Quinnipiac pares back, otherwise maintains queen sacrifice

Quinnipiac university has reduce the number of faculty layoffs from 16 to 11, according to a local update.  That’s good news for the five reinstated instructors (although see the article for a process problem).

But the university is still axing nearly a dozen professors.

(thanks to Robert McGuire)

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The power of convenience

Make MagazineMake magazine cites me in a recent newsletter.  They liked one of my lesser-developed arguments:

“We should never underestimate the power of convenience,” Alexander said. “Wearable computing can make things easier for users, and that’s enough to drive adoption.”

True enough.  Shel Sax (Middlebury College) was the first person to get me thinking about the power of convenience when it comes to technology and its usage.  We were discussing mp3 players, podcasts, and student use around 2004, and Shel emphasized that that tech succeeded because it was very accessible, easy to use, available nearly all the time… convenient, in other words.

Convenience is a vast force in the universe.  It’s why many people drive a car rather than take the bus, or watch a movie on Netflix streaming instead of schlepping to a movie theater.  Convenience is why so many of us use mobile apps rather then Web apps or even the Web on mobile devices.  That’s why we use Windows or Mac operating systems instead of going to the trouble to learn and deploy Linux.  That’s why carefully scaffolded and easy to start computer games beat difficult-to-start-and-run Second Life.

Convenience isn’t a bad thing in itself, although its outcomes can be awful (cf global warming, acquiescence to horror, etc.).  It’s like oxygen: massively present, a force of nature.  We can’t out-moralize or legislate or browbeat it into shape.  What we can do is work with convenience and appreciate how it shapes our work.  Look out for the desire paths as they form.

That’s why I’m looking hard at wearable computing, and not just because of the latest Apple rumor. Continue reading

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My monthly report: triumphs and questions

As of today I’ve been publishing my Future Trends in Technology and Education (FTTE) report for one year*.   I’d like to reflect on its progress here, then ask you all for advice on a two questions.

FTTE logoTo begin with, FTTE has found a growing number of subscribers.  That number now stands around 1046, which makes me very happy.  Thanks go to each person who signed up – and stuck around.

Out of that number comes a good amount of feedback.  Every week, sometimes several times a day FTTE subscribers send me a steady stream of recommendations, pointers, pushback, and suggestions.  I’m deeply grateful to them, and try to acknowledge each one by name in report notes.

FTTE also has a vibrant if largely unnamed online presence.  During each report’s production month I fire off ideas across social media venues: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and this blog.  People who aren’t FTTE subscribers (yet!) hurl back very valuable perspectives and general input.  Each report therefore owes a lot to the crowd.  Each report is the result of many conversations rippling across cyberspace.

So, June 2014: so far, so good with FTTE.


  1. At this far FTTE doesn’t have much of a formal Web presence, beyond its two signup and info pages (here, here).  The report lives primarily as a pdf document** sent early each month to subscribers; secondarily as conversations with me.  Should I expand this, by, say, setting up a LinkedIn or Facebook or Google group for FTTE?  Perhaps place stories to Diigo or Tumblr?
  2. To publish FTTE to loyal readers I email lots of PDFs.  This seems to have hit a wall called “Google worries Bryan might be a spammer”.  Is there a good service which can help me with this?  Mailchimp helps, but not for attachments, and the feedback I’ve received is that people prefer FTTE as a standalone document apart from email.

Any questions or comments about FTTE from you, the reader? Continue reading

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Adventures of The Exploded Twitter book club

In May I participated in an ad hoc social reading experiment.  I hereby dub it The Exploded Twitter Book Club, and think it was both entertaining and instructive.  The experience offers a snapshot of social media in 2014, while perhaps suggesting some emerging trends in reading.

It all began in Twitter during the last days of April.   The indispensable Audrey Watters tweeted to me about a review of a book I’d recommended before, Vernor Vinge‘s Rainbows End (2006).  The reviewer was one James Pulizzi.  The three of us quickly fired tweets at each other concerning the novel and some of its themes.

Then things expanded, as they can do in social media.  We fed each other’s Amazon habits, touched on other books, notably Piketty’s Capital (previously), and complained about other readers:

Twittering about Vinge
It was for me a pleasant experience, and must have seemed so to others.  Because more people joined in, like Tim Scholl, Jesse Willis, and Jenny Colvin.  This emergent thing must have struck Tim the right way, because he thought to ask if “Did all of you just (inadvertently) invent the Twitter Book Club?”  We liked the idea and started brainstorming readings. Continue reading

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Reshaping the University: trends report

APF logoI have a new article out.  It’s called “Reshaping the University” (pdf), and is part of the Association of Professional Futurists’ regular Compass report.

It’s a briefing about current trends, following my FTTE work, and aimed at a general audience.

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A Hawaii university sacrifices the queen

Hawaii Pacific UniversityAnother American campus decided to make a queen sacrifice, as Hawaii Pacific University laid off faculty.  This looks like it follows the familiar pattern.

Faculty let go, check: “18 out of 251 full-time professors did not have their contracts renewed at the end of the school year.”  That’s 7% of faculty.

Affected departments have lower students numbers, check: “School officials have told staff some of those cuts came in HPU departments where enrollment no longer could justify the current number of faculty.”  I can’t tell which departments these are.

Overall enrollment crisis, present: “HPU enrollment decreased by nearly 10 percent from 7.462 in the fall of 2012 to 6,736 in the fall of 2013, a school spokeswoman said”.

Resulting financial crisis, yes: “A year ago, HPU officials admitted the school was dealing with an operating deficit.”

This new move also follows previous cost-cutting strategies: Continue reading

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A western college sacrifices the queen

Northern New Mexico CollegeNorthern New Mexico College (NNMC) has made serious cuts to staff, faculty, and programs.  It seems like another queen sacrifice, the strategy whereby a campus cuts previously well-regarded programs and faculty for financial reasons.

I wrote “seems” because there isn’t a lot of coverage, beyond local media.  Here’s the best I can do, and I hope people write in so we can develop a better account.

To begin with, the NNMC governing board has cut several programs. Automotive technology, construction technology, and radiography, according to one source.   “[W]holesale elimination of programs and personnel”, says another, who also adds: “Northern’s president and Board of Regents have taken the approach of eliminating longstanding programs, staff and faculty as quickly and ruthlessly as possible”.

The board chose these programs for their low numbers:

College leaders contend the departments being cut suffer from poor enrollment and low graduation rates. Based on a report that Vice President of Finance and Administration Domingo Sanchez gave to the regents Saturday, both the automotive technology and auto body repair classes had an average enrollment of about 14 students per semester and only two or three graduates per year from 2011 to 2013. The construction trades department reported even smaller numbers…

The current president confirms this, adding that he might shift one program to an adult education version.

Five professors were laid off as part of these cuts, according to this story. Continue reading

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