Yesterday, the UK Board of Trustees voted to promote me (p. 14) to an Associate Professor with tenure effective on July 1. 

The sprawling UK campus, currently undergoing a billion dollars worth of redevelopment. 

The sprawling UK campus, currently undergoing a billion dollars worth of redevelopment. 

Six years ago, UK showed a great deal of faith in me by hiring a young, inexperienced professor that didn't know much of anything (honestly, that's about right). I'm happy to have fulfilled their expectations in such a way that has led UK to show even more faith in me by committing to more of a lifetime relationship. It is rewarding beyond measure to know that a public, flagship university feels so strongly about my work and what I can bring in return to the people of this great Commonwealth. I fully intend to continue to deliver on that trust and commitment. 

Thanks so much to the people of Kentucky, the administration of UK, and all my colleagues here.  Also, thanks especially to those that showed me the way: Martha, Tom, Suzanne, Lars, Brad, Rosetta, Eric, and so many more. Of course, my family had to bear the brunt of it all and they already know how I feel about them. 

It has been a journey of more than a decade of schooling, poverty, late-nights ... all with this endpoint always in mind. It occurred yesterday. It is now behind me.

With a quiet satisfaction now, life goes on.  

AuthorJustin Bathon

Yesterday I was in Prestonsburg, out in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, working with Floyd County Schools, a district that has been part of our Next Generation Leadership Academy over the last year. They are laying the foundation for the launch of a very ambitious initiative, the details of which will be released over the course of the next few months, but one that will change the future of that community.  

We must have done something right ... 

We must have done something right ... 

As we were driving back through the beautiful Spring air and greening forests this new sense came over me ... the revolution has started, at least in Kentucky. Exponential changes have been triggered, the result of which will be a revolution of our formal learning system for children. Of that, I am positive.

During my time here in Kentucky, we have been on a journey to lay the foundation for this change. We have journeyed from initial conversations between major stakeholders (I still remember fondly our dinners in the basement wine cellar of Portofino's restaurant with the still very new education commissioner at the time) to now a district like the team at Floyd County blowing me away, somewhat out of the blue. Concepts like mastery learning, performance assessments, standards-based grading, project driven instruction, 1:1 schools, blended learning, and personalized learning were rarely mentioned and not systemically understood by many folks, let alone under active implementation across the state. Now, I am so deeply pleased to report that not only are these concepts being talked about across Kentucky, but these concepts are going wild. If you think of those concepts as plants, we (many of us) have been busy laying the seeds of those concepts and nurturing some plants with a great deal of care and feeding to assure they bloom. But, I am confident that we are reaching the stage now that the seeds are spreading on their own. The ideas are bigger than anything we can control at this point. What a beautiful thought ... and one that will proudly serve the children of Kentucky for generations to come (brings tears to my eyes, honestly). 

Now, the work is still mostly ahead of us. Mastering mastery learning is a far way in our future yet and it will take years of struggle to get there. Technology, while much more of it is entering schools, is still a toy and not a tool in many places. Understanding and accounting for all the implications of these changes, from assessment to course credits to higher education to how to pay for it all, will take decades of additional work. Further, our arguments over petty things will continue to frequently get in the way and we must continue to fight to overcome the massive amount of turbulence we will face along the way (as a pioneer that is joining our team would say).

An "efficient system of common schools" is a goal, laid by our fore-fathers in 1891, that we have yet to obtain for every child. It is a goal, though, to which I am confident we are now undertaking a major new step toward achieving. A new Spring has sprung in Kentucky. 

UK's mens basketball team is in the final four again, so the attention of the national media is on UK this week. That's lovely and we always appreciate the attention, especially if we can translate that into stronger enrollments or other longer term benefits (acknowledging the direct money athletics provides to academics here at UK, which we greatly appreciate). 

Today, the New York Times ran an article on the Big Blue Nation's internet presence, in particular featuring Kentucky Sports Radio (a site that I enjoy myself). Matt Jones, the founder, claims: 

“No fan base has a bigger online presence than Kentucky fans,” Jones, the radio host, said. “That’s college teams and pro teams. It’s just massive.”

Whether or not Jones is exactly accurate (the New York Yankees or Manchester United might quibble, perhaps) the fact remains that UK Athletics has leveraged the Internet like no other college program in America. John Calipari himself, last year and probably still, has more twitter followers than all other College basketball coaches combined (and vastly more than college football coaches too, in case you are wondering). The Big Blue Nation can overwhelm internet polls or other online contests, as evidenced by the fact our fans almost put UK football on the cover of a video game even though our football is, let's say, not the best.  Also, the Big Blue (online) Nation is nothing to be messed with politically either as it has shown it can leverage pressure on politicians to advance the program.   

The Big Blue Nation United campaign has been the most effective integration to date of the massive online community supporting UK and our academic interests. 

The Big Blue Nation United campaign has been the most effective integration to date of the massive online community supporting UK and our academic interests. 

UK has leveraged the Big Blue (online) Nation in the past, most recently for renovations to Commonwealth Stadium, which were smartly packaged with campus upgrades to the Business College and a science building. The #BBNUnited campaign was extremely effective in utilizing the UK fan base to improve academic needs. However, once the funding was approved, that effort has fallen by the wayside and has not been used in subsequent funding requests (much to the delight of Frankfort, I'm sure).  

While I think the BBNUnited campaign should be sustained specifically , the larger point is that UK is in the unique position of having fully understood and leveraged the Internet for an element of our campus, arguably better than any other university in the world. While not all of that knowledge and skill in the athletic space is internal to the university (Matt Jones and KSR, for instance), it is part of our larger community here at UK. On the media side, I would argue we are already putting that knowledge and skill to some use on the rest of our campus, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Our Facebook page, for instance, currently has the 11th most followers just ahead of MIT and UCLA, but behind several of our SEC colleagues (although we could be doing a lot better on Twitter).

