#OERxDomains21: Just what does it means to be open?

In the final keynote of the #OERxDomains21 conference, Rajiv Jhangiani asked what does it mean to be open?  After 2 days of sharing, caring, questioning, laughing, at times crying, it was timely reminder that “open” is a multifaceted concept and the practice(s) of open education manifests itself in many ways, and is deeply contextual.  Open educational practice, is as Catherine Cronin so beautifully put it back in 2017a constantly negotiated process.”

As with all conferences (and all other delegates) I had to negotiate and navigate my way through the conference programme and online spaces over the 2 days. I have to confess that at the conference committee meetings when Jim Groom was explaining the broadcast concept of the conference, I didn’t quite get it. But I had faith that it would all be OK.  I just didn’t realise how OK it would actually turn out to be. 

Online conferences are different from face to face, it is harder to connect, to get that “conference buzz”.  I thought ALT did an amazing job last year in extremely rapidly pulling  together the online version of OER20. However this year, the conference platforms were at another level. The combination of Streamyard, Youtube, and Dischord worked  really well. I’m sure I missed a lot of the functionality of Dischord, but I managed! And I did get a real sense of live, hallway chats.

So congratulations to the Reclaim team and ALT for realising an almost seemless online  experience.  I have never chaired a session with an online “producer” before. Having someone dealing with countdowns, pulling in questions from the youtube chat was amazing. I have to say I kind of never want to not have one again!  The way that the “backstage” area for all presentations worked was amazing, and I’m sure some will be share in more detail elsewhere.

Of course any conference is not just about the location. What makes any conference work is its community. It’s what we,  the people,  do in the spaces (online or physical) that makes the difference. People not technology make conferences work. I think it’s fair to say that there is quite a core OER community and quite a bit of crossover between it and the Domains community.  The community aspect of the conference is one of the reasons I keep paying to go to OER conferences. It’s a vital part of my CPD – I don’t have any office buddies to talk to everyday. As we all know, open isn’t free and this is one dose of openness I am more than willing to pay to support. It’s a bit like an extended family reunion.  But we can’t let ourselves become a complacent, clique. We always need to ensure we are welcoming new people to the fold.

This year, there was a very necessary and needed focus on care. It’s been quite a year. People are tired, and need the support that a conference can provide such as sharing different approaches to open pedagogies of care, of social justice.  Brenna Clarke Gray talked about the “tricky truth about care” and the way (institutional) structures are actually indifferent. Where are the structural changes to institutional systems that are truly based on care?  Weekly wellness emails don’t really cut it and don’t deal with the moral stress that so many staff are dealing with.  Developing resilience is a sign of institutional, structural failure not personal failure. I really can’t recommend watching the recording of Brenna’s session enough.

Of course structural change is hard,  but if we can’t take the time to change things now after a global pandemic then when can we? I do have a sense that in HE  we are moving into a future that is being driven by narratives that aren’t based on the contextual realities of learning and teaching right now but more on neoliberal views ofwhat education should be and rosy tinted views of “getting back normal.”

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of phrases like Education 4.0 but I was intrigued by a session called University V is alive! Now open to the cruel and the dead, from Eamon Costello and Prajakta Girme. After finishing day 1 with the marvelous remixed and bingo infused keynote from Laura Gibbs, this was a stark contrast.  Whilst Laura shared a wonderful set of student created stories, Eamon and Prajakta  used a speculative fiction approach to present an unsettling, dystopian view of the open day for  University V,  34 years from now. Kudos to Eammon for his delivery, use of music and mix of visual artefacts and effects to create an unsettling start to day 2. We began to understand how every entrant to University V was indeed a number related to all family numbers and their behaviours that related to points, and value. There were intriguing clues as to who Professor A might be, how she(?) had changed her name to get “to the top”. As Eammon pointed out in the the Q&A the truth is really stranger than fiction, and we don’t have to go to far to discover what others might think only happens in fiction is actually happening in real life.

