The last working day of January saw the release of the ALTC2016 call for proposals, an eerie advance echo of mid-autumn at the very start of the year. In times past I’ve taken this as a spur to take the various ideas and half-baked inferences that usually turn up on here or on my twitter, and turn them into something I could probably present at a serious conference like ALTC.

In practice this meant I would come back to the idea at the start of the summer and spend those long summers evenings playing with video clips, or data collection, or textual analysis, or reference collecting…

… actually let’s see some uncharacteristic FOTAlove for a moment, I’ve presented each year at ALT since 2010, and every year has been my absolute A game. Five years of FOTA awesomeness:

ALTC2010 — Flat-out nailed the xMOOC movement and attendent “employer needs” hype, more than a year before it happened. No big deal.

ALTC2011 — Future of open education, but with an old west theme, featuring Amber Thomas, Helen Beetham and Dave White in cowboy hats and me as a travelling preacher man? Oh and the first ever ALTC session trailer? Done.

ALTC2012 — Just a meticulously referenced and definitive history of sharing learning resources in the UK, co-authored with Amber Thomas. That’s all.

ALTC2013 — The hype-strewn rise of the global MOOC movement, told via deep text analysis of the very worst of bandwagon journalism, and with a little tasty soupçon of French critical theory.

ALTC2014 — You know that whole backlash about social media as a teaching tool? Privacy, ownership, twitterstorms, peak social. And memes. Lots of memes.

ALTC2015 — The actual future, the predicted future, why both of them suck. With added economic theory. (incidentally, the NMC Horizon Scan 2016 seems to fit the pattern…)

Now to paraphrase Jim Groom:


Six years of stuff that, looking back, I’m actually pretty damn proud of doing. Blog posts that have had actual serious citations as scholarly work. Multimedia — even live music. And a whole range of critical perspectives, methodological adaptations and detailed analysis. I’m not going to claim any of it changed lives or caused a revolution, but I am going to say that it made the conference, and indeed the edtech field, better and more interesting for some people.

So you’d think that I’d be planning something equally cool for ALTC2016 — but the sad fact of the matter is that I am almost certainly not even going to be attending. Simply put, I don’t work in #EdTech any more, not by choice but by the fact that my employer needs me (and more importantly, pays me) to work in other areas.

Even the most generous of observers would struggle to match what I presented with my actual job in any given year. But actually now working in an entirely non-cognate field means that the very generous leeway that I’ve been offered in the past (I want to single out @sarahjenndavies for her support and tolerance) is just not even going to be arguable this year.

So here’s a few things that I might have submitted this year (some of these may leak out as blog posts during the year if I get time)

  • I’m sure I’d have had more to say on the idea of debt, scholarly debt and the way we count it in academia.
  • Whither education (technology) research? Who is funding, and who is legitimising, people trying to figure out how to actually deliver “excellent teaching” in this data-driven “post-theory” world? (According to one source, Pearson!? — you know I can’t resist that)
  • Connecting those two, whatever the TEF turns out to be, or not to be, would be something I’d love to analyse.
  • Billionaire-driven edtech as a service — or why does a person, in receipt of a good living from ads on social media, feel obliged to try and fix education with money and bad tech? And why does it never actually work.
  • Online learning at a distance — updating Dave White’s 2010 work to encompass the Second Great Online Learning Bubble.
  • The effects of [insert bleak 2016 event here, probably Brexit or President Trump or both] on global higher education, and the affordances or otherwise of technology in addressing these.

I certainly hope to write about all, or most, of these this year. I’m just sad that I’m unlikely to be at ALTC to share and discuss these and many other issues with the wonderful UK edtech community in 2016. Maybe my circumstances will change, but for now I can only encourage all of you to get on and submit something properly awesome to the conference.

(first posted on Followers of The Apocalypse

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