lenn Platt received his Bachelor of Arts (with departmental honors) from the University of Florida and his MS and PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, graduating in 1993. He is currently the C. Michael Armstrong Chair, Professor of Marketing and has been Director of the Interactive Media Studies Program (AIMS) since 2000. Glenn is President Emeritus of the International Digital Media and Arts Association. Glenn, along with his colleague Prof. Lage, coined the phrase "inverted classroom" with a 2000 seminal work outlining the benefits of using technology to move active learning into the classroom and lecture outside of class. He has won the School of Business Teaching Effectiveness Award, the Associated Student Government Effective Educator Award, and the University's Knox Award for Teaching.
Director of Armstrong Interactive Media Studies and Marketing Professor
Intro: Welcome to Listen For Insight. I’m your host David Ternik. We have for you Glenn Platt, the director of the Armstrong Interactive Media Studies Institute at Miami University, and his insights on higher education and the creativity needed to change it. I send you now to our interviewer Ciera Gooden.
Ciera: Hi everybody, my name is Ciera Gooden. I am a junior at Miami University and today I have the pleasure of interviewing the director of the Armstrong Interactive Media Studies Institute at Miami University. His name is Glenn Platt. Glenn, welcome.
Glenn: Thank you.
Ciera: My first question for you is going to be, you have been the director for the last 16 years, what departmental programs or initiatives are you most proud of and what vision do you have for the future of the department?
Glenn: You know what I think I’m most proud of is, I think back on the past 16 years is the group of people that we’ve assembled to help make the program a reality. That the faculty and staff that we have are superb. And I know you asked me specifically about our programs, but I think at the end of the day, universities are about people more than programs.
Glenn: And if you design them right, the programs evolve and change but the people, you know, don’t, hopefully. And so, what I’m most proud of is the team that we’ve assembled, you know, that we have faculty that are experts in design, faculty who are experts in e-commerce and digital business, faculty who a leaders in games, and games and learning, and you know in a variety of different places in which technology is sort of helping to advance business and design frontiers.
Ciera: Absolutely. To follow up on that, what role do you think the internet does play in post secondary education? What can other educators from other departments be doing to acknowledge that role, to better teach the students?
Glenn: Yeah, you know, that’s a great question Ciera. I think, well, higher education, in general, has been changing really at sort of a snail’s pace. If you think back to the 1800’s at the original German model for education that today really still exists, very little has changed. And, what’s happened with the advent of the internet and related network technologies has been in some sense, the sand underneath being shifted much quicker than it ever had before.
Glenn: And, you know, I think higher education has been a bit slow to realize it, to be honest. I think they’ve been able to coast to some extent on a lot of their energy they’ve had up until this point in time. They’ve been successful; there are sort of legacy effects, and institutional effects. You know, there’s a metaphor I use sometimes when I’m talking about this and it’s not my metaphor actually, Daniel Quinn first coined it, but I think it’s really appropriate. He talks about how the early experimenters with flight, if you’ve every seen those old black and white movies, these people who had these machines that sort of flapped up and down with their arms or little things that spun around over their heads, and they would sort of get speed going down a ramp and kinda got off the edge of a cliff and they would start flapping, and that there was this period of time where you’re not sure if you’re falling or flying, and that’s where higher education is right now with respect to the internet. I would argue that we’re falling. But we’re so far from the ground that we don’t see it.
Glenn: Right, like there is a sense that ‘oh, we must be flying and all we need to do in response to all this internet stuff is just flap harder, right.’
Glenn: ‘And spin the things over our heads faster.’ But, the reality is that the game has changed completely. Like there is not one thing I can, I cannot not, I’ve got twenty bucks right now that I’m going to put on the table for you, twenty bucks that says there’s not one thing you’ve learned in a class this year at Miami University that is not available, that information is not available for free on the internet. Not one thing. There’s not one class you’ve had where you’ve sat there and someone has told you something that you couldn’t otherwise know. Right? And, I’m not sure higher ed. totally gets that, right. That the model it was built on, you know, prior to your birth, when people wanted to know something, there was actually relatively few people who knew it.
