Page 43 - Campus Technology, January/February 2020
P. 43

Focus on Creativity, Not Tools
Veteran education technologist Ellen Wagner examines a point that is too often missing from discussions of “digital transformation.”
By Mary Grush
AS A VETERAN education technologist as well as a prominent researcher and consul- tant in education and emerging technolo- gies, Ellen Wagner thinks deeply about what we are really saying when we talk about, and often attach labels to, our current initia- tives, movements or hopes at the intersec- tion of education and technology.
With present projects and affiliations in professional associations such as /ICICLE and academic and research roles at higher education institutions including George Mason University and the University of Central Florida, along with an impressive résumé in technology strategy and develop- ment both within industry and in academia, Wagner asks us to look beyond our words to understand the impact of our thinking and what we may be planning — particularly around “digital transformation.”
Campus Technology: There’s a lot of talk about “digital transformation” these days, and it seems like there’s some pressure on higher education institutions to become a part of it. What’s the basis of this term?
Ellen Wagner: By definition, technology features tools that extend human capabili- ties. Where early examples of technology included innovations such as crop rotation, metallurgy, food preservation and the use of botanicals for medicinal use, many of the technologies that come to mind in the cur- rent era are those that make use of elec- tronics that extend human cognitive, com- munication and computational abilities — from mobile telephones and personal computers, to supercomputers and big datasets, to digital devices that monitor and track a person’s physical characteristics.
Recognizing the power that technology has to change workplaces, marketplaces, civic engagement and social discourse, futurists are focusing on the potential impact that “digital transformation” will have on the future of life as we know it.
CT: Before we jump on this attractive- sounding bandwagon, are we likely missing some of the implications?
Wagner: Very likely. It’s accepted that digi- tal transformation uses emerging technolo-

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