This came starkly to mind during Jasmine Robert’s powerful keynote. Jasmine’s honesty about her own trauma in the context of the reality of the the Derek Chauvin murder trial was a stark reminder of structures of oppression and who still controls the dominant media narratives. It’s not a huge jump at all to see Professor A as a person from a black, ethnic minority background who has manage to game and play the system to get to the top and protect her/him/they? (because we don’t really know Prof A’s gender) anonymity. The narrative of University V might be very different if it were written using non global north images and based on an alternative historical perspective.

Social justice was a critical theme across the conference, and both Jasmine and Rajiv highlighted it in their keynotes. Both stressed the need for us to let the under-represented voices be included, to support open pedagogies rooted in care and love. Part of that care is to recognise that not everything can or should be open. We need to create safe spaces for our students to have critical conversations, to help them develop their own voices, introduce them to a range of sources – not just “the white men”, and then give them the choice of where, how and when they want to put themselves in the open (as Laura’s keynote illustrated).

As ever it’s so hard to condense a conference experience into a blog post. From the opening plenary discussion keynote, where all the speakers rooted the conference in our current reality, OER x Domains 21 was, for me a very timely and necessary experience. Timely as it’s a year into the pandemic and teaching remotely, necessary as we all need to have space to get together, to share our stories, to learn from each other, to show our support and care for each other in a different space.

For me the overriding sense was of community, of care, of open humaneness (thank you Tutaleni Asino) of focusing on what really matters “we are teaching students not content” as Jasmine Roberts reminded us ; we are not humans “doing”, we are humans “being” said Glasgow College Student President Nicolas Garcia, in the opening plenary keynote . We might still be figuring out just how we can “be” in these still unsettling times, but open education, social justice and care are all great navigation points for this journey.

Many thanks to all the co-chairs, the organising committee, ALT and Reclaim staff , keynotes, presenters and participants alike for creating another great conference. Yes, collectively we all indeed did “do it again”. And it’s not over yet! There are workshops next week so do check them out. I’m delighted to be part of one around the potential future for BYOD4L. Wendy Taleo and Sarah Honeychurch invited everyone to contribute to an open zine in their Collective Hope short recording session. So here’s a little montage of some of my visual highlights.

Open leadership: legacy and succession and a farewell to my time as #altc Chair

This is my final contribution to this series of posts where I have tried to share some of what I consider to be the key aspects of leadership in my role as Chair of ALT. You can read the other posts, here, here here and here.

My tenure of Chair comes to an end at the AGM on 24th June. This is slightly earlier that I had anticipated at the beginning of this year. Normally our AGMs occur during our annual conference in September, but of course due to the current global pandemic we have had to cancel all our face to face events for the rest of this year.  Moving the AGM online and to an early date is another in a series of rapid changes ALT has had to adopt over the past few months.

However, this move could actually set another precedent for the AGM as it might actually make more sense to keep it decoupled from any conference/event, and run it online. We are hoping that it might actually be easier for more of our members to join online. And of course the AGM is open to all – not just our members.

When Martin Weller ( current President) and I wrote this blog post as part of the recruitment for the new Chair, we could never have anticipated the enormous changes the world has gone through in the last few months. However, as I say in our annual report which will formally be presented at the AGM,  ALT has managed to negotiate these unprecedented times in, what I consider, a positive and agile way.  I would love to say that this was all down to me and my leadership – but of course it’s not just down to me 😉  Our CEO Maren and our CIO Martin as well as all the core ALT staff have risen to the challenge of almost completely rewriting work plans and adapting core business in response the changing times.

One, if not the, key reasons they were able to do that successfully was due to the changes the organisation has gone through over the past three years. When I took over as Chair, ALT was in the process of changing its charitable status, its governance structure ( I am the first Chair to serve a 3 year, as opposed to 1 year term), and crucially becoming an independent, virtual, distributed organisation.   ALT staff didn’t have to pivot to online – they were already there.  No zoom revolution needed.  The speed of decision making over the past three months has been rapid to say the least.  

