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O’Reilly School of Technology 2013: Because It’s There

“The first American sighting of Pike’s Peak is often credited to members of the Pike expedition, led by Zebulon Pike. After a failed attempt to climb to the top in November 1806, Pike wrote in his journal:

…here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9° above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4° below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day’s march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its pinical [sic].”

 

People once believed that the 14,000-foot Pike’s Peak was insurmountable. It was finally scaled in 1820, and after decades more exploration, we now know it to be only one of the ultra-prominent mountain peaks in the US, coming in at 89th in elevation, and that all of them can be reached.

Once summited, the horizon from that vantage point inspired explorers, adventure seekers, and naturalists to continue to pursue higher elevations.

When I was tasked with writing a pre-O’Reilly School of Technology Summit piece, I became fixated on the word “summit.” It’s a pinnacle, the highest elevation. It seemed appropriate for us, because as a school we have explored and worked to find ever higher educational peaks if you will (you don’t have to, but please bear with me for a bit as I run with this metaphor).

When the school was founded in 1997, it was built on a foundation of knowledge and the experience of education innovators, Jerry Uhl and Scott Gray. Since then we have understood that in order to deliver an effective learning system to our students, adherence to the original Useractive principles is vital. The key to student success (and our own) has always been to deliver high-quality content, superior learning tools, and the diligent service of dedicated excellent instructors.

We’ve grown steadily since I began working with O’Reilly School of Technology in 2006. When I started, there were ten O’Reilly School of Technology staff members; we are now more than thirty strong. O’Reilly School of Technology instructors and staff work across the US and even farther. I’m looking forward to meeting some of them in person for the first time next week.

Our Summit is an ongoing process. We make no presumption that we have reached the highest point or any destination. The journey is never over. We endeavor to improve our school continuously, and never rest upon an imaginary mountaintop.

O’Reilly School of Technology Summits past have been fluid happenings where serendipitous exchanges help us figure out which tools and practices work, and which need to be revamped, improved or even invented to improve the school and the student experience. Balancing student preference and success with academic regulations, available resources (both human and non-human), and technical reality is a challenge. We continue to learn from our successes and also the missteps we’ll identify from the past year. Based on that experience, we recalibrate and plot our course going forward.

Our entire staff including our Course Instructors, IT and Software Developers, Students Services, and Course Development team will convene this Sunday at the O’Reilly School of Technology campus in Sebastopol, California. We don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to, so we’ll soak up as much of that rare human-to-human time as possible.

Starting on Sunday through November 8th, I will serve as your O’Reilly School of Technology Summit 2013 West Coast Sherpa (too much with that mountain metaphor? Okay then, I’ll let it go). Whether you’re an O’Reilly School of Technology student, an O’Reilly Media staffer, or you’re someone with an interest in how we continue to invent the online learning landscape, your participation is welcome. Blogs will happen if we find the time, but experience tells me that our O’Reilly School of Technology Facebook page and our @oreillyschool Twitter feed are infinitely more doable during #OSTSummit week. So please join us in those spaces throughout the Summit and get a behind-the-scenes look at O’Reilly School of Technology and the people who make it.