Equity, digital by default, data and robots – thoughts from #altc keynotes

The annual #altc conference has yet again left me reeling.  This year it seemed bigger and better than ever, with over 500 delegates meeting in Manchester, with many more joining via the live streams and twitter, over 180 presentations and the addition of robot wars in the #altcgame.

altcrobotsWhen I got home on Thursday night, I did feel a bit jet, or conferenced, lagged. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and make new ones at the conference, but with so much going my mind was spinning and I’m only just starting to make sense of it all.

As ever the keynotes gave contrasting but complimentary views on not just issues around the impact of technology in education, but the impact of new distribution models (often owned by the establishment) on global developments and society.  Whilst Steve Wheeler, very ably assisted by two students, discussed “learner 2.0”, Jonathan Worth added a set of very considered  challenges facing young people today.

Whilst we may have a generation of “digital by default” learners, who as Steve illustrated have their digital footprint created before they are even born, are we in education creating as state of “statutory vulnerability” for our learners? How can we take ownership and control of the right to forget? (see speakingopenly for more on this)  Whilst sharing and connecting are incredibly powerful for learning, the channels of control and ownership of data are increasingly important.

I know that I am in many ways far too ambivalent about my data. For ease of access and connectivity I all too readily tick those terms and conditions boxes.  I don’t think I’m alone in this digital paradox of knowing the dangers and big brother aspects of data ownership, but I go along with it anyway and console myself that the benefits outweigh the risks. Listening to Laura Czerniewcz’s quietly assured keynote on equality, I internally vowed to do more to be part of reclaiming the connected society. I hope that my sharing of thoughts and practice does in some small way add to that.

Again data was central to many of the issues around equity of access to education Laura highlighted. It is the cost of data not the device that is key, particularly in the global South, where increasingly people have mobile phones (and in fact mobile commerce in Africa is far more advanced than in Europe), but the cost of data can exclude many from participating in education. If you can’t afford to access data heavy educational resources then you are excluded. I don’t know if this requires a new type of pedagogy (tbh I think we have enough “gogies”) but it definitely requires more thought in our learning designs to ensure equity of access and experience.

Phil Long the final keynote brought another aspect of data use in education around  learning sciences, technology and learning activities. He questioned why so many existing learning and teaching practices don’t consider what we know about learner motivation and success, and the differences between learning and performance.  It could be that we are at a stage now where there digital tools can actually provide more personalised learning pathways. I’ll need to check out the  Cerego personalised learning tool/service he highlighted. In one of the best online exits ever, Phil’s video connection cut out as he was about to tell us what “the reality is . . .”

You can catch up with all the keynotes via the conference website, all worth another look and my visual notes of each are available on flickr And whilst we need to think about data ownership, sharing data can lead to great visualisations of our community like this one from Tony Hirst.

ALTC network diagram

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