Our governance structures have allowed us to react in a timely, yet considered manner. Ensuring that the interests of our community are continued to be served and our finances are still in a positive position.  That is no mean feat. The commitment of all our Trustees who have attended extra meetings in the midst of their own challenging and changing contexts has allowed us to ensure the stability of the Association and support our core staff. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to lead and work with all the Trustees during my time as Chair.

It has also been a pleasure and a privilege to work with all the ALT core staff – not just over the past three years but over the six years I have been on the Board.  Maren and Martin are of course the faces most members know (and love), but they are supported by Jane, Fiona, Debbie, Emma Jane and Jane (currently on maternity leave). They really are a great team.  One of the things I was really keen to during my time as Chair was to connect the Board and the staff more, so there wasn’t a such a gulf between “the Board” and “the staff”. As I see it, we are all part of the core team and I have particularly enjoyed joining team meetings.  Once again I want to thank all the ALT staff I have worked with over the past three years.

It’s hard, actually almost impossible, to pick  highlights from the past three years, there have been so many. But the 2018 Annual conference which marked the 25th anniversary of the Association was special as I was one of the co-chairs and we took the opportunity to focus in on ALT itself a bit more. However, every ALT conference is special each one holds a special place for me.  I remember going to my first ALT conference (a long, long time ago now);  it never crossed my mind that I would ever be on a stage as a co-chair of an ALT  conference or indeed be the Chair of the  Association – just shows you kids – dreams can come true!  Over the past few years, being able to present new CMALT holders with their certificates at the conference has also been a highlight. It’s great to see so many people taking the time to get professional recognition for their work and of course, become part of the CMALT community as well as the wider ALT community too. 

The ALT values are very dear to me, particularly community. ALT is, and always has, been more than the sum of its parts. If I leave any legacy I would like it to be that clear focus community. Without our community we are nothing. If it’s not clear how what we do serves our community we shouldn’t be doing it.  Of course sustaining and growing a community is a constant challenge – particularly when you have a such a diverse membership as we do in  ALT.  

However, our steadily growing membership over the past 3 years is testament to our focus on supporting the needs of our community by the work of our core ALT team, and of course all voluntary work the members who run and contribute to our range of special interest groups ALT supports.  

Over the past 3 years I believe our communication about what we do continues to  improve.  The launch of the 2017 – 2020  Impact Report earlier this year was a particularly highlight for me as I believe it so clearly illustrated the huge range of work ALT has supported over the past 3 years, and the robustness of our last strategy. I hope this is the first of many such reports.

Although we have a diverse community in the sense of the range of job descriptions our members hold, we of course can do much more to support wider diversity and equality. We are making inroads, but there is a still  a way to go.  I am acutely aware of how our membership reflects the imbalance of ethnicity and gender that is prevalent across the UK eduction sector – particularly HE. I believe that ALT community is an inclusive one, and has a place for everyone involved in promoting the use and impact of learning technology. I also know that it is easy for me to say that from my position of white privilege. That said,  I do believe that the work ALT does to support open education, research and reflective professional development does provide multiple platforms for our community to critically reflect on its context and, help to promote and support increasing diversity and inclusion. If there is more we can do or a different way we can do things, then there is an open door to anyone with ideas.

So as I end my time as Chair, I am very optimistic about the future of ALT. The sense of community has shone through over the past few months, with so many resources and so much advice being shared openly. We were able to rapidly provide spaces for much needed community support in a time of confusion and crisis for all.

So whilst I’m obviously a bit sad about leaving the role which has been such a large part of my life for the past 3 years I do feel it is a good time for me to hand over to someone else.  I have no doubt that the incoming Chair, Helen O’Sullivan will be able to lead the Association and bring so much of her experience and knowledge to the role as ALT implements its new new strategy.  I know Helen is committed to our community and all of our core values, and will be supported by a very able Board.

