At the opening event for this year’s conference, Provost Winston Langley shared his thoughts about the conference, its history as it has joined efforts by CIT, IT/Edtech, the library, and other units, and its contributions to faculty development at the university as well as his thinking about the new Provost Fellow leadership position, as he introduced the keynote speaker and Provost Fellow Brian White. What follows is a portion of his remarks :
“The history of the conference, with its joining together of different initiatives related to teaching, technology, and faculty development, is important to me because it represents the integration of our campus efforts to support and give voice to our faculty in their teaching endeavors. As you know, I have been very committed to creating a coherent framework for faculty development on this campus. . . At the same time, I have been very concerned about how to support faculty leadership in targeted areas important to the future of the university, and one of those areas is teaching and technology.
At this moment, with the rapid development not only of new technologies but of new models for teaching that those technologies support, the world of higher education is being reshaped in ways we can’t fully anticipate. As Arthur Levine of the Woodrow Wilson foundation pointed out recently: ‘America is shifting from a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital, information economy. Our social institutions, colleges and universities included, were created for the former. . . They work less well than they once did. . .they need to be refitted for a new age (Inside Higher Ed: April 29, 2013).’
As we plan for the future of our own university, we must do so within this ever-shifting landscape, knowing that it will continue to be global, digital, and information-based, but not knowing exactly what academic structures and what technologies will be in our future. It’s a time that calls for creativity and experimentation, for encouraging our faculty to reflect on their pedagogical goals and to consider the most effective ways of meeting them with new resources that become available, for lessening the threat of change by approaching new challenges as opportunities.
It is in this context, that I have asked Brian White to become the first Provost Fellow for Teaching and Technology, to provide leadership to UMass Boston in the areas of educational technology and faculty development, helping to guide your provost and the campus as we move forward. In planning for this unique role, I considered the need for someone with several qualities: for someone who has a deep interest in improving teaching and learning, who has been innovative and creative in the use new technologies in the classroom, who has been a contributor to campus conversations about these topics, and who is thoughtful about what might be on the horizon and able to guide the campus as new technologies continue to impact higher education. We are very fortunate to have, in Brian, a person who brings all of these strengths.
Brian has long shown his commitment to the study of effective teaching and learning, sharing his extensive knowledge through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and software development. He has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, The Davis Foundation, and other funders in support of his pedagogical scholarship and initiatives and has received numerous campus teaching awards, including the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award for Teaching, the UMass Boston Leadership in the Assessment of Teaching with Technology Award, and the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Not surprisingly, Brian has been an early participant in most of our campus educational technology initiatives, whether piloting a new version of Blackboard, recording lectures so that students could access and review them with mobile technologies, or using iClickers to support student engagement in large lectures. He has frequently shared his experience with his colleagues, including in CIT and EdTech conference and forum presentations, always focusing on how such tools might enhance student learning. He engages critically with the potential and limitations of such tools and bringing the scientist’s experimental stance to each pedagogical inquiry.
At the same time, Brian has been engaged in larger pedagogical initiatives with impact beyond the campus. He has been both a participant in and a leader of the National Academies Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching. He has won Science Magazine’s SPORE Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction for his development of Aipotu, simulation software that lets students manipulate the DNA of virtual organisms and examine the resulting effects. (And you might not be surprised to realize that Aipotu is Utopia, spelled backwards.) He is currently working with a team at MIT and edX to develop a Massively Open On-line Course (MOOC) in Introductory Biology and is exploring ways to use such MOOCs to alter the ways in which classroom time might be used, allowing more time for students to apply what they are learning.
I am delighted that Brian will be bringing this broad experience of pedagogical innovation and leadership to new campus initiatives to be developed in collaboration with IT’s Educational Technology services, the Office of Faculty Development, and other units.”