Tag Archives: learning

STEAM: Adding Arts to STEM Education

I have written in the past about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for young people. I am a big advocate of STEM learning and participate in events when possible. I think it is important for everyone to be grounded in the sciences and math to be able to work in our increasingly complex world. It is nice to know how to use an app or a particular software but it is even better to know how it works, especially when it mysteriously fails and you need to try to fix it.

Lately, I have been seeing the term STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. In other words, arts inserted into STEM. To be honest, I was skeptical when I first started seeing this term because it felt like the arts were jumping on a bandwagon they were not supposed to be part of. In this post I will explore the origins of STEM and how we got from STEM to STEAM and the value of adding arts education.

Origins of STEM

The Russian satellite Sputnik launch in 1957 started a rivalry with America for technical superiority on earth and in space. America thought that it should be first in terms of smart scientists and mathematicians. The U.S. developed plans to place a man on the moon and in July, 1969, realized that vision and regained superiority in the space race. Growing up in the 1960s, we all wanted to be astronauts and we studied the necessary disciplines to get us into space. Science and math were fundamental. Computer development in the ‘80s and ‘90s kept technical subjects in the forefront. Programming, math, and electronics were important and exciting.

The National Science Foundation coined the term STEM in 2001 to refer to a renewed emphasis in teaching technical disciplines. Surveys showed that American education was slipping compared to other countries and we were losing that superiority we fought so hard to gain in the 1960s. STEM renewed the emphasis on science education in order to stay on top.

STEM to STEAM

The Rhode Island School of Design championed the term STEAM in an attempt to include art and design with the traditional STEM subjects. They are working to promote this transition with educational institutions around the country. A recent article in the Tech Edvocate did a good job of advocating for this move. Traditional STEM subjects are analytical or left-brained by nature whereas art and design and creativity and spatial awareness all come from the right hemisphere of the brain. In order to create a holistic or whole brained approach to teaching STEM subjects, we need to call on our powers of analysis and visualization. This makes sense to me. A recent conversation with school-age youth brought up the same points. Instead of arts trying to tag along with STEM, this is a way to actively incorporate other methods of learning into technical subjects.

Thoughts

If we are deliberate and thoughtful about adding art, design, and visualization exercises into traditional STEM curriculum, then I think it can be a plus for the student. It will help them navigate both hemispheres of the brain in order to turn out a more creative product. What are your thoughts? Is STEAM a good idea or will it detract from the STEM emphasis.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Artificial Intelligence Applications

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to contribute to innovations this year. I think some industries will embrace the change and some will resist for various reasons, including job displacement and trust. Our world is changing already in terms of the tasks that computers take on. Let’s examine some of the ways that AI will change how we work in 2017 and beyond.

Definitions

AI is simply a set of cognitive tasks that can be handled by a computer. Some AI functions incorporate vision and robotics but do not necessarily resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dangerous “Terminator” character. Think of the hundreds of decisions that you make every day and which of those decisions could be best made by a computer, thus freeing you up for more creative and innovative tasks. Another term associated with AI is machine learning. That is the ability of a computer to learn from past cognitive decisions and make corrective choices, similar to how we learn from our mistakes and change our thinking in order to produce a better outcome.

Security

In a recent InformationWeek article, the author is hopeful that AI advances will help solve a skills shortage in the cyber security field. Right now, computers are used to gather data on threats and potential threats to weed out erroneous information and help security professionals formulate a mitigation strategy. In the future, the computer will also be left to formulate and institute the threat response as well as gather the initial data. Far from displacing security personnel, it will free them up to work on higher level tasks such as business continuity and refining the data collected and filtered. In this case, AI provides another pair of hands but security professionals will continue to be in as high demand as they are now.