A key part of leadership is knowing when to move on, and feeling confident about doing that – which I do. Of course I won’t be disappearing completely, I will still be an active member of the ALT community – particularly,  as part of the ALT Scotland team, and as a CMALT assessor.  

I have always felt a huge sense of privilege and gratitude to the ALT community, firstly for voting me onto the Board and then for supporting my nomination as Chair. I hope over the last three years, that trust in me and my leadership has been fulfilled. It’s been an amazing experience. To paraphrase the words of Benny and Bjorn; I’m nothing special, but leading ALT has been one of the most special and rewarding experiences of my professional life. So thank you for the music ALT, and so, so much more. 

My #OER20 bowl of soup

One of the main visual icons for the OER20 conference was a can of soup. It’s a really clever visual metaphor which encapsulates the theme of the conference – care in openness.

What could be more caring than a  lovingly made bowl of warming soup? Chicken soup for the soul etc.  However, the image of a can of soup also brings connotations of industrial scale production, commodification, mass consumption, our (global North)  throw away everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, disposable culture.  As conference co-chair Mia Zamora highlighted, the image of the can of soup neatly encapsulates many of the challenges around open education, and in particular care in education, research and related practice.

Now, I have to say I hadn’t really thought of soup in this way before.  To be honest, I’m not that keen on soup. This is in part due to a mini act of rebellion on my part when I was a child. My parents owned a farm and there was always a pot of soup (typically vegetable broth) on the Aga. The soup, along with countless other dishes, was regularly made with care by my Mum to feed the myriad of people that were working on the farm at various times or who just happened to pop in  – we had a very open kitchen policy!

Everyone loved that soup. So, I think that mini me must have decided that at some point that  just to be different I would not.  I don’t like what I call “bit soup” – so any soup that I can see the bits of veggies or whatever, is generally a no go area for me.  Lucky me to have had the privilege of having access to enough food to be a fussy eater. 

I did however, like one kind of soup – the No. 57 variety that came out of a can. To this day It’s still my favourite soup.  The conference has made me reflect on why that is. Why did I prefer a mass prepared, out of a can experience to the craft, homemade kind? A child’s craving for artificial flavours aside,  I realise it really didn’t have anything to do with the soup, but it had everything to do with care.

 I only ever really got “my soup” when I wasn’t well, when I really couldn’t or wouldn’t eat anything. Quite often it came with with a buttered soft, white roll alongside it. It was “made” with care by my Mum. A visible yet invisible act of love for a sick child, that never failed to bring comfort and in its own way, nourishment.  I still associate a can of tomato soup with a warm hug, with safe places, healing and comfort. There were a number of times when I was really quite ill as a child and tomato soup was always a signal of recovery. 

This seems to echo some of the conversations and experiences around open education, and indeed education in general.  It’s how we show care that really matters. It’s so easy just to “throw a can of soup” at someone, rather than open it (even show people how to open it), heat it up, put in a bowl, garnish, remix, extend and share and most importantly create a safe space to help people to do the same, to share their favourite soup too and, where needed allow people create their alternative to soup.

Over the past 2 days at the OER20 conference I have experienced that same feeling of a warm hug, that soup always brings to mind, many times over.  We are all living in a vary strange time with the COVID crisis. Moving the conference online was a risky, but necessary step which has exceeded all expectations. 

Over 1,000 registered for the event. All the live sessions were packed with people. The emotional connections were palpable. Watching videos like France’s Bells story of the making of the FemEdTech quilt of care and justice reduced everyone in the session to tears. Similarly, during sava saheli singh’s keynote collectively watching Frames made everyone reflect on surveillance, the current impact of social and physical distancing in ways that extended the original premise of the script in totally unforeseen ways.

