ACPA/NASPA Joint Meeting: Spellings Commission

The second program I attended today was a public policy session entitled “The Future of Higher Education: A National Perpsective.” The program focused on the Spellings Commission and its reports and activities. While the topic is very important to the future of higher education in America, it falls a bit outside the realms of student affairs and technology so I defer to others more knowledgable and experienced to comment on and discuss the topic. However, I do perceive a few areas where this blog’s topics tie in with the Spellings Commission’s topics:

  • Many of the initiatives proposed by the Spellings Commission, including Huge IPEDS, the Consumer Information Pilot studies, FAFSA4Caster, and many of the accountability and transparency measures, are driven by and only possible because of readily-available and familiar technologies and technological tools. That so many of these initiatives, particularly those intended for the public, are intended to live online as websites speaks volumes for the acceptance of the web as a universally-accessible and -usable medium. Of course, that acceptance is a bit naive: the digital divide still exists and those close to that divide do not possess familiarity and comfort with web-based tools.
  • One of the original findings of the Spellings Commission was that American has failed to sustain and nurture innovation. Is Congress’ apparent insistence that we employ ineffective and restrictive tools to filter content on our networks to fight unlawful exhanges of copyrighted material at odds with that finding?
  • I’ve just finished re-reading “The Social Life of Information,” an excellent book by PARC researchers John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. It’s rare that non-academics discuss accreditation and it’s even rarer that non-academics would make an explicit connection between accreditation and IT. In a discussion of how accreditation allows institutions to offer courses that are extremely important but difficult to justify when analyzed on their own and out of context, the authors write that “For information technology to lead to such micromanaging would be a paradoxical and unfortunate result. An extraordinary amount of the creative outburst that has generated this technology has come from people who used the slack of a university to explore new avenues.”