Automotive Applications

One of the AI applications I am most excited about is automotive. I have written about this in the past and there have been some real breakthroughs recently. One practical application of AI is Ford’s new Pro Trailer Backup Assist. I cannot back up a trailer to save my life; I was denied that gene when I was born. Somehow the trailer appears at my side whenever I try to back into a spot. With backup assist, the driver removes their hands from the steering wheel completely and backs up by using a small knob on the dash. Turn the knob to the right and the trailer moves to the right. This is just the opposite of trying to use the steering wheel and certainly much more intuitive. This is an example of machine learning using vision and computing algorithms. Another even more radical example is the upcoming autonomous vehicle. These vehicles make constant decisions based on sensor input from around the vehicle to safely transport a passenger.

Danger Zones

Robots using machine learning differ from simple drones in that they make independent decisions based on past experience. A drone is controlled by a human operator and cannot function independently. An example of independent robot development is CHIMP from Carnegie Mellon University. CHIMP will be used in industrial application and for search and rescue when the situation is too dangerous for humans. It makes decisions based on instructions, experience, and multiple sensor input.

Thoughts

These are just a few AI applications, with a lot more to come. Are there tasks or decisions that you would just as soon leave to a computer? Do you trust the systems to make those decisions? This is a brave new world and it will take a leap of faith before some of these developments become completely commercialized. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Education Trends in 2017

Image of a student walking a road labeled 2017 with a question mark on the horizon.I try to follow higher education trends to make sure I know what is coming and can gear my teaching appropriately. This blog highlights some of the strategies and technologies I think will emerge in 2017. We will see in 12 months if I was right.

Improved Distance Education

I think technologies that create a shared classroom experience will improve distance education in 2017. Students will increasingly enroll in distance education,  so it is important that we improve the virtual classroom.

Immersive virtual reality is growing in popularity. I was one of the first to try out HP’s Halo telepresence system, now a Polycom product. Each of the teleconference rooms were physically identical, right down to the wall coloring and furniture. The idea is that you see your colleagues across the country or the world on the bank of monitors in front of you and feel like they are just on the other side of the table. It is a good idea and it works great but is expensive to purchase and maintain. Imagine if you could take this same technology into distance education using virtual reality. You could hold debates, work on shared projects, and hopefully improve the overall education experience to the point where it approximates an in-person experience. A September article from the Center for Digital Education highlights some of the specific developments in this area. The experience won’t change overnight but it is an important tool to improve distance education and an area that I will be monitoring.

Industry Partnerships

I believe that we need to do a better job of matching curriculum with skills needed in the workplace. In ancient Greece, students attended Plato’s Academy to learn thinking skills and become philosophers. Today we also need to equip students with applied skills they can use to further the mission of an employer. Rather than guessing what skills employers need, it is important to form partnerships and allow input into curriculum design. This could also lead to more internship opportunities where students could practice newly-learned skills. A strong partnership will help schools meet the needs of industry.

Standardized Certification System

Particularly in information technology and information management, there are a large number of available professional certificates. They range from security to advanced networking to systems administration. As an employer, how do I know whether a new or current employee presenting these certifications can really do the job? How do I know whether organizations offering these certifications are legitimate? Author Matthew Meyer, in a 2016 article, argued for a national certification system. This would be a certification system for certifiers, if you will. With the rising popularity of certificates this is an idea whose time has come because it would add some legitimacy to a certificate and assure quality and rigor to an employer. As I write this however, the American Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is fighting for its survival in the courts after the federal government cut off student aid for people attending those certified colleges. It could take several revisions to work out an appropriate certification body similar to the current regional accreditors for non-profit universities.

Political Changes

The political climate in the United States changed with the election and that could mean a shift in direction for post-secondary education. There could be more focus on vocational education, research, or toward non-degreed education such as skills-based certifications. The government influences the direction and emphasis on higher education through federal funds and guaranteed student loans. I believe that there will be a split emphasis on advanced research and skills-based education as we focus on current and anticipated workforce needs.

Thoughts

There is a lot changing in higher education and it’s an exciting time to work in this field.

What changes are you seeing in education? Are we taking advantage of technology and ideas on improving learning? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Trends in Education: Information Availability

Adult students in a classroom.I have been thinking about changes in education. Some are due to technology advancements, but some are from social changes as we discover new ways of teaching and learning.  This blog post will explore some of those trends and how we might take advantage of shifts to improve higher education.