Glenn: Right, I mean, sometimes I talk to my son and I try to get him to understand that and it’s almost inconceivable to the new generation that for example when I was, even when I was your age, if I wanted to know like what was the capital of Uzbekistan; that would take a considerable amount of effort on my part. Like, it would take a nontrivial amount of effort. You know I would need to go to the library, maybe I could call somebody, but odds are I would probably actually have to go somewhere. And so you know universities made sense, for them to be these repositories of innovation. You would go and there would be you know that classic picture of a professor you have in your head with the patches on the elbows, smoking a pipe. Who, when you say tell me who is, you know where is the capital of Uzbekistan, they would tell you that.
Glenn: So knowledge was, you know one of my colleagues refers it as the difference between a stock and a flow. That knowledge was a stock, it was like a thing that would get sort of pushed into people’s heads and when you needed to get it you would go find these people and they would pull it out and give it to you. But what the internet changed was it made knowledge more of a flow variable, that knowledge is just all out there, it’s all moving past us. And so the game is not trying to find people who have it stuck in their head, who will pull it out standing at the front of the room while you’re taking notes. But rather, how do you tap into that flow of information that’s floating all around you. You know you could picture the end of the matrix and all those digits that are around you and knowing which ones to pull to get that information. That’s kind of what the game is now. But universities aren’t designed for that, universities are designed for the person in the front of the room who has all of the knowledge. You know the upshot of that is that our jobs as professors has shifted from being repositories of information to instead being experience designers. That my job is to curate an experience where you’re gonna tap into the right sort of internet based information or data base or it might not even be the internet but sort of technology driven opportunities and experiences. So in interactive media studies, what we’ve tried to do is we’ve designed this program and built it and make it more of an academic program situated toward the 21st century, where our faculty is not here because they know everything to know about something. But rather they are superb guides and curators of experiences for you, so that when you come to Miami it isn’t about somebody saying the very same thing you could learn from the internet in a classroom. But rather somebody that says you know hey sara let's spend time having you figure out how to design and run your own podcasts as a way to help prepare you for understanding your own future in public discourse. As opposed to standing in front of the room reading about Marshall McClugen and some kind of theory which is important and valid but there's no way you should be paying $30,000 a year for it.
Ciera: Right that’s excellent thank you. I want to move it a little bit into your professional and personal experiences. What are some maybe key moments where you were challenged to think creatively or think outside of the box to solve a problem and how do you think that worked out for you?
Glenn: Well, I mean, in keeping with our theme I think the challenge for me in thinking creatively has been around building interactive media studies. That we all recognized, back in 1995 when we started interactive media studies, we recognized that this was a new type of academic pursuit. That It wasn’t a classic discipline. Like say physics where you have a body of knowledge and you build on it and you become an expert in physics. But instead this thing that was starting to change the world, and we were the first program in the country that taught interactive media. This thing, it required this breadth of understanding. It required understanding in business and design and code and psychology and writing and communication, aesthetics and potentially a host of other disciplines like history. And that universities were not designed for that so, the creative challenge was so then, how do you do that? How do you create a program that as we are, is not in any academic unit. We’re not in business or arts and sciences or creative arts or in any of the colleges, we're in all of them and so sometimes I talk about interactive media studies a bit like people talk about life. We’re either a wave or a particle depending on how you look at it, we’re kind of like a department and were kind of like an academic division, depends on how you look at it and so we’ve had to create all kinds of new processes. So, not to get like to in the woods about how higher ed works right but even something as profound I think for higher ed as promotion and tenure becomes really complex for us. So the old university model you’ve got a department, you get hired as a professor into that department and to some extent the name of the game is about getting promotion and tenure
Ciera: Right yeah
Glenn: You know you get six years and either you’re fired at the end of six years or you’ve got a job for life, right, yeah you know assuming you don’t kill anybody or anything like that, right. So the way you get promoted and tenured, traditionally, at your university is that the members of your department vote on that promotion and tenure. But what my faculty do, what we all do, is transdisciplinary, it’s not really in a department. Interactive media studies is a department but we’re not in one of those colleges. So what we’ve had to do is create promotion and tenure by contract. So for example, Bob Deshuter, one of our fabulous professors who does work on games and aging, how old people play games, and by old people he means people my age. And when he comes up for promotion and tenure, even though he’s technically in the College of Education, you wouldn’t want him to just be judged by a bunch of education professors because they just know the education stuff. Which is great, but you’d also want someone who understands the coding he did, the computer science side of it, you want someone who knows the design part and the gerontology part. Right? And traditionally university structures don’t allow for that and so we’ve had to create a new promotion and tenure process where we have contracts that define interdisciplinary promotion and tenure committees that help us do what we need to do. That’s just like one example, so for us that’s creative. It may sound like bureaucratic in our team, but we’ve had to be really creative about the structures that universities have defined so that we can work here. Which is part of the fun.
