#altc 2019 – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (5)

Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology \r\rALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh.\rDay two – Wednesday 4th September.\r\rwww.chrisbullphotographer.com

This is my second post reflecting on ALTs annual conference which was held last week at the University of Edinburgh. It is also the fifth in my open leadership series, where I share and reflect on my role of Chair of the Association.

Our annual conference is, as they say, quite a big deal. It’s the largest event we put on every year.  It is our main income generator and more importantly it is the point in the year where our community come together to share their research and practice. It’s a place for celebration for inspiration, for conversation, questions, critique and reflection.  Although the conference co-chairs provide the main leadership for the actual conference, the Board of Trustees has a role in selecting the successful bids for co-chairs and ensuring that the planning of the conference goes to plan. 

In terms of formal leadership and Association business, the conference is where we hold our AGM (the link takes you to all papers and reports from the AGM which are openly available). During the AGM here Board, led by myself, our President (Martin Weller) and Honorary Treasurer ( Daniel Clark) report back to our community through our annual report on the work and finances of the Association. Once again the Association has made great progress over the past year which is detailed in our annual report, and our finances are in a healthy position. Part of the role of the Chair is to take a lead in the writing of the annual report and support our CEO in ensuring that our annual report and finances meet our strategic objectives. Thanks to clear strategic objectives, a very hard working team, and in particular Maren’s leadership as CEO, and a supportive community, the writing of the annual report is actually one of the highlights of year. This year, following our keynote Jessie Stommel’s lead Martin, Daniel and I decided just to sit on the stage – despite appearances we didn’t break into song!

Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology \r\rALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh.\rDay two – Wednesday 4th September.\r\rwww.chrisbullphotographer.com

Our AGM is also where we announce the results of our Trustee elections. This year I was delighted to welcome Sharon Flynn and Natalie Lafferty to the Board of Trustees and to announce that Keith Smyth is our new Vice Chair.  I also want to thank outgoing Trustees Sarah Sherman and Nic Whitton for their valuable contribution to the Association.

Our CMALT ceremony is now becoming a regular, celebratory end to the AGM. I was delighted to be able to personally congratulate 20 new CMALT holders.  It is fantastic to see our CPD scheme continuing to grow and our new pathways of Associate and Senior CMALT gain traction.

We also held a face to face meeting of the ALT Assembly, which will be a staple part of the conference from now on. During the Assembly meeting we launched the consultation phase for our new strategy, and shared the many ways we are encouraging participation from our members and the wider community. So if you have any thoughts on where and what areas ALT should be developing and supporting please share them here.

The conference lasts 3 days, however the planning for it really does take 362 days. A huge amount of work is done by our core team (which I have to remind people is very, very small –  just 6 people – not all full time). Working with the venue to ensure we have the right space, tech, catering, accommodation and working with our sponsors takes up a lot of time.

Thanks also need to go to our conference co-chairs who ensured that their decisions around the conference themes and their choice of  keynote speakers set just the right tone for the event.  Of course, we need to thank our volunteer conference committee (100+ members this year), who once  again put in a huge amount of time reviewing papers and during the conference chairing sessions. Again, being involved in the conference committee is not only really fun and interesting, it is a great way to support the community and your own personal development.

This post is a very public way for me to to say a huge thank you to everyone who was part of the organisation of this year’s conference, as well as to all the delegates, presenters and keynotes who once again made the event such a success.

As well as the formal business of the Association, the conference is a point for celebration of our community. This culminates in our Learning Technologist of the Year Awards. This year we once again had a superb quality of entries across all the categories. And once again, huge congratulations to all our winners, they really do exemplify the diversity and richness of research and practice carried out by everyone involved in supporting learning technology. If you are involved in a great project, or a great team, then get working on your application for next year. Remember lots of senior managers love award winners!

This year we also awarded an honorary life membership to Frances Bell who has, and continues to, make a huge contribution to the ALT community and many other communities including FemEdTech

Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology \r\rALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh.\rDay two – Wednesday 4th September.\r\rwww.chrisbullphotographer.com

For me, the conference is where I get to meet our members, I have so many good friends in the community, it does really feel like coming home wherever the conference is being held. It’s also really important for me to speak to members and delegates I don’t know and I had many really engaging conversations with delegates. 

Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

As well as my formal ALT role, the conference is a key place for me to share my current work and practice. I was involved in 2 sessions this year, one with Keith Smyth around our recent book, and one with Stuart Nicol on the staff development resource for supporting online teaching we are developing for the University of Edinburgh. I’ve always found ALT conferences a really useful place to share my work and get honest feedback from my peers. It’s a really supportive atmosphere, and I think a really good space for those who are new to conference presentations to share their work.  

Community is at the heart of ALT, and really at the heart of my leadership of the organisation, so being part of the conference and being with so many members of our community really is a very special time for me.   It’s exhilarating but also quite exhausting – in a good way of course. As I enter the final year of my time as Chair, I’m already looking forward to next year in London. 

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