Looking Backward, Looking Forward

More from the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference

Warren Arbogast (Boulder Management Group) spoke on rethinking IT service organizations. Good thing this isn't going to be on the test, because my notes wouldn't be much help in studying. Here's what my I noted during his talk.

A good example to open up your talk on IT change. According to Bill Clinton in his latest book, when he took office there were 50 sites on the WorldWideWeb. When he left, there were 9 million.

Historically, higher ed relies far too much on the cheap and short-term IT help of students. The cheap is good, but when they graduate and take the keys to drive projects with them, the college is in a bind. I have found that to be true many times - particularly with things like websites and databases.

He recommended several books in his talk. One was the classic Looking Backward (2000-1887) by Edward Bellamy. It's a book that when it was published in 1888 was a bestseller (right behind Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur).

I read it as an undergrad in a course on Utopian literature. The protagonist in 1887 falls into a hypnosis-induced sleep and awakens in 2000 to find his Boston and America has become a kind of socialist utopia. Arbogast suggested it for its look at an engineered future, but wondered what such a book today would say about 2088. Bellamy wasn't really very technology-focused in the book (though the book has "telephone cable" as a way of receiving music in your home) and it's more Socialist and concerned with economic issues. I found it slow going as a student but I really liked the book's premise and many of the ideas back then. (If you can read online or want to grab some pasages for a class, it's on the Project Gutenberg site for free.)

I like that he brought in adhocracies as one solution to IT bureaucracies. I know they occur at times in education and can be effective (NJIT's iTunes U initiative and Moodle pilot were certainly examples) but bureaucracy reigns especially in IT.

A funny and useful point about treating our students as "users." What industries treat customers as users? Drug dealers and IT. Still, I object to thinking about students as users or customers. I dislike the entry of terms like ROI into education. Students are students, and we need to teach them. Didn't the factory model of education get tossed a long time ago? No. Much of it survives and is revived.

Finally, he recommended reading Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. There's a recommendation that flew through that room fast and flew out even faster. I can't recall why he recommended it in this context, but I'm all for the reading of Rilke's poetry (or any poetry) by IT people.


Trackback specific URI for this entry


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.
BBCode format allowed
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.
To leave a comment you must approve it via e-mail, which will be sent to your address after submission.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.