The KaraOERoke was emotional too – but possibly at the other end of the scale. A great example of having fun whilst physically distancing but really socially connecting and having fun. We so need to ensure that we have fun – that’s a huge part of caring too.

I’m still digesting all my experiences of the conference, and I’m so glad there is an even richer set of OER resources to go back to. For now tho’, I think I am going to find a tin of tomato soup and be thankful for that open hug everyone in involved in the conference from the Co-Chairs and conference committee, to the presenters, the participants, and of course the amazing ALT core staff team who managed the online transition so smoothly, have given me. 

Open Leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (4) #altc

In this, the fourth post sharing my reflections and experiences of being the Chair of ALT I’m going share a bit more around strategy development.

alt strategy graphic - greater than the sum of our parts

Having a clear, meaningful and attainable strategy is key to the success of any organisation. However, I’m sure we have all at time experienced the gap between visions outlined in strategies and the realities of day to day practice. Some strategic aims can be so vague in aspiration that they are almost meaningless.

With ALT having such a small core team it is vital that our strategic goals are really SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebased). It is the job of the Board and the Chair in particular to ensure that the organisational strategy does actually represent and meanigfully articulate the needs and aspirations of the membership as well as provide realistic targets for development.

Our current 3 year strategy lifecycle ends in 2020, so we are now making plans for the development of a new strategy. I was Vice Chair when the current strategy was developed. At that time the Board were very keen that the strategy represented the views of the membership. So the Association created multiple ways for members to contribute to its development. I co-led with the then Chair (and now President), Martin Weller, a series of community webinars to get views and feedback from our members. I found these sessions, and all the other inputs shared by members, invaluable as a way of really understanding members views and needs. Some of them we could easily integrate into the strategy, others were out of scope.

These sessions were followed by a facilitated session for the Board of Trustees by Bryan Mathers (Visual Thinkery). In this session we discussed the findings from the community consultations, our own views and those of ALT staff. The visual record of the session was invaluable in terms of bringing focus and a distillation to the wide ranging discussions. It made the writing of the strategy that bit easier, and also allowed an opportunity for us to work with Bryan to develop a really strong visual identity for the strategy, which has we have used to create an open resource that clearly explains who we are, what we do and why we do it

The current strategy has been a really active and useful document that all the work of the association is measured by and related to. As Chair, I cannot stress how important it has been in terms of guiding my leadership. It has been incredibly satisfying to see the Association grow and flourish over the past 3 years, and that has largely been down to having such a strong, concise strategy that all our work directly relates to, and stems from.

Developing the new ALT strategy will very much be my legacy, as my term as Chair will end in September 2020. The process will start at our annual conference in September this year. Of course with the ALT Assembly up and running now, it will play a core role the consultation process this time around. I am really looking forward to developing our next strategy with our members firmly at the heart of the process.

Open leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (2) #altc

As the nominations for ALT trustees are now open, in this post I am going reflect more on the general duties and responsibilities of a being Trustee. (In the first post in this series I reflected on the staff development aspect of my role as Chair of ALT).

Why would anyone want to be a Trustee of ALT? We’ll if you are reading this post, there is a fairly high chance that you know about ALT already, are a member (either individual or through your institution’s organisational membership) and so are part of the ALT community. The Board of Trustees is just another level of community involvement. Our community is at the heart of what we do, and the community element of the association is at the core of my tenure as Chair.

Certainly, it is the most formal part of the community, in that as a registered charity ALT needs to have an official board to oversee all its activities and comply with all the relevant legal requirements as laid down by the Charity Commission. All Trustees have responsibility to ensure oversight of all the workings of the association, including its finances. As Chair, it is my responsibility to ensure that due diligence in relation to all our formal and legal procedures are being adhered to, that the work of the association is related to, and supports our strategy and our values.

However the reality of being a Trustee is not about formal, stuffy board meetings, with endless “I refer you to section 2.4 of the paper 9 . . .”. It is much more engaging (and interesting). The Board meetings are where the Board, with the senior ALT Staff review progress, discuss plans and generally ensure that ALT is working in the best interests of its members and wider community. To get an idea you can review the minutes of previous meetings.

