President Harvey Stenger was the final speaker at TEDx Binghamton University on March 11. Stenger spoke on “The Cloud-Grant University: When Higher Ed Meets High-Tech.”
Photo by Aristo Wong
TEDx: President Stenger makes case for ‘Cloud-Grant University’Tweet
Hybrid teaching and its integration of technology is “a fundamental priority for higher education,” President Harvey Stenger said at TEDx Binghamton University on March 11.
“Hybrid education will be an increasingly important component of higher education delivery for decades to come,” Stenger said. “Its virtues – increased flexibility, greater student engagement and the reduction of routine administrative tasks – enhance the classroom experience for both students and faculty. It promises to increase access to information for students while offering new pedagogical tools for faculty. And in this era of fiscal uncertainty, it promises to reduce instructional costs while increasing access for students.”
Stenger was one of seven speakers to participate in TEDx Binghamton University. The independently organized event, which was first held on campus last spring and drew 100 people, filled nearly the entire Osterhout Concert Theater with students, faculty/staff and community members.
Also speaking and offering “Ideas Worth Spreading” were: Suzanne Seggerman, co-founder of Games for Change; Sharon Salzberg, author and meditation expert; Owen Pell ’80, international litigator and Binghamton University alumnus; Steven Kurtz, professional of visual studies at the University of Buffalo; Al Biles, a trumpeter and professor at Rochester Institute of Technology; and Leigh Ann Wheeler, associate professor of history at Binghamton University and co-editor of the Journal of Women’s History. Each speaker was given 15-18 minutes to make his or her presentation.
Stenger’s “idea” was arguably the most forward-looking: “The Cloud-Grant University: When Higher Ed Meets High-Tech.” Speaking at a podium and as the only presenter without visual-aid assistance, Stenger began his talk by reminding the audience that the Morrill Act of 1862 set aside land to build state-run, higher-education institutions (“land-grant” universities).
“The act captured America in transition, as industry replaced agriculture as the basis of our society, and made American higher education the envy of the world,” Stenger said. “But this model is 150 years old – the product of a different era. I believe it’s time for a new model – the Cloud-Grant University.
“The Cloud-Grant institution recognizes that today, the primary drivers of economic power and social change are not farms and factories, but information. Students must be technologically proficient. Higher education needs to evolve to meet these needs.”
Advances in technology are making learning an interactive process, said Stenger, who has seen how technology can change the dynamics of the classroom. As a professor, Stenger said he recorded his lectures and produced a textbook with DVD examples. He also encouraged students to use materials available on the Internet and developed an alternative to Blackboard.
Stenger offered three ways that technology can improve learning: streamlining classroom processes such as taking attendance; adding flexibility by bringing education to new groups of students; and enhancing student engagement, such as through iClickers that give shy students the same opportunities as eager students.
Hybrid education “brings the classroom to the student, rather than the other way around,” Stenger said.
“Students can learn anywhere – in their dorm room, their parents’ basement, even in a military base or research station on the other side of the world,” he said. “Because students access information from ‘the cloud,’ time zones no longer apply. In fact, judging from statistics of Internet usage on campus, students might actually prefer learning at 12:30 at night rather than 8:30 in the morning.”
Binghamton University is already adapting to new technologies and transforming student/faculty interactions, Stenger said. For example, about 10 percent of classrooms have distance-learning capabilities and videoconferencing has been used for dissertation defenses and music assessments.
But challenges remain to ensure that all students and faculty members will be able to use new and evolving technologies.
“It is imperative that the people developing platforms focus on making them intuitive and easily adopted,” said Stenger, adding that campus infrastructure also must continue to be developed.
Stenger said the education in the long-term future could include three-dimensional holograms and immersive experiences, with pens, paper and even keyboards obsolete.
“We are at the beginning of a journey, with no certain destination,” he said.
That journey, however, must include fast and affordable Internet service for 100 million American families, Stenger said. He called on the U.S. government to fulfill “an admirable proposal” that has gone nowhere − the National Broadband Plan.
“We need a powerful federal commitment to providing nationwide Internet access to higher education in the 21st century,” he concluded. “It’s time to take the Land Grant College to the next level – the Cloud Grant University.”
Wheeler preceded Stenger and discussed “Why Does Women’s History Matter?” She began her talk with a confession about March being Women’s History Month.
“I hate Women’s History Month,” she said. “It reminds me of how little impact women’s history scholarship has had beyond academia. With few exceptions, Women’s History Month celebrates ‘great women,’ meaning women who did things men have long considered important or women who were married to ‘great men.’”
Wheeler noted that the History Channel’s schedule of Women’s History Month programming featured only first ladies and suffragists. She had the audience laughing, however, when she posted a video slide showing History Channel regular programming such as “Pawn Stars” and “Ax Men.”
Wheeler discussed the significance of a quote by women’s scholar Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The phrase, originally meant to note that pious women in the colonial era did not show up in history books, has been taken to highlight female misbehavior and shows up on aprons, T-shirts and coffee mugs.
“In many ways, popular uses of the slogan have inverted Ulrich’s original intention by assuming that making history requires misbehavior rather than that history should be remade so that it also recognizes women who followed the rules,” Wheeler said. “(Ulrich) must be disappointed that her call to take ordinary and well-behaved women so seriously has exercised so little influence on popular understandings of history.”
Wheeler said she grew up in conservative Kansas, living in a home committed to fundamental Christianity and “poised to become a well-behaved woman.” But after taking her first women’s history class at Kansas State University in 1986, she said she “would never be the same again.
“Women’s history showed me that assumptions about gender roles and gender differences have changed so dramatically over time that much of what I’d been taught was natural and timeless clearly was neither natural nor timeless nor true at all.”
She learned that pre-industrial housework was like a miniature factory in which women “produced food, fabric and other items essential for the survival of their families, communities, local economies and the new nation they helped to create.”
She learned that Victorian parents dressed boys and girls in identical clothing and were unconcerned about gender differences.
She learned that work normally inappropriate for women became “more than appropriate” during wars.
Only 13 percent of today’s high-school seniors are demonstrating proficiency in U.S. history, Wheeler said. But they are also being tested on traditional history with questions such as “What right was Maryland among the first colonies to grant?” The correct answer is religion, but that right wasn’t granted to women or slaves. Wheeler has found that students become more interested in history – and women’s history in particular – when they see it as relevant to their lives.
Wheeler noted that since the No Child Left Behind Initiative of 2001, the U.S. government has invested millions of dollars in grants and programs aimed to increase students’ knowledge of “traditional” history.
“Our nation’s leaders might want to consider how women’s history … inspires (students’) interest and enhances their learning,” she said.
“Women’s history shows us how normal people just like us who simply lived in a different time, thought and experienced their lives differently from the ways we think about and experience ours,” she said. “It shows us human possibilities that are closed down when we believe that the way things are is natural or timeless or unchangeable. It shows us that we are products and agents of history whether we are first ladies, movement leaders, homemakers, waitresses, factory workers, teachers or students. It shows us that we are making history right now, the well-behaved and the not-so-well-behaved among us.”