Information At Your Fingertips

Scott Miller, PhD, president of Wesleyan College, said in an article: “Some faculty voice concerns that the prevalence of information has negated the inclination to learn it.” Some may see improved information access as a threat to their teaching but I think we can use it to our advantage to improve the learning process. I liken this new information availability to the introduction of the printing press. Before then, students relied primarily on their instructors who could read the few texts that were available. Teachers guarded the writings so they alone could dispense knowledge. Written texts were laboriously copied by hand. After the advent of printing, there were more texts available so the general population could learn to read and could synthesize the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

In 2016, information is available at our fingertips through smart devices and the internet. My students and I have access to the same information, so my responsibility is to create the learning space and pose questions that will prompt further learning. We share the task of gathering information so that we can synthesize it through discussions into knowledge or even wisdom. Rather than feeling threatened by this, I believe it frees us to focus on ideas and insights.

Experiential Learning

Some disciplines still require experience to fully synthesize information into understanding. Chemistry students can read about the reaction of two mixed chemicals but it’s not the same as personally experiencing the outcome. Civil engineering students can read about load calculations and design principles but until they experiment with models and see the resulting success or failure, do they really understand the principles and can they apply them to real designs? Disciplines that require experiential learning will still need a classroom with the materials to experiment with. But are there other ways to augment classroom learning?

Many employers have onboarding programs to welcome and train new employees. Some of these programs are extensive, lasting weeks, if not months. Would it not be more efficient to shorten the onboarding process and instead bring students in earlier as part of a hands-on expanded internship?  I believe that since we now have so much valuable information available to students and faculty, we can be much more efficient in how we use that information. With the time created by that efficiency, students should be able to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Students would win valuable experience and potential employers could hire employees with advanced thinking skills and practical experience.

Thoughts

We can take advantage of greater information access by making learning more efficient and effective. At the same time, students take a greater part in their learning and can apply that experience to a successful career. Those are my thoughts but I would love to hear from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Accessibility Through Technology

Photo of assistive device on a computer keyboard.In previous blog posts I talked about ways technology assists different people. Lately I have been thinking about how technology enhances accessibility. A number of breakthroughs in the last few years allow alter-abled people to participate in activities many of us take for granted. I will highlight just a few products and I hope that you will share others that you are familiar with.

Lights, Camera, Action

Sony introduced Entertainment Access Glasses in the fall of 2012. Regal Cinemas placed them in theaters nationwide in 2013. This is a wireless device that connects to the digital server and projector. The glasses aid hearing impaired patrons by projecting closed captioning using holographic technology and aid the vision impaired with an audio assist function.

The Access Glasses look like normal glasses, although larger, but they broadcast closed captioning in the wearer’s field of vision. The wearer gets private assistance without disturbing other theatergoers. I know people who use this device and it really does help them to take part in social gatherings such as a night at the movies. This also sets the theater chain apart and allows them to attract additional customers for a small investment.

Classroom Accessibility Technology

There are several products that help low vision students in the classroom, but Dolphin SuperNova integrates a number of technologies into one package. It can be a screen reader with audible voice; it can magnify a screen; and it can connect to an interactive whiteboard in the classroom linked to a student’s laptop, allowing them to magnify text or employ the screen reader to deliver the information audibly. This is a great way to assist low vision students. Of course, as an instructor I need to be diligent in designing lessons and material that can be interpreted by screen readers and magnifiers such as SuperNova.

Low Tech Assistive Solutions

There are some decidedly low tech aids for young people with sensory processing issues or autism or attention deficit disorder. It is difficult to sit still in a classroom when learning is interrupted by the need to move. Therapy Seat Cushion is an inflatable cushion with soft rubber spikes on one side so children can sit in one place but still get the sensory stimulation they need. It allows the child to focus on their learning and not on their need for movement. It can also be overinflated to create an uneven surface for balancing. Similarly, the FootFidget is designed to allow a child to move their feet quietly. I know several adults who could benefit from these products so I am not certain they are just for kids. These are great solutions that fill an often overlooked need.

