#ilta2016: Two #edtech days in Dublin

Law Society, conference venue

Last week I took part in EdTech2016, the annual conference organised by the Irish Learning Technology Association. It’s definitely worth visiting the conference platform for a wealth of resources and presentations and reading some of the Twitter conversation #ilta2016  or viewing the TAGS Explorer archive. While I was invited to attend the event on behalf of ALT (and you can access the slides from the talk I gave jointly with Martin Hawksey on Slideshare) it was also a great opportunity for some CPD for me and this is what this blog post is about.

Over the two days the programme had a lot to offer, including sessions about the 12 Apps of Christmas 2015 from the Dublin Institute of Technology, Mapping Digital Technology Teaching Practices from Glasgow Caledonian University and building a MOOC on a budget from an institutional consortium.


Alongside a lively social programme and the annual Jennifer Burke Award there were three stand-out keynote speakers: Mike Feerick opened the second day, Rhona Sharpe closed the first and the opening keynote was given by Audrey Waters (again, more info about all of them is available on the conference site).

What I was particularly interested in is thinking about what the future may hold, what forces may shape Learning Technology over the next decade or two and to get a sense of what major developments will determine the shape of things to come. In that respect you could hardly have chosen a keynote line up better suited. However, after mulling over the three thought-provoking presentations that were delivered I feel they have left me with more questions and less certainty. And that is not because innovation is so disruptive or the geo-political climate uncertain. Instead,  I think the questions that arose from the presentations for me were all about inevitability. What’s inevitable and why and who makes it so? To be more specific, here are three questions that help sum up what I am thinking of:

Dublin, day 2
Dublin, day 2

First, how do we conceptualise learners? As customers, as users, as people? Is the dominance of one of these perspectives inevitable? Why? What difference does it make when we think about others or ourselves in that way? How would we want to be thought about?
Second, why do we feel technological development and the proliferation of new technologies is inevitable? Who are the capitalists, engineers and marketeers that make it so?
Third, who do we think of as being in control of the future of educational technology? Many narratives I read or hear seem to be about making the most of what opportunities we can grasp, coping with limited choices or under difficult conditions – succeeding in the face of adversity. But if not us, then who is empowered to shape the future?

For me these questions are worth thinking about, worth taking time to reflect on.

But… if I had to find answers based solely on the two days I spent in Dublin, that would be simple: I am grateful to experience the kindness and openness that can be built in such a community of practitioners and researchers. Their connections hold great value and power. It’s that which should shape our future in (learning) technology.