Viewing posts tagged research

Where is the drive for entrepreneurship?

The StarTribune is running an excellent story on an intellectual property crisis at the University of Minnesota that probably is contextualizable to other “Research I”/”Research Universities (RU/VH)” universities as well: Entrepreneurship is avoided. Perhaps this is a cultural thing:

The university “provides all sorts of disincentives to new technology,” John Alexander, president of Twin Cities Angels, a local investor group, recently told the state’s House Committee on Biosciences and Emerging Technology.


“It was difficult to get access to intellectual property,” said Dale Wahlstrom, a former Medtronic executive who is now chief executive of the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota. “It was a one-sided discussion. If they couldn’t get the optimal deal, they wouldn’t do anything.”

The article goes on to suggest that “the university traditionally lacked the necessary money and managerial talent to turn promising research into viable companies.” As an employee of the University of Minnesota, I feel I should avoid addressing that topic. But, still, I wonder…

  • Is the drive for innovation and entrepreneurship what separates really great universities from the others?
  • If world-class private universities actively support entrepreneurial activities and support the spinning-off of enterprises (i.e., Stanford and MIT), why shouldn’t land grand institutions do so as well if they are providing for the public good by releasing technologies and other intellectual property that otherwise would not impact society?
  • As the rest of the world adopts new intellectual property models (i.e., Creative Commons), what will become of the research institutions that today fail to succeed in realizing opportunities from yesterday’s models?

ARVEL launch party on Second Life

For those of us who will not be at the AERA conference in New York City, we can join the Applied Research in Virtual Environments for Learning (ARVEL) special interest group’s launch party via Second Life:

Monday, March 24, 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Or, in person:

Hilton New York – Petit Trianon, 3rd Floor
1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-7000 –

More in this flyer

Digital Media and Learning Competition winners

17 projects will receive up to $238,000 in funding as part of the first ever Digital Media and Learning Competition funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory). While my proposal wasn’t among the less than 2% of submissions awarded funding, all of the winning projects look awesome:

  1. Always with You: Experiment in Hand-held Philanthropy: The Always With You network will connect young African social entrepreneurs with young North American professionals. Using mobile phone technology, which is now widespread, this network will facilitate both micro-funding and the exchange of professional advice to projects in Africa that promote public benefit.
  2. Black Cloud: Environmental Studies Gaming: Black Cloud is an environmental studies game that mixes the physical with the virtual to engage high school students in Los Angeles and Cairo, Egypt.
  3. Critical Commons: Critical Commons is a blogging, social networking and tagging platform specially designed to promote the “fair use” of copyrighted material in support of learning.
  4. Networking Civic Engagement: Networking Civic Engagement, a project of the Institute on Money in State Politics, is an online interactive site and users’ guide that supports civics research by young people and promotes their understanding of — and engagement with — electoral politics and legislative activities.
  5. Fractor: Act on Facts: Fractor is a web application that matches news stories with opportunities for social activism and community service.
  6. HyperCities: Based on digital models of real cities, “HyperCities” is a web-based learning platform that connects geographical locations with stories of the people who live there and those who have lived there in the past.
  7. Let the Games Begin: A 101 Workshop for Social Issue Game: The Let the Games Begin workshop is a soup-to-nuts tutorial on the fundamentals of social issue games.
  8. Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE): Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies, a project to be conducted in rural India, promotes literacy through language-learning games on mobile phones: the “PCs of the developing world.”
  9. Mobile Musical Networks: Mobile Musical Networks will build an expressive mobile musical laboratory for exploring new ways of making music with laptops and local-area-networks.
  10. Networking Grassroots Knowledge Globally: Networking Grassroots Knowledge Globally, a project of the Global Fund for Children, is a new community and “information commons” that will include blogs, video clips, sound slides, podcasts, and photographs to help share innovative practices for helping marginalized and vulnerable children.
  11. Ohmwork: Networking Homebrew Science: Ohmwork is a new social network and podcast site where young people can become inventive and passionate about science by sharing their do-it-yourself (DIY) science projects.
  12. Self-Advocacy Online: Self-Advocacy Online is an educational and networking website for teens and adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, targeted at those who participate in organized self-advocacy groups.
  13. Social Media Virtual Classroom: The Social Media Virtual Classroom will develop an online community for teachers and students to collaborate and contribute ideas for teaching and learning about the psychological, interpersonal, and social issues related to participatory media.
  14. Sustainable South Bronx Fab Lab: The Sustainable South Bronx Fab Lab project is a laboratory that allows people to turn digital models into real world constructions of plastic, metal, wood and more.
  15. Virtual Conflict Resolution: Turning Swords to Ploughshares: Virtual Conflict Resolution is a digital humanitarian assistance game that creates a learning environment for young people studying public policy and international relations.
  16. The Virtual World Educators Network: The Virtual World Educators Network will be developed to serve as an online hub to promote the use of virtual worlds as rich learning environments.
  17. YouthActionNet Marketplace: The YouthActionNet Marketplace is a dynamic digital networking platform for young leaders to engage in social entrepreneurship and address critical social problems.

