Twenty Years on the Edge: Keynote at ALT-C 2018

On 12th September 2018 I had the great honour of keynoting at my favourite conference. The Association for Learning Technology Conference, #altc .

I shared my personal career history, mapped against Martin Weller’s 25 years of edtech.

work history

I didn’t include it in my talk but I did actually get carried away in my preparation and marked myself 0-3 on a spreadsheet. I also noticed that there were some missing: lecture capture, polling tools and learning space design?

25 years

Then I shared a personal Venn diagram (gotta love a Venn diagram) and admitted to a large dose of imposter syndrome.

Onto the main talk:

Disruptive Innovation is often assumed to come from the outside.

And yet there is lots of state-funded innovation

It’s not all commercial vendors and market forces imposed on us:
We’ve done some great things together: shared services, open standards, open source.

I’m particularly proud to have worked at Becta and Jisc.

We did a quick poll – I will find a screenshot!

HE is not unique
Maybe we should stop talking about how unique we are
Digital transformation is a thing!
It’s not just our challenge

Consider what we talk about vs what we do: we talk a lot about things like learning analytics, even though we’re busy doing work about VLEs and e-assessment.

You won’t get traction just because something is interesting to you
It has to be the right time

Yes, we’re still talking about it: some topics we talk about are issues of practice. Why should we stop talking about it, if it’s still useful to talk about it?

Change takes time. I gave an example from the “50 things that changed the modern economy series about electrification“.

So 2018 is the year of Critical Ed Tech? It’s hard to be an institutional learning technologist in 2018. Are we the baddies????

I then shared some thoughts on “How to be good institutional learning technologists”:

  • It’s not about the technology
  • But technology matters (and I quoted Anne-Marie Scott “maintenence is a thing“)
  • Money matters
  • Subject discipline matters
  • Evidence matters
  • Its not about perfect
  • Don’t design services for early adopters (and I quoted Kerry Pinny’s “silent majority vs deafening minority“)
  • Be the one to ask the stupid question
  • Recognise the dead birds (and I quoted Lawrie Phipp’s Dead Birds)
  • Recognise your power
  • Mediate gracefully: digital education is made of academic labour, we need to be respectful of our role in that. (and I quoted Melissa Highton on lecture capture and strikes)

Institutional learning technologists should be ethical, respectful and most of all: useful.

My final thoughts were that perhaps the edges are where we learn, and where we are useful, and perhaps we are not one field. But i think we are important to the future of education.

And here is a fab sketchnote by James Clay:


I really enjoyed doing the Keynote, and thanks to everyone who has responded in person and on twitter, I hope what I had to say resonated!


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