leadership Learning Technology

Beyond hype or dystopia: Looking ahead to ALT’s Annual Conference 2043

No, this isn’t a typo, this post is actually about looking ahead to a conference in 2043, 25 years from now…

The prompt for this post is that Members of ALT are celebrating the 25th Annual Conference of the Association, which makes this year a valuable opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, all the things we have learnt and everything that has changed as well as the big challenges that are still ahead. I have been following and hugely enjoying Martin Weller’s series of blog posts “25 years of Ed Tech” so if you have missed it, go and read it now.

But what about looking forward to the next 25 years?

With the most recent Horizon Report being published this week, I have been wanting to look ahead beyond the future that futurists predict. And I enjoyed the post that Audrey Watters published “The Horizon never moves” in which she sets out some key ways in which the hype in the edtech industry is always about what’s just beyond the horizon, what’s ‘almost there’.  And then I have seen a (to me) new t-shirt appear on my Twitter feed which bears the slogan “tech won’t save us”. Thus prompted, I want to look ahead at the future in a manner that is free of predictions, free of the promise of technology or the solutions that are on the horizon. Instead this post is about stepping outside of hype and dystopia, instead sharing what I hope ALT’s Annual Conference (or an event like it) will be about in 2043:

First, I hope that there will be an independent Association for Learning Technology in the UK in 2043 and that the voice of its Members will continue to have grown in influence and reach as it has over the past 25 years. 

Also, I hope that as a professional body ALT will have as diverse a range of professionals leading it as it has today, continuing to challenge notions of professionalisation, fight for recognition of the value of the work Learning Technologists do and continue to expand our understanding and practice of how technology is used for learning, teaching and assessment. Regardless of what education and training provision will structurally look like by 2043, we will still be using technology to help us learn, develop and accredit. 

Long before 2043, I hope that the business model that supports the work ALT or similar professional bodies do will enable every Member to attend its events, with neither time nor cost being a barrier that prevents professionals to come together either in person or virtually to move their work forward.

By 2043 I hope that sharing critical reflection, pose questions and importantly disseminate failures will have become more common place than it is now. That conference sessions are less focused on reporting success or promoting solutions and geared more towards collaboration, debate and forming relationships. For that to be possible, the way in which language and in particular terminology around Learning Technology are used will have to become less divisive across sectors. I hope that we will have overcome the tendency to dismiss what we haven’t created ourselves or in-house, or what is expressed with different words than those we would use ourselves.

From a global perspective, I hope that the conference will have stronger ties with other events in the UK and across the world and contribute to the wider dialogue that addresses the fundamental questions of how we as human beings relate to technology and how we shape our future. My vision of the future is one of empowered professionalism, not one determined solely by the forces of technological determinism. 

The most powerful part of the conference in my experience is to get a sense of one’s agency within a community, to hear different voices and see contrasting perspectives that help open up new horizons and stop my professional practice from becoming too focused on internal concerns or limited to being relevant only in a cosy echo chamber.

The last point I want to add is that I hope that the future Learning Technology will be shaped less by the privileged, powerful and established than it is now. That in 2043 it is no longer unusual for people with fewer resources, people of colour, for women, for young people, for learners and others who find it hard to make their voice heard to play a part in determining what their future looks like. 

So here is to the next 25 years in Learning Technology.

I’ll see you in 2043. And hopefully in Manchester this September where our work to bring about the kind of future we want to be part of continues https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/.