How can we fund more of these projects?

"Tomorrow is yesterday"

“Tomorrow is yesterday,” Skyped an attendee at today’s Networks & Neighborhoods in Cyberspace conference at the University of Minnesota today. “Even worse – yesterday is tomorrow.” The irony is that this conference is supposed to be related to a Minnesota Futures grant project.


This conference is highlighting a key problem at the University of Minnesota that I am sure is endemic elsewhere: higher education is full of technology followers, but few leaders. In this conference on the virtues of innovative technologies in education, one panelist admitted to not using Web 2.0 in his work. Others complained of the obstructions and limitations presented by WebCT and Moodle. A few others admitted they have no idea what Facebook is, but feel obliged to promote it because their students use it.

At a Research I university, you think we would discuss the new technologies that we will create rather than try to describe the technologies that already exist that we don’t know how to use … or would prefer to not use. Instead of forming a Facebook or Moodle support group, can we start to talk about what we will create next?

Minnesota: 1998 called.  They want their educational technologies back.

University-Industry Collaboration (Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about all the good things that are said to be brought by university-industry collaboration. There is, however, other side of this seemingly almighty strategy.

Well, “other side” might be a bit too exaggerating. But there are some things we have to keep in our mind when we discuss university-industry collaboration. What I am going to talk about below applies not only to Japan but also to any countries in which university-industry collaboration takes place.

I say, it is necessary for us to consider possible dangers and negative outcomes in university-industry collaboration.

First of all, universities should consider that industrial interest which mainly focuses on near-market research and the aim of producing profit should not become the only priority of university at the expense of long-term orientation and basic research. In other words, money-generating research should not be always prioritized over fundamental or unprofitable research. This could put the fundamental philosophy of academic freedom in danger. There is also a danger that industrial requirements may jeopardize university’s initiative in building research themes. This is because private sectors place the utmost interest in making profits, and not necessarily purely academic intellectual exploration. Therefore, projects that are funded by private sectors may end up compromising universities’ academic agenda in order to comply with industry’s requests.

That is to say, university-industry collaboration has the inherent danger of allowing market criteria to dictate the paths of scientific inquiry.

When all is said, I would like to recommend a strategy to mitigate the possible dangers from university-industry collaboration.

First, it is crucial for universities to balance between innovation/technology-orientated research, and fundamental academic research and teaching. In other words, curricula should not favor only those studies with industrial cooperation. For instance, those disciplines that do not have much industrial needs, such as English, Philosophy, and Japanese literature, should be treated as equal as industry-related disciplines such as biochemistry, biotechnology, and aerospace-engineering.

Additionally, I suggest that Japanese universities introduce multiple major system which allows students to major more than one field of study or have minor. Though multiple majors are common in the U.S. , such systems are extremely rare in Japanese higher education. I think completing more than one major will provide students an advantage in today’s uncertain job market.

I know that university-industry collaboration brings many benefits to the society. Instead of completely agreeing with the idea, however, I just wanted to play devil’s advocate :)

University-Industry Collaboration

In Japan, promotion of university-industry collaboration has been a key topic at many levels since the early 90’s, and especially since 2004 when all the former national universities became semi-privatized.

With this drastic reform in Japanese higher education in 2004, Japanese former national universities need to be transformed into a new mode of knowledge creation. With the increased autonomy in each university, now it is much easier for individual universities to seek cooperation with industry. Indeed, it is said that this reform was first proposed to make this collaboration easy (Prior to the privatization, professors at national university were civil servants and thus were not allowed to work elsewhere).

