2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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TC Adopts Technology Task Force Recommendations

Both the Teachers College Trustees and Faculty have given their overwhelming support to a comprehensive approach to integrating technology into the mission of the College.

The plan was the product of the Task Force on Technology and the Future. James Borland, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, co-chaired the task force with Joseph Brosnan, Vice President for Development and External Affairs. Borland said: "The task force was a very diverse group, that included the nine department chairs. But we reached a consensus."

First, the College must provide training and support for faculty who want to integrate technology into their courses and their professional development efforts.

Second, the College also must financially support faculty research on technology and to determine what works and what doesn't in technology-mediated instruction.

Third, the College will establish a semi-autonomous, non-profit organization to support the development of products and services that will generate new revenue for the College and new ways of fulfilling the TC mission.

At the Trustees' meeting, TC President Arthur Levine said: "This is the most radical proposal we have brought to the Trustees. It was only an idea last summer. We knew we had to move into technology for instruction. A year later, it came up at every board meeting. Now there is faculty involvement."
When the task force began its work in the fall, many faculty members were concerned that technology would push the College into activities they couldn't support. Said Borland: "They want to know ‘Is this going to radically transform what we do?' "

In the months that followed, the task force worked to develop a plan that would serve both the mission and the future needs of the College. For example, the academic content and approval of technology-mediated courses would rest firmly with the Academic Program Subcommittee of the Faculty Executive Council (FEC).

In addition, the task force proposed that new non-profit organization would be governed by a board consisting of TC faculty members, trustees, the President and the Dean.

The task force recommended that two people be hired to facilitate the work called for in their report. One would be a staff person to coordinate existing and new technology programs at the College and to assist faculty who want to develop technology-mediated courses and products. The other would be a senior staff member to head the new non-profit organization.

Furthermore, the new efforts would not come out of the College's existing operating budget. The initiatives would be financed by a new $2 million Technology Innovation Fund, which was established by one of TC's trustees. Brosnan said that additional money for the fund would be raised during the TC Capital Campaign.

Perhaps most symbolic of the easing of faculty concerns was when Gary Griffin, Professor of Education stood up in favor of the plan at the Faculty meeting in April. "As a founding member of the Luddites, I want to speak in favor of the motion," he said. "We are easily 20 years behind the times on this issue. To reject this motion would just be foolish."

Technology is important to TC students, as well, Griffin said. In a survey of TC graduates, the one negative comment most frequently cited was the College did not fully prepare them for the use of technology in education.

President Levine could not thank the task force members enough for their work. "They did an incredible job for us."

John Black, Professor of Computing and Education and chair of the Faculty Executive Council, served on the task force. He said he was "very encouraged" by the faculty's vote of support. "I think the faculty was ready to move forward," he said.

However, there is more work to be done, said Borland. And the Trustees agree.

The Trustees directed the administration to develop a plan, including governance, in which the TC Trustees maintain control of any new activity. The Trustees also asked the College to submit a budget for the new entity. The two new positions would be filled in consultation with the co-chairs of the Trustees and the chair of Committee on Development.

Borland urged Levine to reconstitute the task force for the coming academic year to work on some of the remaining issues. For example, how does the College make new structures mesh with existing ones? The College also must address issues of faculty incentives and workloads and must set guidelines for the use of the Teachers College name.

The task force also recommended that the Faculty Advisory Committee develop a proposal on intellectual property rights that would provide for the sharing of ownership and income from technology-based courses by Teachers College and the individual faculty involved.

Here are some highlights from the 15-page report submitted by the task force.

Support for Faculty

  • Provide faculty release time or supplementary salary and to implement new technology-mediated courses.
  • Provide student assistants to work with faculty
  • Make full use of Columbia University's new Center for New Media Teaching and Learning for professional development of faculty members
  • Provide funding for faculty initiatives in the use of technology in teaching

    Support for Research

  • Provide funding for faculty research into instructional and other educational uses of technology
  • Provide funding for faculty applications of research
  • Creating a means for linking technology-oriented faculty for purposes of communication, coordination of research and development interests and facilitating the dissemination of the research through colloquia, conferences and publications
  • Establishing an awards committee or other means of selecting projects to receive TC funding for research on technology

    Support for Off-Campus Projects

  • Initiate efforts to reach new populations of students in the U.S. and internationally through the use of technology
  • Seek out opportunities for TC to provide services and products in a manner that furthers our mission and generates income, both on our own and through partnerships with other organizations
  • Create an advisory board for the new non-profit organization that includes members from both inside and outside the TC community.
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