How a Parody Twitter Account Helps Decode the Hulking Educause Conference (And What to Expect This Year)

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Image Credit: @EDUCAUSE_HULK

It’s time once again for The Hulk of edtech conferences—Educause, which kicks off fully on Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif. It’s big, expecting some 7,000 attendees. It’s full of exhibitors with bold marketing claims. It’s trying to serve all kinds of tech leaders.

So who else to turn to for advice about what to look for at this year’s event than @EDUCAUSE_HULK, the long-running parody Twitter character who captures the spirit of the event with simple pronouncements in all-caps.

What’s his suggestion?

EDUCAUSE HULK #EDU16 PRO TIP! MAKE SCHEDULE NOW! FEEL GOOD ABOUT THROW OUT SCHEDULE WHEN THERE!

— EDUCAUSE HULK (@EDUCAUSE_HULK) October 12, 2016

Ok, that’s not very specific advice. So we decided to track down this heroic jokester for a more in-depth interview with the IT official (who we’ll keep anonymous, though you could track him down with a bit of Googling).

This year he expects anxiety about all the consumer devices students are bringing to campus, and how that keeps evolving. “We don’t even know what our computing devices are going to look like,” he said. Or as Educause Hulk put it:

EDUCAUSE HULK #EDU16 QUESTION! WHAT DEVICE PUNY HUMAN BRING TO ANAHEIM! ANY PUNY HUMAN SMARTPHONE ONLY! TABLETS! NOT TRENDY ANYMORE!

— EDUCAUSE HULK (@EDUCAUSE_HULK) October 14, 2016

When he first started the account in 2010, he told no one, and he snuck to corners of the conference center so no one would catch him in the 140-character act. But since he is active in Educause committees, he felt he had to reveal himself at the end of that first year. “On the surface this is a very absurd and almost childish thing, but people weren’t taking it that way,” he says of the account.

“It’s kind of uncovering some of the absurdity of what happens in higher education and higher education IT in particular,” he says of what keeps him taking on this alter ego every year. A key folly: “It’s the whole concept of the conference where we’re going to vendor parties and they’re wining and dining us and at the same time that money is what we’re paying them as vendors.”

As for which sessions he plans to burst in on: he says he looks for which speakers he wants to hear rather than the topics, and prefers panels and interactive sessions to solo talks.

Here are some sessions that caught our eye:

Wednesday (all times Pacific)

10:30 a.m. On the Leading Edge of Higher Education Innovation with Jeff Selingo (Arizona State University) and F. Alexander (Louisiana State University)

11:40 a.m. Improving Learning and Teaching with Learning Analytics: What Do Teachers Want? with Deborah West (Charles Darwin University)

2:30 p.m. Open Badges Update and the IMS Global Open Badges Extensions in Education Project with Brenda Perea (Colorado Community College System), Mark Leuba (IMS Global Learning Consortium), Anthony Newman (Purdue University), Jonathan Finkelstein (Credly)

2:30 p.m. Voice of the Student: A Unique Application for Student Feedback with Allan Morris (Southern Cross University)

Thursday

1:30 p.m. The Impact of Collaborative Tools: Lessons from Universities Using Google Apps for Education with Jonathan Rochelle (Google) and Leslie Dare (NC State)

2:40 p.m. Bringing Adaptive Technology in the Classroom to Larger Scale through Academic Collaboration with Thomas Cavanagh (University of Central Florida), Constance Johnson (Colorado Technical University) and Christi Ford (University of Maryland University College)

Friday

9:10 a.m. Cup of Gold: Designing and Developing a Virtual Reality Learning Space with Andrew Rechnitz (Southwestern University)

9:10 a.m. The California Community Colleges' Online Education Initiative: Rethinking Online Education at Scale with Pat James (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office) and Joseph Moreau (Foothill-De Anza Community College District)

EdSurge Sessions

Wed. 11:40 a.m. The Design Thinking Process: Edtech Adoption in Postsecondary Education with Allison Dulin-Salisbury (EdSurge) and Sunny Lee (EdSurge)

Wed. 2:30 p.m. PitchIt Challenge with Randall Albert and Jeff Schwartz (Ringling College), G. Henson and Phillip Long (UT Austin), Wendy Sutherland-Smith and Merrilyn Hooley (Deakin College), Jeremy Anderson (Bay Path University) and Jim Burnett (EDUCAUSE). EdSurge’s Jeffrey R. Young is a judge.

Thur. 9:10 a.m. Blending with MOOCs: How Multiple Institutions Are Using MOOCs to Improve Residential Education with Adam Finkelstein (McGill University), Michael Goudzwaard (Dartmouth College), Diana Marian (Boston University) and Allison Dulin-Salisbury (EdSurge)

Wed. and Thur. (remotely accessible) Future Trends Forum: Live from EDUCAUSE Bryan Alexander interviews half a dozen higher education leaders, including Brian Gardner (Columbia University Business) Cliff Lynch (Coalition for Networked Information) Jonathan Blake Huer (Skoolbo) Emory Craig (The College of New Rochelle) John O'Brien (Educause) Susan Grajek (Educause) Michael Berman (CSU Channel Islands) Casey Green (Campus Computing Project) and EdSurge’s Allison Dulin-Salisbury.

As for @EDUCAUSE_HULK, he now has fresh competition. Since last year there's a new parody account, @EDUcaustic, which is even more strident in mocking edtech. So far that author remains a mystery.

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