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Lessons from CT2016

This week's Campus Technology 2016 conference offered a wealth of ideas, conversations and commentary. Here are five takeaways.

At the Campus Technology 2016 conference in Boston this month, higher education IT leaders from across the country gathered to share their ideas and experiences. Here are some takeaways gleaned from the event's keynotes, sessions and conversations:

Students view IT as electricity — but university leadership may not, according to Thomas Hoover, associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In the session "Confessions of a Solutions-Based IT Organization," Hoover and his UTC colleagues talked about how they've tackled funding, staffing and infrastructure issues and revamped their institution's IT organization. One of their biggest challenges: moving from a break-fix funding model ("no money until there's no service") to a more strategic approach. Hoover stressed that it's up to IT to find a way to educate the administration that technology must be a continual investment. "If you don't market yourself in IT, nobody else will," he asserted.

"If you are in education and you're not on Twitter, you might be missing a lot," said Jaime Casap, chief education evangelist at Google, encouraging attendees of his "Future Learning in Higher Education" session to follow him at @jcasap. And he's right, at least in the case of the CT conference — an active backchannel at the event (#CampusTech) provided valuable commentary throughout many of the sessions. Two particularly prolific and insightful tweeters at CT: @koutropoulos and @BryanAlexander.

Higher ed should seek transformation, not innovation. "Innovators haven't been able to get it yet" because they are finding solutions to existing problems, said keynoter Stephen Downes, MOOC pioneer and program leader for learning and performance support systems at the National Research Council of Canada. Instead, we need to focus on the changing definitions of need — reframe our perception of the benefits of new technology.

Don't say no, provide an alternative. Restrictive policies don't necessarily result in the best security, said Sadik Al-Abdulla, security practice director for CDW, in his session "State of Security 2016." The past two years have seen an 800 percent increase in users uploading confidential information to cloud storage services — mostly people just trying to do their jobs, he noted. IT needs to provide an easy, convenient and secure way for them to accomplish the same.

Wearable technologies are turning sci-fi into reality. We are going to end up in an environment where every human activity is mediated by technology, said Emory Craig, director of e-learning and instructional technologies at The College of New Rochelle (NY), who presented "Wearable Technology Innovations" with colleague Maya Georgieva, ed tech strategist and co-founder of Digital Bodies. Already, sensors can be tattooed, implanted, embedded in stickers and woven into fabrics, generating a tremendous amount of data. Craig's vision of the wearable future: "Technology will interact with us. Every possible surface will become a display. Technology that doesn't interact with us will be perceived as broken. Sensors will be everywhere. Everything that can be tracked will be tracked." We are at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analytics, he said, and the stakes are higher when technology is worn on our bodies, generating personal data.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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