Personal Reflection on my first ALT Conference:
The 2018 Association of Learning Technologists conference was held in Manchester from 10-13 September, as it was both the first time I’ve attended and presented I was a little apprehensive about what to expect!
What I found was a really warm welcome from the conference organisers and all other attendees, many perspectives and approaches to the field of Educational Technology and some thought provoking keynotes and presentations, with plenty of engaging audience participation and the opportunity to ask questions.
The conference brought home to me what the breadth of “Educational Technology” can encompass, from my area of interest in the technology and its uses for learning and teaching within physical spaces, to the same within virtual spaces, to assessment and learning analytics.
Learning Analytics was a hot topic at the conference, with one presenter comparing it rather wonderfully to teenage sex: everyone is talking about it, no one really knows how to do it, but everyone says they are doing it, because they think everyone else is!
Some areas felt familiar to me from my IT and AV background, conversations about lecture capture and sometimes the disparity between Academic and Student perspectives, this remains a sometimes contentious and often misunderstood technology. People often wondering why we appear to be “having the same conversations”, but as one of the keynote presentations pointed out, we are a practice based profession and continue to develop and learn.
This came from the keynote by Amber Thomas (Head of Educational Technology at the University of Warwick) titled; 20 Years on the Edge, which in both title and content spoke to me, and has stayed with me in my day to day work. The role of an Educational or Learning Technologist can sometimes feel like you are on the edge and looking for a way into a conversation where you know you can add real value.
The keynote was rooted in both reflection, talking about the many skills a learning technologist may have (see my version of Amber’s slide on that above) and also practicality, about making sure our work is both timely and useful.
Amber also talked about the need to engage in the institutional management space, build bridges, and design services for the mainstream users, not just the early adopters.
“Recognise the Dead Bird” is a concept that will stay with me! That is being grounded in what is happening institutionally, and what your senior managers want – otherwise you may be bringing them a dead bird (which they will thank you for, then discretely dispose of when you’re not looking…..nobody wants to be that cat!!)
This keynote is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=294&v=-mJRi5_bYZM
Further reading and watching on the dead birds analogy courtesy of Lawrie Phipps here: http://lawriephipps.co.uk/?p=8422
The keynote made me reflect on both the practicalities of the institutional world in which I work and the challenges and sometimes triumphs of always moving forward, often along the edge of existing cultural norms to create change to benefit our whole community here at City, University of London.
Sheila’s Reflection on the Edge:
“You may fall down when you dance on the edge but edge is the source of all miracles and mystery.”
― Amit Ray, Enlightenment Step by Step