John Bucher Chairs Nonprofit
Oberlin’s Chief Technology Officer John Bucher recently received news of a promotion to Chair of Educause, an international nonprofit organization encouraging the responsible use of technology. Both his work with Educause, which he has served for many years, and his work here at Oberlin have helped Bucher form his ideas about the proper and improper uses of technology.
“Technology is often used for what I think [are] silly and superfluous [purposes]. I want to promote the best and most strategic use of technology. To have powerful software and hardware devices is one thing but using them in the proper fashion, for the most capable ability [is the goal].”
Bucher, who serves as Director for the Center of Information Technology at Oberlin, oversees information technology in academic, administrational and networking areas.
“We [at CIT] provide the majority of technology on campus,” he said.
Bucher emphasized that his new position at Educause will not take him away from the Oberlin information technology scene, but rather allow him to enhance his work here.
“Educause is a professional association, the premiere association [that] internationally...pays attention to IT issues. I was elected to the Board of Directors three years ago. I’m not changing jobs, I’m not picking up and leaving Oberlin. I’m [now] Chair of the Board, but it’s a volunteer position. It’s something that so many of us [in higher education] do for our organizations.”
Bucher’s duties as Chair will include finding and hiring a new president of Educause – current president Brian Hawkins intends to retire in mid-to-late 2008. He will also be responsible for “the good livelihood of Educause” and “pounding the gavel” at the organization’s quarterly board meetings.
Bucher expressed his pride in the organization: “I can’t imagine that people in this business wouldn’t go to Educause as the ultimate source of information. It’s a great tool and resource and essential for technology in higher education.”
Bucher expressed excitement over tackling the upcoming work: “I’m high on association participation,” he said. “It’s such a pleasure to meet with the 11 other members of the Board, who are all leaders in their fields. I learn so much at the conferences. It’s fun to hang out with such sharp people.”
Educause has a wide influence domestically and internationally. Although based in the United States, Educause has expanded to include many international members. In a recent October conference, over 50 countries were represented. The Washington D.C. office works to influence policy in regard to networking and telecommunications on Capitol Hill. However, their work mostly focuses on technology in colleges and universities.
“When Educause talks about the intelligent use of technology in higher education, they’re talking about using it to promote learning, not just to have it around because it’s cool,” he continued.
“Just because you have a Powerpoint presentation doesn’t mean it’s effective,” said Bucher. “Is the information organized correctly? Is it the proper information? Pay attention to subtle things like color and design too. Basically, technology must enhance the mission of the college or university.”
Bucher cited Blackboard as an example of technology put to effective use: “Sometimes it’s mundane, just for the syllabus, but some professors use the discussion boards and the distribution of materials.”
He also described the newest addition to several physics classrooms: the “clicker.” “They’re small devices with buttons labeled A, B, C, D and E. The professor can ask, ‘Hey, do y’all understand this?’ and the students can [rate their understanding] from A to E. There’s a real-time, anonymous feedback over how well things are working in the classroom.”
But the real technology work, according to Bucher, goes on “behind the scenes”:
“Whatever tech work you see is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s how it should be.”