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Notes: Challenging IT Leaders to Mashup, Twitter, Tag, and Poke - Susan Metros keynote address

Challenging IT Leaders to Mashup, Twitter, Tag, and Poke:  New IT Strategies for a Digital Society.  Susan Metros, Deputy CIO, University of Southern California

2008 Midwest Regional Conference Opening General Session


This session has been recorded and is available for podcast at

Metros slides are available in pdf at

An outstanding and energetic speaker, Susan Metros offered a thought-provoking discussion of what it means to transform the things we do in support of new learners and general education as well as our faculty’s teaching and research.

Her initial premise was that General Education is not on people’s radar screens and she asked the following questions:

  • Who are out students?
  • What does it take to be literate?
  • What we can do about it?

She put these is the context of:

  • Historical perspectives
  • Preservation of knowledge
  • Promoting inquiry

Modern higher education institutions have strategic visions that we can explore.  At her new home at USC, the vision includes meeting societal needs, expanding global presence and its impact, and promoting learner-centered education.  At her previous institution, Ohio State, it was to create a more diverse university community and build Ohio’s future.  At Maricopa Community College the vision is access to programs and services.

What does it mean to be a literate human society?

The dictionary definition says the ability to read and write but it is so much more, especially today:  economic, cultural, visual, information, media, scientific, politics and even more….  Students are stewards of knowledge with their own set of core values.   Today’s youth are digitally titillated, visually stimulated, and socially connected.  They are information seekers, communicators, collaborators – and are multi-taskers who want random access.  They are networked and have instant gratification needs.

A recent survey indicates that the majority of students own laptops and have music/video players

  • 24% primary wireless
  • 80% use collaboration tools
  • 76% download music or video
  • 83% use a CMS
  • 56% say convenience is important

…and they do not like heavily IT driven courses.

Metros suggested 6 principles and asked “what can IT leaders do to deploy a campus-wide IT strategy supporting these values?”

1)   Possess core communication and quantitative (sometimes also qualitative) skills:

  • Reading and writing  -  visual expression
  • Speak and listen (communication)
  • Perform quantitative analysis
  • Social networking and collaboration tool use– Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Blogger, Flickr, Gmail, RSS feeds, email - as IT professionals, will we embrace these tools or not?  [USC went to Google apps  - in doing so there was a lot of work to be done. Students now must accept privacy information, create Google passwords, choose where to deliver their USC mail -- lots to put it into place but they know students are using the social networking tools.
  • Communication and quantitative skills in undergraduate research, doing “research on research”
  • Undergraduate students with faculty in e-partnerships, do a portfolio that shares the process and products with colleagues, industry, etc.

2)  Critical Thinking:  the ability to analyze information and use it appropriately

LMS or CMS, everybody has them and they provide a participatory culture.  We are working to add sophistication, assessment, and more.  At a recent EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative event there was a conversation on “Is CMS so 2005?”  With Web 2.0 options there are other options, ie, courses on Facebook.  The Faculty doesn’t design it but the student does.    These tools allow faculty to reach students where they are. 

Another example she offered was Google classes.   Microsoft thought Sharepoint would be the killer application and when Apple just announced an iPhone software roadmap, programs began to be submitted immediately.  She asked:  can we do courses on the phone?

There is a participatory culture in critical thinking:  Ohio State’s Digital Union is a gathering place, and a place for new media production, showcases, workshops learning communities, emerging technology test beds, multi-disciplinary research and more.   At USC they have an institute for multimedia literacy where they do research on the changing nature of literacy, teaching production, programs in scholarship.

3)  Integrates and applies knowledge:  Knowledge sharing – astronomy 112 class recorded by a student and made them available.  They garnered attention from around the world.   USC has an iTunes channel with 12 sub-channels (8 more coming) with 900 subscribers.  The schools are doing this rather than the central IT unit.

4)   Intellectual breadth, depth, and adaptive-ness:  Discipline specific collections, the long tail of collections, many of them are in the library but there are many more within a faculty member’s personal private space.  How can we help faculty to produce these and provide a web media collective for discipline specific collections?   There are new ways to teach and learn, not much has changed in the millennia, so many things need to change now.  Exchange of information is wanted rather than “telling me” your information.   Experiential learning, multimedia and more are important.

Benchmarks for this should be:

  • level of academic challenge
  • active and collaborative learning
  • student / faculty interaction
  • enriching educational experiences
  • supportive campus environment

Illustrations included the New Media Consortium’s Pachyderm (

Learning spaces – we have a shift from carts to AV wall boxes and camera equipped classrooms.   However, we are doing these in old spaces and we need new spaces including virtual space:  Croquet, Second Life, etc.  USC is hiring a director of learning spaces and those spaces will be formal, informal, virtual and more.

5) Understand diverse societies and cultures:   In this age of global connections, how do we support international education?   She mentioned the Internet2 megaconference with Bob Dixon via video-conferencing and the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s transportable satellite system. 

At the local level she talked about the outreach of Eva Bradshaw of Ohio State in starting “Gidget,” a technology pipeline for girls – see  Metros also talked about partnerships with learners, staff, both centralized and decentralized, faculty, other campus institutions, as well as community and industry partners.

Uphold values and ethics:  Metros said we are always fighting an uphill battle, in reactive mode, in this area and suggested that we need to help our students, staff, and others with credibility, validity, and ethical implications.  She said that faculty don’t always have the context so we must not start with tools, but rather with goals.  Goal->Process->Product (tool)

She suggests new IT strategies for a digital society

Goal = convenience, collaboration, communication, engagement, interaction, mobility, accessibility, literacy, accountability, security, effectiveness, and efficiency.

1)      Adopt new teaching and learning configurations and formats

2)      Manage knowledge

3)      Extend education’s reach

4)      Build communication and collaboration pathways

5)      Develop and adopt new and emerging IT processes and tools

6)      Be a conscientious local and global citizen.

Tags from the EDUCAUSE Library