Ciera: Yeah very innovative and very creative, and speaking of creativity and innovation, Glenn Platt is also playing a huge role in Miami Ideas which is a moniker used to reference the year of creativity and innovation. Anyone looking for more information on that can go to miamioh.edu/Miamideas. And so Glenn I wanted to ask what is your perspective on the purpose of Miami ideas and what is the scope? Is it changing, is it getting smaller, what’s happening there?
Glenn: Well the purpose for Miamideas was to do two things. First it was to highlight what a creative and innovative institution Miami is because I think externally our look and feel belies that a little bit like, if you were to walk on campus things are very traditional, the students are fairly traditional looking, right I mean it’s very classic, like people say that if you thought about what a college would look like in the movies, this is it. Right? Which is great but you would not sort of look at it as hotbed of innovation. You know there aren’t people walking around the quad with jetpacks and and doing the things at least visibly that you would associate with creativity and innovation. If you just peel back the surface a little bit and look at it all this is an amazingly innovative institution. You know we’ve been the first to do all sorts of exciting and innovative things. You know AIMS being certainly one of them, but by no means is the most important or sort of the most impactful. The university has a long history of being innovative, its faculty, its students its staff. And so we wanted to celebrate that, we wanted to create some mechanism for show the cool stuff that’s going on here and that it’s awesome. And the second thing we wanted to do was to help the university build a little bit of tailwind towards becoming even more innovative and creative and to set in motion something that would last long beyond the year of creativity and innovation, that would allow us to continue moving down that path. We’re working to build what’s called a creativity and innovation tool kit, which will be this online living document repository that will have creativity and innovation tips and tricks and tools and objects and things and videos. We’re doing everything from working to have a creativity and innovation RV, to creativity and innovation fellows who are coming and spending a whole year talking about these issues, as you know with graduation this year we have Sir Ken Robinson, he’s going to talk about creativity and innovation. We began the year with folks from second city, talking about how improvisation is a way to help build creative and innovative capacity. And so we wanted to try and pull out some of that and create the mechanisms for people to keep talking about creativity and innovation, to keep Miami moving forward.
Ciera: So speaking of Miamideas and all of these different styles of communication that you’ve had to leverage, and you did reference how it was a surprise to you how easy it was for everyone to talk to each other. What else surprised you about this process?
Glenn: You know the thing that surprised me the most, I think it’s the greatest takeaway from the Miamideas experience, has been how suddenly simply giving permission to be creative has just pulled people out of the woodwork. Like I keep hearing stories for example, there was one unit on campus that was having their annual retreat, and instead of their usual annual “Let’s talk about our mission and what our goals are for the year” they did this really creative scavenger hunt thing and role playing exercise. Like it’s just allowed people to be a little more, I don’t want to be repeating myself when I say be more creative, but it’s just be more, open about how they approach problems and how they think about what they do in their jobs. Which I think is awesome, and I think it’s fantastic, and it's everything that we’d hoped would happen and what I really hope continues though, is this sense of permission to be creative, like if there’s only one lesson that I’d like for people to take away from the year of creativity and innovation, it’s that we are always given permission to be creative and innovative. You don’t need a year, you don’t need your boss to say it, you don’t need a call for proposals, that creativity and innovation is always one of the cards that you have in your hand. Like always. And if we can somehow help the university adjust more that way so it’s not just let’s do something weird for our annual retreat because it’s this year, but let’s just do this always. Or next year let’s do something totally different like let’s all do one of those, what are those rooms where they lock you in and you’ve got to try to get out?
Ciera: Oh escape the rooms.
Glenn: Right let’s do that for our retreat. That kind of thinking, we hope continues. So that to me is both the most surprising thing which is that people felt that they needed that permission, but I think also that the most promising thing that if we can keep that sensibility alive, I think that it could have a profound impact.
Ciera: Awesome, that’s wonderful, thank you.
Glenn: My name is Glenn Platt, thank you for listening for insight.
Ciera: Thank you. And my name is Ciera Gooden, and everyone, thank you for listening.
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