Editor's Note: Navigating Technology and Innovation in Higher Education

By Caitlin Salins, Executive Project Manager, Bringing Theory to Practice

In this issue of our newsletter, we delve into a complex and expansive theme: technology and innovation. As our readers know, BTtoP is foregrounded in a commitment to holistic, transformative, and meaningful education—learning designed to foster student well-being, civic engagement, and career preparation. None of these elements happen in a vacuum; in order for education to be meaningful, it has to acknowledge and reflect emerging trends and disruptions. Technology is advancing exponentially, with both positive and negative implications—the potential to (1) give voice to the voiceless, but also to sustain or exacerbate systems of oppression;[1] (2) offer open educational resources and MOOCs or to devalue human relationships and the traditional educational structure;[2] or (3) to reshape the power players in higher education and beyond, for better or for worse. A more tangible result of the fast pace of technological advancements, in combination with stagnating educational attainment rates, is that our country is faced with a looming skills gap based on tech skills, which economists warn is growing faster than at any time in our history.[3] If, as we at BTtoP believe, part of the mission of higher education is to serve the public good, colleges and universities have a responsibility to combat this for the better of our entire nation. Yet, foundational to BTtoP’s origin is the idea that campuses are not only a proving ground for job skills—we also want students to be able to take the technological knowledge of the future and examine it critically to understand how it relates to their sense of agency and self-worth, their social justice efforts, their democratic participation, and their connection to their community.

Our authors in this issue of the newsletter begin to untangle this theme through different lenses. In our Feature article, Bryan Alexander, a thought leader on technology and blogger with the Future Trends Forum, provides a mandate for higher education leadership to devote strategic thinking to technology. In our Campus Highlight, two professors and two students from Georgetown University’s Masters of Learning, Design, and Technology program write about their experience implementing and using technology meaningfully in the classroom. Finally, in his Director’s Column, David Scobey reflects on the oft-cited advice to “move fast and break things,” suggesting a more deliberate and thoughtful path to innovation. We know our community is grappling with these same issues, and we invite your thoughts, as always.

[1]  Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (New York: New York University Press, 2018).


[2]   Karen J. Head, Disrupt This! MOOCs and the Promises of Technology (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2017).


[3]  Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race between Education and Technology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).