Innovation, Collaboration, and Incubation
By Mark Macmurdo, with Kate Monahan
NYU’s recent 2012 Teaching with Technology Conference showcased presentations on an impressive array of instructional and research projects, advanced the ongoing conversation about effective ways to enhance teaching using technology, and facilitated conversations and collaborations between many of the more than 300 faculty, graduate students, and staff in attendance. Though the topics of the presentations were as diverse as the NYU community itself, one theme stood out: NYU’s continued development into a truly Global Network University puts us in a unique position to leverage and develop instructional technologies in exciting and innovative ways.
The conference, first held in April 2010, took place on February 24 at the Kimmel Center for University Life and was organized by the Center for Teaching Excellence and a group of NYU co-sponsors (see sidebar for details). The event was designed not only to highlight technology-driven teaching at the University—both complete and in-progress—but to be a means of informing and inspiring attendees about ways to experiment with the many tools available to them. This year’s presentations were organized around the themes of “innovations,” “collaborations,” and “incubations,” and while they covered a wide variety of issues—from teaching methods to cultural values and beyond—all shared a common theme in addressing how technology is enabling and changing education at NYU.
Matthew Santirocco, Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs and Chair of NYU’s Teaching Technology Committee, was one of many who helped shape the direction of the conference. He emphasized how the use of technology in the Global Network University enables unique learning opportunities that span continents (see Where the City Meets the Sea: Course Collaboration Across Oceans) and how the conference and the Teaching Technology Committee aim to support innovation of all kinds. They do so by highlighting concrete examples of successful, cutting edge projects (see Video Games & the Future of Learning), collaborations between people (and between people and technology), and incubations, or works in progress.
Thinking Creatively about Teaching and Learning
One attendee, Dr. Colette Mazzucellli, Associate Professor at the Center for Global Affairs, described the conference as a “game changer.” Mazzucelli thought the event was significant partly because it showed faculty the diversity and magnitude of technology available at the University—something that may not always be obvious in a large, global institution.
There was also a strong contingent of graduate students at the conference. Chelsea Trembly, a Museum Studies graduate student, attended the conference to learn about new ways to use technology in her field. From her perspective as a student, she expressed interest in the potential for recorded lectures to enhance learning. Presenter and faculty member Clay Shirky, recounted that he was approached by a cohort of graduate students from Steinhardt’s Media, Culture and Communication department who had ideas for a collaboration between their program, the Faculty of Arts and Science Journalism department, and Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. He reflected on how the conference created an opportunity for the students to discuss their desire for cross-disciplinary collaboration, and how his attendance helped facilitate those connections.
Making Connections, Sharing Resources
As evidenced by Shirky’s anecdote, the conference was not just an opportunity to hear interesting stories about new technologies and teaching methods. It also served as a vehicle for members of the NYU community to meet each other and learn about the resources at their disposal. During lunch, conference attendees perused a variety of booths in the “resource fair,” set up to advertise the technological tools, facilities, and staff resources available at NYU. Representatives from the respective groups were on hand to field questions from attendees, as well as to demonstrate their services.
The conference concluded with a reception, which included snacks and a raffle for various door prizes. This portion of the conference was arguably as important as the presentations, as it served as a vital opportunity for attendees, staff, and organizers to mingle and discuss their interests and experiences. As described by presenter Carl Skelton, (see BetaVille: Engaging Students (and Communities)), the conference’s choice to involve NYU staff was critically important. “University staff can be the research and development partners that faculty often seek in other academic colleagues. The tables at the conference helped break down walls.” Collaborations of this sort, Skelton offered, can be fun, produce better work, and have the potential to be fundamentally important for NYU.
Success and Next Steps
By all measures, the conference was a huge success. The turnout was, in Santirocco’s words, “staggering.” All available spots to attend the conference were filled, and many attendees stayed until the very end, deeply engaged in conversation. Debra Szybinski, Executive Director of the Office of Faculty Resources, reports having received glowing feedback from many attendees.
The conference raised attendee awareness not only of the interesting work of their colleagues, but also of practical resources available for their use. Some described how the opportunity to see technologies and current examples of their use that they didn’t know existed, or would never have thought of, whetted their appetite and made them feel empowered.
For readers who are interested but were unable to attend the event, or those who wish to revisit the presentations, the event coordinators recently launched a Teaching with Technology Conference companion website. The site offers a full list of presenters and links to technology resources for instructors. If you attended the event and have feedback to share, or if you want to keep up with future offerings, visit the Center for Teaching Excellence website.