In the industrialized countries, technical innovation has become the main force for competitiveness. This results in a much stronger participation of industry in research and development (R & D). In industrialized countries, the participation of universities in R & D projects for industry has become key activity. Though in Japan, this trend is also apparent with 67% of research being financed by big companies, traditionally most of these universities have been the private ones.

Now under new regulations, newly privatized former national universities have a freedom to participate in this university-industry cooperation. Not only does university-industry cooperation will lead to a creation of knowledge-based society, this strategy could result in a win-win situation for both stakeholders, university and industry.

First, Japanese national universities can now target research and education to actual needs of the society which will strengthens the position of the university in the society and bring financial benefits. Also, they can mitigate their newly added financial constraint from not receiving subsidy from the Ministry of Education. Through university-industry collaboration, universities can use companies’ resources and expertise which may be up-to-date than those found in their universities.

And last but not least, universities can finally develop skills and resources for transferring research results to end users. Traditionally, knowledge generated in universities tended to just sit in an ivory tower without being utilized in a real world. Through university-industry collaboration, universities can learn the strategy to convey their newly generated knowledge to the society.

There are many benefits for industry as well.  First and foremost, they can obtain top-notch information on recent developments in science and technology.  Having direct access to research results will enable industry to develop more competitive products and services.

Sounds wonderful, right?  Yep, this university-industry collaboration seems as though it could be a panacea for everyone and everything.  It is actually a pretty good deal.

But! (and there is always “but”)  there are a few things that we might want to be careful and keep in our mind when promoting this strategy. 

I will talk about those points tomorrow… 

Online enrollments tapering

Today’s Inside Higher Ed reports on a Sloan Foundation report, “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning,” that found that although more U.S. students are learning online, the growth trend is tapering off. Nearly 20% of post-secondary students have taken at least one course online.

Four-year growth in students taking at least one online course:

  Enrollment, Fall 2002 Enrollment, Fall 2006 Compound Annual Growth Rate
Doctoral/Research 258,489 566,725 21.7%
Master’s 335,703 686,337 19.6%
Baccalaureate 130,677 170,754 6.9%
Community colleges 806,391 1,904,296 24.0%
Specialized 71,710 160,268 22.3%

Not surprisingly, the largest area of growth was among for-profit institutions, who are more pressured to innovate in education. The question is, is online learning really all that innovative? I think not.

Too often, we use new technologies without adopting new pedagogical models and new, contextually-relevant content. The result is that the new technologies are used to teach the same old garbage. And fail. Perhaps this explains why the penetration of online learning is beginning to taper off at 20%.

New models for learning are needed that properly utilize these technologies. Next week, I’ll present one such option, the “co-seminar” model, that begins to address the problem. Stay tuned!

Virtual worlds colliding

Two interesting pieces of news emerged on virtual worlds:

  1. At the Virtual Worlds Conference, IBM and Linden Labs announced plans to develop a set of open standards that would allow avatars to traverse from one virtual environment to another.
  2. Multiverse Network is building tools that will allow virtual world developers to access and incorporate elements from Google‘s rapidly expanding warehouse of 3D models, based on real objects.

This appears to be trending toward an open standards-based grid, which allows for the rapid development of virtual worlds based on the real world. As society increasingly prefers virtual reality over “real” reality, what can impacts in education, the workplace, and other knowledge-producing environments can we expect from this de-realizing?

2007 State of the Future report released

sof2007.jpgJerome Glenn, director of the United Nations-affiliated Millennium Project, announced the release of the 2007 State of the Future report. According to the project’s press release, “the 2007 version adds a futurist look at the possibilities for education and improving collective intelligence by 2030.”


This year’s addition, a study requested and supported by the Republic of Korea, explores possibilities for learning and education by 2030. Compiled by more than 200 participants, suggestions include greater use of individualized education, just-in-time knowledge and learning, use of simulations, improved individual nutrition, finding ways to keep adult brains healthier, E-Teaching, and integrated life-long learning systems.

Although the report, itself, is short, the accompanying CD contains a detailed compendium of all previous years’ research into global futures, with some projections stretching into thousands of years into the future.

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:


Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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