This summer our IT department will begin planning to host next summer's CCCU conference in June. The theme for this gathering of higher ed IT folks is "Innovation: Catching the Wave.” The conference will focus on innovation in Academic or Educational technology and IT infrastructure. Now I have said before that we all like to talk about change until it threatens to disrupt our lives, but innovation feels like a less threatening cousin of change. Innovation is about trying new things and exploring new possibilities. If we are honest though, the fine print of innovation is that there will surely be some bumps along the way.
Because we are a southern California based school, I suppose that the phrase, “Catching the Wave” is an appropriate way to describe the best way to approach talking about the impact of 21st century technologies on teaching and learning. Just like surfing or swimming in a wave zone in the ocean, there comes a time when you cannot avoid the oncoming wave of water and must choose to either harness its power or be tumbled about by it. Some are paralyzed with fear and find themselves tossed about. Others look forward to the challenge and conquer the oncoming wave. Still others, in an instant decide to go with the wave rather than against it and are carried along. We all probably find ourselves and our organizations in a blend of these circumstances; liking things as they are but realizing that change is most assuredly the new normal.
Summertime in IT has its own busyness but also is a short season to prepare for what is to come. Organizations and individuals open to innovation will find this to be an exciting time. The wave of mobile media technologies has made the “smartphone” a common place appliance in our daily lives. Powerful WiFi almost everywhere you go (even on most airlines) allows us to access information anytime and anyplace. Computing power and storage continue to expand as our “HD lives” use up more and more data space. University and business networks rush to increase speed and response to keep up with demand. Even my dog has an Instagram account. Catching the wave of innovation, for most of us means finding a way to leverage the power of the changes in the way we all communicate, collaborate and process information. Innovation starts with possibility, so I suppose that summertime in IT is a time for us all to imagine how to work differently. For some this can be an unsettling or uncertain time, but those of us in IT departments we are like digital surfers; always choosing to catch the wave rather than be crushed under or tossed around. It is really more out of survival than any romantic ideal that we respect the wave. Summertime in IT is not a time for naps in the sun, but always a time to dream.