After 7+ years working for the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) late last year my decision to leave the organisation was announced. I will always be grateful for the support from Maren Deepwell (ALT CEO), the ALT Board, staff team and Members, for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful membership organisation.
My decision to leave was one I didn’t take lightly. The funny thing about global pandemics, for me anyway, is it got me reflecting on my life, where I was and what I wanted to do. There was part of me that would have been quite happy to continue with ALT. As a staff team and organisation there is a great culture, one that is both rewarding and supportive. As a membership organisation it is also very responsive to current member and sector challenges.
The question I was increasing asking myself was rather than just dealing with the ‘now’, what about the future? In 2016, I was invited to speak to students on the PgCert in Academic Practice at the University of Edinburgh. The talk I developed was entitled “Looking at creativity and culture in computer science to inspire better education” and initially based around the idea that:
Academic practice continues to evolve to reflect the needs and opportunities of various stakeholders including the learner, employers and the institution. Some would argue that university education isn’t changing fast enough given the pace of change within society and technology. We will explore strategies for developing an agile approach to academic practice, looking at how education can be ‘hacked’ to creatively overcome the limitations of the system. … We conclude taking a wider view exploring emerging pedagogies and technologies and how these might be used too to make education better.
I’ve revisited this talk in a number of different ways over the years. The work of Doug Englebart and ‘The Mother of all Demos’ is something I regularly reference, particularly, around the work I’ve done on ‘conversational interfaces’. The philosophy of another pioneer, Alan Kay, has also stuck in my mind. When writing my CMALT portfolio as part of my future plans I said:
As someone motivated by innovation in learning technology in some ways it is very hard to make future plans. Noted computer pioneer Alan Kay uses a quote from ice-hockey player Wayne Gretzky when reflecting on his own work: “[a] good hockey player goes to where the puck is, [a] great hockey player goes to where the puck is going to be”.
So where is the ‘education’ puck going to be? Fortunately, I’m not the only person asking this question and I’m delighted to finally announce that from March I’ll be joining the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) as their Learning Design and Technology Lead.
The purpose of the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is to pursue interdisciplinary knowledge that can help students and societies navigate complex futures. EFI is building an Education portfolio around a set of strong principles for teaching which address the futures of higher education, work, scholarship and society.
There are so many exciting aspects of this role which I feel impossible to convey in a single post. A key aspect of my role will be supporting the development of EFI’s advanced fusion model of learning, which is designed to combine campus based with other modes of study. As well as the role I’m also excited by the prospect of working within a wider institution that is forward looking, committed to diversity and its role within the community including civic responsibilities. I can also not ignore the opportunity to work with so many people I hold in the highest regard, whose work I’ve followed with interest over the years from a distance. Finally, I’m also looking forward to making new connections, both people and practice, and supporting the EFI vision.
I’ll no doubt be sharing more of my EFI journey here, but also encourage you to explore and subscribe to the work of the EFI – efi.ed.ac.uk.