Everyone these days is writing about "reinventing education" from K through Ph.D. land...it seems to be the thing to do. And, I understand why: Colleges and Universities tend to move slowly. They were not the first to pick up on advanced internet technology (techies from outside the systems were ahead of the curve), and academics eventually jumped on the bus.
With cutbacks looming many places (including here in NH where our anti-education state government is on the attack, slashing their state contribution by 45%, there's no doubt that change is being forced upon us. The big question is whether we will do this in ways that make sense (not just fire the guy who paints the dorms, or the guy who coordinates maintenance schedules....note: those are the guys we're firing here at our College) but really think through a. what really matters in education and b. how to get that job done effectively. Here's a few thoughts I'd like to share:
1. Recognize that your colleagues are not just down the hall. Develop research and teaching partnerships with like-minded people around the globe. Use Skype to bring colleagues from out of town in to your offices and to your classrooms. Take advantage of Collaborative Teaming with people in your field from across the globe. For example, right now I have a counseling project in Amman, a clinical project in Mumbai, an and an Autism project in NYC. And, I involve my students in many of those projects.
2. Cultivate the special interests of your students. Yes our students need the basics, including communication and writing skills, but they also need to be mentored closely to develop skills related to their passions. In my own teaching, I identify students, for example, with strong interests in neurobehavioral disorders and point them toward readings and projects that will send them off in positive directions.
3. Convince your colleagues and administrators about the importance of flexibility and thinking out of the box. The opportunities are vast for seeing beyond the "hard money lines" of yesterday. Allow entrepreneurial projects that develop funding from multiple sources, including federal grants, foundations, clinical revenue, community developmental organizastions, individual contributors. But, alas, college administrators need to get on board with consolidating those accounts so that Clinical and Academic faculty can access them readily to pay for equipment and students to work on projects.
4. Move to Open Source Technology Systesms. Stop paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees to online courseware companies and switch to free open source systems.
Colleges need to change. We need to support, not punish, faculty who want to develop new mentoring and teaching systems, new systems of research, and new ways to bring in funds for colleges. And Colleges need to stop acting as if they live in isolation, but accept that they are part of global education systems (larger systems). The results can be exciting. Greater involvement with students. More meaningful dialogue with students. More diverse ways to fund students and educational projects. Don't be afraid.