But, even if we assume our news department is doing a decent job, how are we utilizing the massive Internet presence directly for teaching and learning? I would argue that we are not, generally, putting the Big Blue Nation to work when it comes to our online learning opportunities or programs. In that area, in particular, UK is currently far behind. To put it in Final Four terms, if there were an NCAA tournament for online learning, UK would not have even qualified for the NIT. 

How can a school so digitally dominant in one area be so lacking in another? 

Thus, improving our digital teaching and learning presence is where we must focus. If we can bring the lessons of the Big Blue (online) Nation to bear, we could attempt to position ourselves as a learning resource for the millions of fans of the University of Kentucky both within the state boundaries and far beyond. Thus, as the Big Blue Nation fan base expands, those new Wildcats can be linked directly with academic opportunities wherever they reside on the planet. 

Of course, I must acknowledge, there has been recent movement in this direction. Our Board of Trustees has provided a clear message that online learning will be a priority in the coming years, although not specifically how it will be a priority. Also, we recently launched our first official Massive Open Online Course, in chemistry. Further, our technology unit at UK has quietly begun the conversation of a new structure for accessing online content at UK, including a very serious conversation about the right online learning management system.  

As we begin to think about improving our digital academic presence, though, we must approach it with the same passion with which our fans approach the Wildcats. Perhaps even more pointedly, we must also approach our online infrastructure with the same vigor with which we have approached our onsite infrastructure. Our president's office just announced that since his arrival in 2011, with the latest round of funding from the legislature, over a billion dollars will have been invested into upgrading our physical facilities. Consider if even half of that amount was invested into upgrading our digital facilities. 

When I am out working with local P-12 educators to build "Next Generation" schools, one of the first things we help them with is to understand what "great" looks like so that they may (1) understand how far away from it they might be and (2) consider how to set a reasonable course to get there. Here at UK, we already have an example of what "great" looks like in the digital world through our athletics program. What a lovely place in which to start the conversation about what "great" would look like in our digital teaching and learning world as well.

I LOVE whiteboards. For me they are a place between my head and paper. Things I put on a whiteboard are ideas worthy enough of writing down but not yet worthy of typing up formally. I know people can do this in lots of other spaces, like Evernote for instance, but for me the very visual and multi-colored whiteboard space is just the ideal way to go from ideas to projects. 

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The question I have is why are there not more whiteboards in schools? Sure most functional classrooms these days have a whiteboard in the front of the class behind the teachers desk ... but why only 1 whiteboard? Why not a whiteboard on every wall? Why not an entire wall of whiteboard? The walls are already white anyway in schools, why not make them both white and functional? Putting a whiteboard on every wall is almost as cheap as painting and is as cheap as drywalling. 

For that matter, why not put whiteboards on top of student desks? In the photo, this is my standing desk at work where I write down thoughts around the projects that I am currently working on. Why not let students build their own desks at school and let that desk customize to their own learning style? 

AuthorJustin Bathon

Is going to be held on Oct. 21, 2014, which is a Tuesday. It will be at the Lexington Convention Center again. Working to get a planning committee and initial scheduling in place now. 

AuthorJustin Bathon

So, I am writing again at the Edjurist. It has been a while since I felt a real commitment to it, but it came back to me sort of naturally. It feels good. I've been blogging on school law for over a decade now, so it feels great to be back at it. I imagine it is something that I will do the rest of my life in some form or another. 

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Just a few thoughts on how I feel about the Edjurist at this point so you have a sense of what to expect there from me. 

  1. The Edjurist is not going to cover every education law event that happens. I used to care/try to cover a bunch of them, but other people are doing that now (which is awesome). My good friend Mark Walsh at the School Law Blog covers most big events and does a great job with important federal and Supreme Court cases. A new LawProfs blog called the Education Law Prof Blog is also now doing a great job of covering the day-to-day issues. And, of course, other entities like NSBA still do a great job at LegalClips which has now transitioned to a blog format. All these developments since I started 10 years ago are awesome so I no longer feel any need to cover events broadly. 
  2. I'm not going to write much about "education policy." Most of the stuff that happens in the "education policy" space nationally strikes me as superfluous rubbish ... so I am not really listening nor talking about that stuff much anymore. I, of course, still care deeply about policy, even at the national level, I just don't think it is something that has to be treated like a sport with play-by-play announcers, offense and defense game plans, and all the other craziness that seems to have infected our education policy discussions in the United States. 
  3. I'm not going to force other professors to blog. The other authors at the site are all my friends. I care about them and I know they are busy. So, while from time to time I may tweak them to write a bit more, we are not going to be the Huffington Post anytime soon. They will write when they write. And, honestly, I will write when I write. 
  4. I like technology law ... so I am going to write mostly about that stuff. I know that appeals to a much more limited audience than education law broadly, but so be it. My days are spent with CASTLE, NextGen, and other stuff that keeps me working in the education reform/innovation/technology spaces ... so I am going to write mostly about that. When other stuff strikes me, I'll add that too. 
  5. That said, I am going to keep the Edjurist fairly law focused only. While I think our niche has changed over time, it is still an education law niche specifically. 
  6. I'm going to write shorter stuff and link up a lot of stuff I think is relevant or interesting. I used to spend about an hour on each blog post ... I just can't do that anymore multiple times a week. So, if you used to love my long-form style ... you will see less of that. If you want to unsubscribe because you do not like the shorter/link driven type stuff, I understand and I'm cool with that. 

I love blogging. I have since the day I started. My passions around blogging are heavily responsible for many of my current successes in life. I am sorry I went away from it for a while, but it is good to be back. 

AuthorJustin Bathon