The practical elements of being a Trustee are outlined here, but the main thing is to be able to attend the face to face meetings. Of course, you don’t have to attend them all, many of us have joined meetings remotely – and having a Trustee based in Australia means that an element of remote participation is a given just now. However being able to attend the meetings is really important, so if you are thinking about putting forward an nomination, just check that you can get the time to attend. ALT cover travel expenses, so in ever shrinking budgets that is one less thing to worry about. I should point out that Trustees, like all other members, have to pay to attend our annual conference and the OER conferences. We also have monthly update calls with ALT staff, which all Trustees can attend but don’t have to. These meetings really just keep us updated of activities/issues in between board meetings. Again in my role as Chair, I do have to attend and chair those meetings too.

There are a range of activities that Trustees can get involved in, many are already involved in various ALT committees, SIGs, the journal etc. ALT is increasingly being asked to contribute to various panels, or respond to wider surveys. Again if you have a particular interest then you can get more involved in a range of activities. But be realistic about the time you have to commit. I have never found the time commitment onerous, but then again I have been careful not to over commit. Being Chair does have more time expectations, but again I have not found that an issue. Partly that is due to the fact that we have a very capable and organised staff team.

It is important that the Board has a broad cross section of membership to ensure that we can, as much as possible, represent all our members. We currently have a relatively diverse board, however there are still significant steps we can take to improve that.

Over the next year we will be developing a new strategy so that will take up a lot of time, and actually is a really exciting time to get involved as the new strategy forms. You have until June 10th to submit your nomination. And of course if you would like to know more or have an informal chat about being a Trustee then please just get in touch.

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.


25 things I’m looking forward to at #altc

photo of alphabet letters

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

In the run up to the ALT conference next week  as it’s the 25th anniversary of ALT  I thought it might be fun to share 25 things I’m looking forward to at the conference.  As my little brain was trying to think of a good way to organise these things, the alphabet sprang to mind. Now I know what you are thinking, dear reader, there are 26 letters in the alphabet . . . however, it seems that sometimes 25 can be 26 and who am I not to follow the example of my co-chair.

So,  here are 25 things I’m looking forward to at the #altc conference 2018.

  • a is for  ALT, the association itself
  • b is for blogging – there has been a steady stream of pre conference blogs, but I’m really looking forward to the ones that are published during and after the conference
  • c is for criticality, one of the themes of the conference and central to practice and research
  • d is for debate, I’m sure there will be many across the three days of the conference
  • e is for education, in all its guises
  • f is for fun, every conference needs a good bit of fun
  • g is for Gasta, a new feature inspired by our colleagues in Ireland
  • h for hashtags, as well as #altc look out for others including #femedtech
  • i is for inspiration, I know I will be inspired by my peers throughout the conference as I am at every #altc
  • j is for juggling, I will be doing a lot of this in terms of what I am doing at the conference but I apparently I may also be attempting to actually juggle
  • k is for kudos, lots of this will be shared throughout the conference
  • l is for listening, I will be listening intently to all the sharing of practice, knowledge and research at all the sessions I can get to and of course during the keynotes
  • m is for music, I am looking forward to the live music at the reception at the end of the first day and at the gala dinner
  • n is for network, the conference is such a good way to catch up with your network both face to face and online
  • o is for optimism, the alt conference always provides me with optimism about the difference that people and learning technology can make
  • p is for playlist, if you can remember it, are your favourite tracks from 1993 (the year LT was founded) in this playlist?
  • q is for queues, there are going to be over 400 people at the conference, we may have to queue at times but what a opportunity to have a chat with other delegates
  • r is for reflection, I know I will be doing lots of this during and after the conference
  • s is for shoes – ’nuff said. I am of course looking forward to the #shoetweets – though why everyone associates me with shoes I really don’t know . . .
  • t – is for tea, a good cuppa is an essential part of any conference
  • u is for understanding, every year the conference extends my understanding of lots of issues
  • v is for Virtually Connecting, I’m delighted that we are hooking up with Virtually Connecting again for some virtual sharing with onsite and online buddies
  • w is for web, the web a key technology for face to face and online participation in the conference
  • x is for, well if I leave this one out it does mean I have 25 things . . .
  • y is for Youtube, if you can’t make the conference in person all the keynotes and a greater number of session than ever before will be streaming and available on youtube
  • z is for zzz, we’ll all need a wee bit of a rest on Thursday night


