ILTA EdTech 2017 Conference

TEL in an Age of Supercomplexity Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies

This year’s ILTA conference theme was: TEL in an Age of Supercomplexity – Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies. The focus was  broad, as supercomplexity might indeed imply. In the current higher education climate, we face challenges around changing methodologies, resources, and policies. As we venture further into the digital age, we took two days to pause and reflect on how TEL is affected. While we face challenges, there are also vast opportunities for change looming in the not too distant future.

The first keynote from Gráinne Conole set the tone for the conference.  She is currently a visiting professor at DCU and an expert on learning design. In this presentation, Conole focused on the future of learning as we address supercomplexity and aim to harness technology. She meandered through the current educational landscape and looked to the future.  She assessed the characteristics of the 21st century learner and the future of digital literacies.  She approached supercomplexity with uncertainty – we are teaching learners for an unknown future in a changing and challenging landscape, and it is therefore impossible to approach teaching and learning with traditional means.

The concepts and discourses around these challenges are varied.  Some illustrative examples include: OER, MOOCs, digital scholarship, the flipped classroom, heutagogy, smart learning, and seamless learning.  In the remainder of her presentation, available here, Conole discussed each area and ended by posing questions rather than answers.  She challenged us to assesses our preparedness to cope with the massive digital changes afoot, question that validity of our assumptions on the future, and to help to shape the changes in technology to facilitate human development.

In a presentation about e-portfolios and e-learning, Mark Glynn from DCU posed one of the standout points of the conference, in my opinion.  He uses the term “learning portfolios” rather than “e-portfolios” in order to place the emphasis on the learning rather than the technology.  As anyone involved in TEL is astutely aware, the focus should be on the learning with the technology being used to facilitate or enhance the learning process.  The learning should be visible, with the technology invisible.

One very relevant project to the CESI community would come in the form of the Jennifer Burke Award winner, Antonio Calderón, from UL. His project, #CoolPE, is aimed at pre-service PE teachers. The project helps them to create an inclusive classroom for the digital age.  Students are asked to view a video where a student recounts a bad experience from PE class, and they work in groups to resolve that issue.  For assessment, students also have the opportunity to work in teams, share on Twitter, and reflect on their work through blogging.  The beauty of the process that Calderón has created is that it could be adopted at any level or subject area.  A succinct overview is available in one of his many videos.

A sunny day two at EdTech 2017

As is expected with a packed two day event, it isn’t feasible to discuss everything, and while day two was abundant in quality, I’ll merely reflect on few more stand out moments.  Niall Watts from UCD discussed the implementation of MOOCs in first year Geography, which heralded largely positive feedback from students.  Bonnie Long from NUI Galway discussed the concept of flipping the flipped classroom.  In her presentation, she outlined how to move even more of a blended learning module to an online format using Collaborate Ultra. Sam Cogan from the National College of Ireland also gave a really interesting short talk on dual delivery, where students are allowed some choice between face to face and online learning.

Reflecting on the conference, it is quite clear that we are in a changing landscape where the future remains uncertain, and the technology is ever-changing.  However, as practitioners we know that the old methods cannot meet these challenges and we are adapting with each change.  Finally, we are aware that technology does not trump pedagogy.  Learning must always come first.

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