This Week in LIS - 1 November 2013

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Headline of the Week: Reinvention – On What Timeframe? 

Last week I referenced the book Out of our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson. An interesting set of stories in that book (and ones he retold in the Educause keynote we heard two weeks ago) concerned the different perspectives on the sense of time between cultures around the world. He reported that a meal he had ordered in a restaurant in China recently was based on a 900-year old Mongol recipe and the waiter commented that it was too soon to see if it would catch on broadly in China. He mentioned his house in Stratford on Avon was several hundred years old and one of the newer ones in the neighborhood. At the other end of the spectrum he shared that he’d heard an ad on the radio from a local Los Angeles based car dealer bragging that they had proudly been serving the area for almost half a decade. His point was China, England and the US measure cultural time in millenniums, centuries, and decades, respectively. The sense of time is different for different cultures.

This week Dr. Ann Hill Duin and Dr. Eric Childers “came” to campus via a conference call to talk about their project DAVID with a number of members of the Luther community. Ann and Eric shared, “Project DAVID is about showcasing the strategic reinvention and collaboration underway across higher education, and most specifically, at liberal arts colleges and universities.” She and Eric are doing research. They want to know what sort of “reinvention” is going on at ELCA colleges and at Luther College in particular.” The project intends to produce an open access eBook. It was very timely because the Board of Regents workshop “Facing the Forces of Change with Hope" on the Five Disruptors President Tiede has identified had just taken place the previous weekend.

This past week I have been reading Stability and Change – Luther College in Its Second Century by Leigh D. Jordahl and Harris E. Kaasa. I wanted to get a better sense for the range of changes Luther College has already experienced and I started here. The first few chapters recap college history and mark a number of interesting points of substantial change. Examples include the modernization in curriculum in 1932 and the authorized enrollment of women in 1936, both argued essential for the college to survive.

In the conversation with Ann and Eric I wondered aloud if the word “reinvention” was the right term. Luther College largely serves 18-22 year olds in a residential learning experience providing an undergraduate education rich in the liberal arts. Project DAVID highlights the amazing forces at work as new offerings and competitors leverage networks and digitization and alternative business models to provide additional learning possibilities. Despite these forces my sense is that we would continue to focus on the transformation of 18-22 year olds in a residential setting.  “Augmentation” or “leverage” felt more appropriate as terms to describe the opportunities and responses to the changes that would likely come from the forces currently operating on higher education. Reinvention smacks of toss out the irrelevant old and creates something completely new.

However, after reading the first few chapters of the Jordahl and Kaasa book I think my difficulty with the term “reinvention” was connected to the sense of time.  Digitization and the ubiquity of networks is a phenomena measured in decades.  The term MOOC as an example was coined about half a decade ago (2008).

When you read the college history you see that it has been “reinventing” itself over and over again across its first century and a half.  Its ability to do this - impedance matching its mission with the needs of the times - has been well demonstrated. I am confident that Luther College will continue to “reinvent” itself as it has for the last century and a half and I anticipate that the experiments going on all over campus with new pedagogical models that leverage digitization and networks will inform conversation leading to broader experimentation as we “leverage” these technologies and “augment” what we do.  Perhaps in fifty or a hundred years those that come after will look back and say “reinvention” has occurred.

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Out of our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson

Stability and Change – Luther College in Its Second Century by Leigh D. Jordahl and Harris E. Kaasa.

Paul

paul.mattson@luther.edu


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