Context, criticality , community, collaboration, snapchat, shoes and space blankets #altc 2018

The words in the title kind of sum up my experience of the #altc conference last week.  What a week, I think I am still recovering – though in a good way!   As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the association,  my fellow Trustees  took over the conference co-chairing, with myself and Martin Weller acting as conference Co-Chairs.   Given the level of positive feedback I got in person on Thursday and all the very positive messages on twitter, I think our decision paid off, with many people saying that this had been the best ALT conference they had ever been to.

We didn’t want the conference to be a nostalgia fest, instead we very much wanted to take a critical look at where we are now in relation to learning technology and the challenges and opportunities that face us all.  We knew that our keynote line up was pretty fantastic, however they surpassed our expectations.  Starting with  Tressie McMillan Cottom,  the conference got off to a flying start with her focus on context – the devil is always in the context!

Amber Thomas on day 2 reflected on her 20 years  working “on the edge“.  Amber’s sharing of her differing contexts throughout her career resonated with many (including myself).   How timely to be remind of the innovation that comes from within our sector, the loss of funding opportunities (I am alone in wondering why so many developments have to become paid for services, or “industrialised”).  Learning technologists exist on the edges and intersections of many communities and that is a great strength but also a challenge for acceptance for being valued and recognised. ALT is a key platform for doing exactly that.

Our CEO Maren Deepwell gave the final keynote, where she gave a personal reflection – beyond advocacy; who shapes the future of learning technology?  Maren is in many ways the voice of ALT. She speaks for our community on many stages, so it was a personal delight for me to allow Maren’s own voice to be heard on this very special year for the Association.

This year also marks a significant point in terms the constitution of the Association. Over the past three years we have changed our charitable status, developed our new strategy, become a virtual organisation.  All of these milestones are providing a stable foundation for the Association to continue to grow and develop for the next 25 years and beyond.  At our AGM, members approved  a new governance structure which we hope will streamline and improve communications between our member and special interest groups and the board of Trustees.  As we work with the membership towards transitioning to this new, simplified structure, for the next year, Martin Well will remain as President, I will remain as Chair and Nic Whitton as Co-Chair.

As part of my role as conference co-chair and Chair of the Association I was delighted to be able to take part in our annual awards ceremony and give out some awards to our amazing winners this year.  A huge congratulations to all of the winners.  I also had the thrill to be able to award my former colleague Linda Creanor with our highest award, that of honorary Life Membership of the Association.  Linda has (and continues to) made an outstanding contribution to the Association.  In another first, I was also delighted to award Martin Hawksey with the inaugural Chair’s award for outstanding contributions to the community.

Throughout the three days I was struck by the strength of our community and the level of collaboration and criticality at all the sessions I attended.  Long may this continue, by working together we can shape the future.

No conference is complete without shoes, and I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for the amazing #shoetweets,

and a special thank you the Debbie Baff and Susanne Faulkner for their live snapchat tutorial on the train journey to the conference.   I can now filter (almost) with the best of them.

The only slight downside of my week was a fire alarm at my hotel on Tuesday night. However it did have a silver lining in the shape of a space blanket .  . .

I just want to say another huge thank you to everyone involved in the conference: the speakers, the delegates, the sponsors, the student helpers, the conference committee, the keynote speakers, my fellow trustees and the amazing ALT staff.  Until next next year in Edinburgh let this be the best #altc ever.


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