BU Instructional Innovation Conference

Remarks by Provost Jean Morrison
Boston University Instructional Innovation Conference
Friday, March 2, 2012
Trustees’ Ballroom – 1 Silber Way

Janelle, thank you. Good morning, everyone. What a pleasure it is to help open this important conference, and to support the creative, standard-setting work the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching performs each day here at Boston University.

I want to thank you all for being here and, before we begin, to give special thanks to Janelle and her immensely talented team for their continued devotion to excellence.

The research, seminars and forward focus of this Center are profoundly shaping the way so many of us approach teaching and the integration of new techniques and technologies in our classrooms.

It has been said that teaching is the art of assisting discovery. As a research university, this is at the very heart of what we do.

From the time our own Prof. Alexander Graham Bell was toiling away with a revolutionary idea just up the road, BU has always been a laboratory for innovation. So, too, it has been a workshop for preparing our students in meaningful ways for the world that awaits them.

For us, it has never been enough to merely teach students what to think.

Indeed, so much of what defines our mission has come through teaching students how to think and how to do so critically… How to ask key questions, perform rigorous research and arrive at solutions to complicated challenges… How to use the knowledge and experiences they gain here to make their mark in whatever profession they choose.

And so it falls on all of us as teachers to help make that happen… To transmit and create new knowledge in a way that captures the intellect and imagination of our students… To continue challenging ourselves to gain new knowledge and observe the way students are learning… And to integrate emerging practices and technologies into our pedagogy in a way that equips students with the 21st Century skills essential to compete in a 21st Century job market.

Over the course of my first year at BU, it has been both fascinating and heartening to observe the quality of teaching here… to see the seriousness, personal pride and enthusiasm with which our faculty approaches their classes.

I have been especially pleased, as well, to witness the work of Janelle and her staff at the Center, which is a tangible manifestation of just how important teaching is to Boston University.

As professors, we are often criticized for being slow to adapt to change. We are working in a time, however, when perhaps the only thing more surprising than the change we’re witnessing is the pace at which it’s happening.

Whether it is the continual, almost daily developments in social and digital media we’re witnessing across our communications fields, the invention and introduction of new materials and technologies into our science, engineering and medical laboratories, or the use of digital and satellite technology to create truly global classrooms, all of us have two challenges ahead:

The first is to remain as current and facile as we can in the emerging techniques and technologies that are, in many ways, redefining our fields of practice.

The second is to never forget the reason we are here: our students.

So while the temptation may sometimes be to integrate every new development or gadget into our classrooms, our curricula and the pedagogy that underlie what we teach should never take a backseat to the technology.

Without the principles… without the intellectual grounding in the foundations of science, mathematics, or the humanities… our students will never have the basic understanding necessary to challenge themselves, to ask the right questions, or to forge a successful path forward.

This is not an easy task we have ahead of us. But, I cannot imagine a group of talented professionals who are better equipped to help us navigate this intense and exciting time than all of you in this room.

Nor, for that matter, can I imagine a group of gifted educators we’d rather have at Boston University in our classrooms helping prepare our students for the future.

For all of you who are attending today’s workshops, your presence speaks volumes about your commitment both to education and to continual improvement.

I am delighted to be here ringing the opening bell and will very much look forward to the substantive, eye-opening sessions in the hours ahead.

With that, I will happily yield back to Janelle, who will direct you to this morning’s first workshops and discussions.