Today it was my pleasure to speak at the annual UW-Madison Teaching and Learning Symposium as one of three keynote speakers on the theme of “Transforming Education.” (I want to thank everyone who stayed to hear my talk, especially since it was at the end of the whole event and lunch was calling!)
As with the earlier talks by Professor Davidson and Professor Ladson-Billings, my presentation, “A brief history of innovation in higher education,” drew on my own research to explore this topic:
The rhetoric of innovation implies something new and revolutionary, but higher education has a long tradition of experimenting with new technologies, new audiences, and new strategies for teaching and learning. In this talk, Professor Downey will draw on his research into technology and society to set the current debates over higher education innovation in historical context.
- Technological innovations in education are always complex, often contradictory, and inevitably tied up with questions about work, value, identity, and power.
- Considering our own syllabi in historical context can help us productively engage with such questions.
- All of our scholarship — whether on today’s digital-savvy youth, tomorrow’s advances in brain science, or yesterday’s information infrastructures — can and should be rich sources of teaching and learning innovation.
Finally, here are some links to the original research on which the three case studies in the talk were based:
- Questioning the effectiveness of career training for a changing economy within telegraphy: Gregory J. Downey, “The myths of education,” in Telegraph Messenger Boys: Labor, Technology, and Geography (New York: Routledge, 2002).
- Questioning the proper role of information professionals versus digital tools in the library: Greg Downey, “The librarian and the Univac: Automation and labor at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair,” in in C. McKercher and V. Mosco, eds., Knowledge Workers in the Information Society (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007).
- Questioning public funding of media accessibility for minority audiences through television: Greg Downey, “Teaching reading with television: Constructing closed captioning using the rhetoric of literacy,” in A.R. Nelson and J.L. Rudolph, eds., Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2010).
- Greg Downey, “Media Meets Work: Time, Space, Identity, and Labor in the Analysis of Information and Communication Infrastructures,” in T. Gillespie, P.J. Boczkowski, and K. Foot, eds., Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014).
Thanks again to the organizers of this event for inviting me, and to the audience for their thoughtful commentary!