I hope that this post doesn’t come across as excessively self-serving. I’m trying to communicate a change in my professional interest to a group of folks that have provided me with many opportunities. I’ve started, stopped, and deleted similar posts about half a dozen times in the last 18 months. Rather than trying to get the statement right, it’s probably best to just get it out!
I’ve been privileged and blessed over the past decade to have travelled the world meeting educators and interacting with colleagues globally. The past several years have been particularly busy, with my annual mileage consistently hitting 160k+. Each year seems busier than the last and I’ve loved the opportunity to contribute in a small way to the conversation about trends in higher education.
I’ve long held that once something becomes routine, rather than innovative and challenging, that it is time to rethink what I’m doing. Additionally, there has been growing creep of “rockstar-ism” in education where we look for “the person” to give us “the solution”. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the view that the answer can be brought to us by someone outside of our system. This view is appealing but completely false. I’ve answered many questions from audience members with “I don’t know” and “that depends”. People seem to find this unsatisfying. We like our so-called rock stars in the education and technology field. We like clear answers. And it’s not healthy for us or for our field.
Against this backdrop, I’ve decided that while I’ve found the experience very rewarding personally, it’s time to stop the keynote routine. I have a series of existing conferences that I’ve committed to attending, but won’t be taking on new engagements. I don’t feel that I’m giving my audiences a sufficient quality of dialogue and insight to match the scope of the challenges facing education. The keynote circuit does not allow for the types of interactions that are needed to leverage network engagement.
My interest is in having conversations that generate relevant and important action. There are significant pressures for educational reform and the nature of the intended reform is starting to become more concerning than the problem to be solved. My goals now are to:
1. deepen my connections to the analytics and data research communities
2. devote more time to teaching and doctoral students
3. pursue research activities in social networked learning
4. explore the role of universities as integrated social, economic, and knowledge fabrics of society
I’d like to say a particular thank you to the many conference organizers that have extended invitations over the past decade as well as the many audience members that have paid me the honour of their attention. It has been an outstanding and deeply satisfying time for me personally and one that I fully realize is an honour provided by the people that invited me and those that provided feedback, reaction, and guidance on my thinking.