2018 ALT Annual Conference – will you be a part of it?

picture of ALT logo

So this post is a blatant plug of this year’s ALT annual conference, being held in Manchester from 11 -13 September.  The ALT conferences are always a highlight of the UK (and increasingly international) learning technology/ educational development year. But this year is going to be even more special as it’s ALT’s 25th birthday, and not only am I the Chair of the Board, I am also co-chairing the conference with our President and my good friend, Martin Weller.

I can’t even being to express how excited Martin, myself and the whole conference committee are about the keynote speakers – Tressie McMillan Cotton, Amber Thomas and Maren Deepwell. The submissions for the conference have been of an amazingly high standard too, so it looks set to be probably the best birthday bash of the year.  Early  bird registration has just opened – so if you do want to come to the conference, and let’s face it why wouldn’t you, then head over to the conference website to get all the details.



What’s going on? Findings from the ALT Annual Survey #altc

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The final report and data from the 4th ALT annual member survey are now openly available from the ALT open repository.  The data and report provide a really rich picture of the priorities and practicalities around implementing and supporting technology in education across the UK.   This year it is very interesting to note the growing importance of staff development and professional recognition opportunities in terms of enablers for the use of learning technology.  If you really want to know what is going on, where the immediate future is now then I would suggest that you have a look at the findings of the survey.

VLEs, e-assessment, blended learning are top priorities this year, and have been consistently. Why open education has taken a drop in priorities is something that I’m sure will be debated at #oer18 and at this year’s #altc conference in September. (NB There’s still time to submit to the conference, the deadline is 8 March).

Part of me wants to believe it’s because open educational practice and resources are now embedded and part of mainstream practice. However, another part of knows that it’s not quite that simple. Open-ness is often the first thing to get overlooked if there isn’t serious senior management commitment.  I don’t think we have hit the sweet spot where the bottom up open practice that I see many people participating in has met a top down, sustained institutional, sectoral/ government level of support.

I want to highlight the richness of data that is now openly available via the survey.  Please explore and use it,  and encourage your colleagues do the same.



Walking the walk, ALT, independence and open-ness #altc

One of the most exciting things to happen in my professional life over the past six months has been becoming Chair of ALT (Association of Learning Technology), the UKs largest  professional membership organisation supporting the effective use of learning technology.

After the successful launch of our new strategy last year, the Board of Trustees and the senior staff of ALT began a process of exploring if ALT could become a truly independent organisation.  I am delighted to say that after a lot of hard work from all the ALT full time team,  ALT has now achieved that ambition. It has now transitioned from a largely office-based team into a distributed, home-based workforce and to set up virtual operations fit to meet the changing requirements of the association and our membership.

This has been no mean feat, and I want to publicly thank our CEO Maren Deepwell for going above and beyond to achieve a pretty ambitious schedule to achieve this.  Martin Hawksey, our Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer has also been instrumental in helping us meet our deadlines.

I’m delighted that in the spirit of open-ness Maren and Martin have begun to share their experiences through a series of blog posts.  You can read the first one here.   If you are curious at all about open, organisational change this this is a must read.

I really believe that this move will truly enhance our ability to meet our values of participation, open-ness, collaboration and independence and will allow the organisation to increase our ability to support and represent our members.

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