David Stephan

David and his colleagues have seen several generations of educational technology. David first built computing kits and experimented applying early home computers, the Sinclair 80s, Commodores, and Ataris of the world, to education. As personal computing matured, he bought PCs into a business school classroom, resisting the impulse to create a “computer lab” that was divorced from instruction.

One day, over thirty-five years ago, David posed the following question to his class of graduate public policy students.

“What if an interactive personal computer was combined with a cable TV system?”

David noted the Qube system, an interactive cable TV system, being phased out by a cable TV operator. His students understand the implication, later labeled by others as digital convergence. Of course, David nor any of his graduate students could perceive that, within 25 years, handheld, wireless boxes with more functionality than the Qube cable boxes would be ubiquitous. The future is funny that way, even when you are trying to anticipate it.

Being user-oriented has always marked David’s interactions with computer systems. Though a designer and implementer of systems large and small, and across multiple generations of computer technology, David has always asked “how best can technology serve us?” And that is all technology, whether old or “new” media.

In an academic career that spanned three decades, David first challenged data processing priests who insisted that regular people could not make informed decisions about information technology. He witnessed and taught about the disruptive organizational changes that personal computers were causing. He lobbied to teach introductory business students issues such as managerial resistance to technology and forward-looking concerns such as digital convergence during a time when the curriculum still included discussing the parts of a CPU, teaching binary code tables, and other technical minutiae.

Seeking better ways to incorporate instruction into the classroom led David to a novel interdisciplinary doctoral program where pioneers of what then was called new media helped David gain new insights about the role of affect in learning.

Chosen to participate as a leader in a special honors seminar whose theme was looking back at the previous 20 years. David’s prepared premise was that more and more we view the world through a “digital filter,” an intermediary between the real-world and ourselves that can cause distortions. Reflecting on his notes gave David a newfound appreciation of the role that data analysis plays in representing the world to us. This has led to his current interest in exploring how to teach statistics and analytics to a general business audience.

Most recently, the focus on the role that social media plays in the world made the “digital filter” premise relevant in ways David never imagined when conducting his seminar in the early 1990s. The future can be funny in that way.

See a list of David’s SEDSI and DSI annual conference presentations.