional/Information Technology in CUNY: Future Present,” and “Instructional/Information Technology in CUNY: How Is Change for the Better?”

The notion of “Managing Complexity,” when combined with the questions italicized above, contains more of an argument than did themes from previous years.  Yesterday George Otte, CUNY’s Director of Academic Technology and a former Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute, wrote a post that details much of the thinking behind “Managing Complexity,” and that also effectively shoots dead the notion that any single service can meet the edtech needs of our campuses.  This is a very important administrative recognition of the argument that’s been at the core of our experimentation with personal publishing platforms for the past few years at the Schwartz Institute.

The 2009 CUNY IT Conference promises to be yet another in the series of events that has sustained and further distributed throughout CUNY the energetic consideration of the role of technology in the university of the future.  I hope to see more panels that explore the relationships between information technology and instructional technology, that challenge and complicate the client-services model of technology that prevails throughout much of the university, and that highlight and celebrate the innovative teaching, learning, and research projects sprouting up at the campuses.

One additional note: David Pogue, who keynoted the most recent IT Conference, will come back for a return engagement.  While he was certainly an entertaining presenter, it might have been nice if we had someone who could draw into sharper focus for the community just what’s at stake in the reimagination of the role of technology at the university.