Thoughts

These are just a few products that allow people with different abilities to thrive in and enjoy their world. I would love to extend this topic to future posts so let me know what accessibility products you are excited about.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Robots Among Us

Road sign: Robots Ahead.I grew up watching robots on television, among them B9 from “Lost In Space” and Rosie the Robot from “The Jetsons.” I thought such humanoid robots were already in use or at least were just around the corner. Such was the power of television working on a young mind. Here we are decades later and while we have utilized industrial robots for many years, the development of a humanoid robot is still in its infancy. What exactly do humanoid robots look like now and how close are they to the ideal Rosie? More importantly, how will we react to these machines as they come close to replicating or surpassing human capabilities?

From NAO to Pepper

Aldebaran, a French company that is now a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Softbank, first created the NAO robot in 2006. This humanoid robot was designed to educate students at different levels. In primary education, they work well with young learners and even learners with disabilities. They can help teach simple skills, such as counting or the ABCs, and are encouraging without judging. NAO can be used with secondary and even university students to introduce programming and robotics. This is a very real way to get feedback on successful coding and motion engineering projects. Working with this robot could stimulate the visual, auditory, tactile, and even kinesthetic learner.

Pepper, also from Aldebaran, is billed as the “robot that understands your emotions.” Pepper has multiple microphones and high definition cameras in order to make sense of its surroundings, plus an array of sensors and fine motors. It is programmed to perceive and analyze emotions and to get to know a person. It has been used to work with children and adults with autism to help them develop coping mechanisms and understand their own emotions when working through problems. It also comes with a built in tablet so that it can convey its own emotions. It has a wireless internet connection so it could be a Siri or Alexa substitute, providing information in android form instead of a smartphone or speaker. Pepper has motion sensors and collision detection systems so it could be programmed to vacuum the house or walk the dog. Just remember to dress it in a raincoat before it goes out.

Human-Robot Interaction

The Aldebaran machines are cute and they promote social interaction but there still seems to be a general angst towards functional robots, particularly those that take on humanoid form. A recent Discover magazine article speculated that the stigma stems from science fiction stories, or even the old “Terminator” movie series, about robots that suddenly take on very dark and dangerous human thought. Another concern is that robots will take over our jobs as opposed to simply assisting us with difficult and dangerous tasks. Some industrial robots have already done just that and there is fear that it will continue. Google reportedly has decided to sell its 2013 Boston Dynamics acquisition, partly due to social reaction to their humanoid robot development. There appears to be a very fine line between cute, helpful robots and threatening robots.

Thoughts

I would love to hear your thoughts on humanoid robots. Can we overcome our fears and social stigmas to welcome them into our environment, or have we created an artificial intelligence that is too close to human thought and emotion? I think we need to face the challenges, real or perceived, before we can move on and figure out how to improve our own productivity and human existence. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Opening the Walls of Academia

Open book in a field.I am just finishing the second in a series of three open courses in computational statistics and machine learning. I wrote earlier about various forms of education delivery but I want to concentrate this week on what is becoming known as open education or open learning. This type of learning goes beyond the traditional university structure to bring knowledge to many more students through nontraditional means.

The Walls of Academia

Aristotle founded the Peripatetic school in the Greek Lyceum in 335 BCE to teach principles of math, philosophy, and rhetoric. A peripatetic school is a strolling school. It is thought that Aristotle walked the grounds discussing philosophy and other subjects with his students. There was a gymnasium for exercise, but learning for the most part took place in the open among the trees.

I get the sense that we are slowly returning to the early days of the lyceum, if only figuratively. We are opening the walls of academia to allow for learning beyond the traditional campus and sharing our expertise and wisdom with a larger audience. The physical campus will continue to be relevant, but successful universities will embrace education beyond the classroom. We have had traditional Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for several years, but consider these other developments.

Beyond the Walls

The Open University was founded in 1969 in the UK to provide postsecondary education to more UK citizens. This nonprofit school was built on the principles that there would be no formal entry requirements and education would be provided on campuses and through nontraditional delivery. They started out teaching some courses through television programs and now reach a worldwide audience. There are campuses outside of London, in Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland and serve students outside of the UK through their OpenLearn arm, MOOCs, and YouTube lectures.

