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Friday Q&A: Dave Konopka of HigherEdCamp

Edit: corrected date. Continuing in BarCamp Philly’s success, HigherEd is the latest in a long line of BarCamps that included HealthCamp and Technically Philly’s own BarCamp News Innovation. On June 6 at The University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Hall, HigherEdCamp will gather members of a large group of local universities to help foster collaboration between the […]

higheredcamp
Edit: corrected date.
Continuing in BarCamp Philly’s success, HigherEd is the latest in a long line of BarCamps that included HealthCamp and Technically Philly’s own BarCamp News Innovation. On June 6 at The University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Hall, HigherEdCamp will gather members of a large group of local universities to help foster collaboration between the typically fractured academic community, especially when it comes to technology.
Technically Philly sat down with Dave Konopka, a Web developer at the University of Penn and one of the event’s organizers. Konopka believes highly in Philadelphia’s role as a college town, and believes like many, that the technology industry is key to the city’s innovation.
We ask him why should the tech community should be interested in this event, how he got the usually rigid world of academia to support him and how he believes tech nerds can take advantage of our vast university system.
dk_profWhat problem are you trying to solve with this event?
Really, I just want to try to connect different schools and universities within the Philly area. Because schools seem to operate individually, even within a given university. But there’s a lot of resources, a lot of intelligence and a lot of effort at all of the schools. So we’re just trying to create some links between them and get people to share the different technology that they are working on.
Do you feel that they are operating within a bubble right now?
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a bubble. But it’s not always the most open environment. I think people are energized now and want to collaborate and want to work together. But there’s not always a venue to do that. Even in working at the University of Pennsylvania, working within one of the schools, it’s tough to even get to know people that work at other schools within the same university.
What do all of these schools have to gain by talking to each other?
Just to ramp up what they are able to do and learn from the experiences of other schools. The old model is: vendors come out and show you why their technology can help you. But at this point, people can learn from each other and piggyback on the achievement of other schools.
Academia can be a rigid environment, how do you think it will respond to the BarCamp open format?
The people that work with technology are more exposed to open technology such as social networking Facebook, Google Apps … People are sharing documents and working with each other in ways that didn’t happen a few years ago. Initially there were some people questioning, ‘Why would I come to this and not a more professional conference?’ But, in the end after you explain [the format] to people, they get excited about it.
Why is this of interest to the tech community?
Philly’s a college town. There are 20-some college and schools in the city. And there are a lot of resources at every one of those schools that makes it an engine for technological innovation. With time and hardware and networking, I think the tech community can make use of that and come up with some pretty exciting things for the city.
So you envision some sort of long term partnerships between the tech industry and the city?
Yeah, definitely.
What makes you Technically Philly?
I grew up here in the Northeast, went away for college in Syracuse and then came back to work for a couple of different companies. I just like the idea that Philly is a college town, and there are tons of schools within the city limits.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

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