Open Curriculum

MIT Open Courseware is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. This is free and open to the world through a Creative Commons license. Anyone can watch recorded lectures, read lecture notes, and access the full syllabus complete with readings and required texts. I am working through an introductory quantum physics course right now, which is fantastic. Students can get an introduction to a topic or fill gaps in their knowledge and university instructors can gain insights to help freshen their course. The introductory freshman level courses could also be valuable to high school teachers of advanced classes. High school students can use them to get a feel for university courses and also to advance their high school knowledge. This site has a number of corporate sponsors whose employees could benefit from new skills learned in the courses as well.

Thoughts

These are just a couple of examples of how education and knowledge are moving beyond the walls of traditional colleges and universities. More people than ever have access to higher education thanks to technology and enlightened thinking from the institutions. This can only benefit us as individuals and as a society if we are willing to take advantage of these opportunities. My challenge to you this week is this: if you are not already engaged in full time or part time studies, find a topic that interests you and explore the many resources that are open. Let me know what you find and what you learned.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Will Computer Science Displace Classic Education?

Photo of 4 elementary school children typing at desktop computers.I believe that technology is now a routine part of our lives and I have been thinking lately about how much effort we should spend educating young students about computers. I read an article that highlighted a push to make computer science mandatory in German schools. My question is, has technology become so commonplace that we treat it like running water and electricity, or can it still provide a competitive advantage for a community or a nation?

Keeping up on Technology

One of the concerns of German lawmakers, which is shared by officials from other countries, is that their students will fall behind and not be able to fill future technology jobs. According to the head of German digital industry group Bitkom:

“IT skills are now as important as the basics. Digitisation determines our everyday lives more and more, for leisure time as well as for work. Schools must teach about media literacy beyond the classroom and give students a firm grasp of IT technologies.”

Suddenly, the tech kids are the cool ones in school. This follows the recent emphasis in schools in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The theory is that partly because of the proliferation of technology, the best and most advanced jobs will go to those who are trained in those areas.

Code.org

In a blog post last year I highlighted the organization Code.org that believes that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.” They are working to increase access to computer curriculum, particularly for women and students of color. Just as the lawmakers in Germany are advocating, Code.org believes that computer science should be part of core curriculum in schools alongside biology, algebra, and chemistry. While I agree that computer science is important as part of a STEM curriculum, I wonder which classes we should drop to make room for it?

Curriculum Replacement

A recent PBS article highlighted a similar push to introduce coding courses in schools in Australia. Computer science curriculum, according to the article, will replace geography and history courses. I am sure that the change will generate a lot of debate around the virtues of a classic education versus a more modern education. It leaves the door open for ongoing conversations around curriculum mix and what students actually need to succeed in the future.

Thoughts

To circle back to my original question, is it necessary to add specific computer science curriculum to schools? Or has technology become so pervasive that everyone knows how to use it, but only a few need to be able to create new and unique applications? In the same vein, should we also introduce mandatory physics courses as well to better understand the underlying hardware? Finally, which courses would you replace? As you look back on your education and career, which classes have shaped you the most and why? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Competency-Based Education

Man adding a cog gear in a row of old cog gearsI have been reading about competency-based education (CBE) and want to share my findings and thoughts with you. By definition, competency-based education differs from traditional education in that it is not measured by the traditional credit hour. You complete a course of study when you have mastered the skill at hand. That may take a day or it may take a year, or anywhere in between. You pay a flat rate for a subscription time period and how many courses you complete in that time is up to you. Most existing CBE coursework, such as that from the University of Wisconsin, is offered online. If you have already mastered a skill, you can prove it through skills testing and move on to another course.

Credit for Prior Learning

There are two main draws for competency-based education: credit for prior learning and self-paced learning. Learning culminates in a test to demonstrate mastery of the subject, whether you studied for one day or 100 days; the focus is on mastery, not time. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated: “It is vital to underscore, however, that competency-based education is about mastery foremost—not speed. These pathways importantly assess and certify what a student knows and can do.” This is good news for the returning student who has already mastered a particular skill through technical school or on-the-job training. It is also good news for potential employers who want to know what you know and not necessarily how many hours you spent in a classroom. A potential employee could hit the ground running and not have to go through an extensive onboarding program to fill in the gaps from academia to the workforce.

Self-Paced Learning

The other benefit to competency-based education is that each student learns at his or her own pace. If students need more time to complete a topic before being evaluated, they just need to sign up for another block or period. If students need less time to complete a skill because of prior knowledge or training, they can be evaluated and move on to the next course. This lets them move at their own pace and potentially lessens the cost of their education if they are aggressive in taking and passing competencies.

Current Offerings

University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, and Purdue University are among a handful of top colleges experimenting with this new format. Western Governors University has been using a CBE model for almost two decades. There are several for-profit schools as well. Wisconsin now offers seven programs that range from certificates to bachelor’s degrees in IT, sales, nursing, and international business. The University of Michigan offers a master’s degree in medical health professions education. This is targeted at doctors, nurses, and administrators who find themselves in a teaching role. They are targeting professionals who already have a terminal degree but need to fill in skills to ensure they are competent educators. It is completely online and self-paced to fit the schedules of those already working in the health care field.

Thoughts

I think this is a great innovation for educational institutions, students, and potential employers. I believe that the key to making this type of education successful is to form an ongoing partnership between the academic institution and employers to ensure that the competencies that educators are teaching are relevant to the business and industry that will be receiving the newly minted graduate. The employer wins because they know they are getting a competent employee who can contribute right away. The academic institution wins because they have a much larger pool of returning students to draw from and can train them in real world skills.

Is this the new wave of higher education or just a passing fad? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Power of Data

My last blog post was on the power of information. This week I take a different twist and talk about the power of data. Some would argue they are the same thing, but I believe they are two sides of the same coin. I could write an entire blog post on the difference, but I will save that for another time. Two things prompted me to write about this topic: a TED Talk by Susan Etlinger about critical thinking when dealing with data, and my recent attendance at the ARMA International conference of records managers in San Diego.

Critical Thinking

In Susan Etlinger’s talk, she stresses the need to apply critical thinking to the ever-growing stream of data we face. Unfortunately, computers cannot yet generate the thinking and cognitive processing necessary to extract nuggets of information and wisdom from raw data. Computers can only apply patterns that we introduce to them; the real job of providing context and meaning to data still comes from us. Having the smartest person interpret facts and figures in a meaningful way and in a way that will yield innovative business approaches is what provides competitive advantages for a company. We are at a point where most businesses have access to the same computing capacity and the same data coming from the same cloud, but the differentiator is increasingly the thinking human being at the end of the process.

All That Data

I was fortunate to attend the ARMA conference in San Diego last week—a gathering of records managers and information professionals. As I listened to the presentations and met with professionals, I was struck by the incredible amount of data that they are tasked with managing. Some of that data is in the form of old paper records that are being converted to digital content and indexed so it can be mined and searched. Some records are already digital but are held in many different repositories and cannot be searched across platforms and databases. For these professionals, job one is to collect everything in one place. Job two is to create meaning and context by intelligent queries. The data and the facts are present, but they cannot be converted into innovative answers until someone asks the right question. I was impressed by the practitioners I met that work in fields such as medical care, law enforcement, higher education, and government. They truly understand the monumental task ahead of them but also understand that they can make a personal difference at the end of the day.

Thoughts

I just finished teaching a course in information systems and management for the AIM Program. Whenever I teach, I understand that I can either present just the facts or I can help build context and meaning around those facts. I want my students to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that they developed by analyzing the facts but also by applying critical thinking and asking the hard questions. I want them to synthesize the data from many sources until they arrive at that “aha” moment that leads to a breakthrough. This is what great research is all about and this is what great learning is all about. If I can help inspire those new and exciting combinations of data and ideas, then I have truly been successful.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.