ALT Takes North America

The many faces of Martin Hawksey - Domains19

Photo credit: “The many faces of Martin Hawksey – Domains19” by Tom Woodward

I still have a lot to blog about Domains19, but I have made a significant dent in my blog to-do list since finishing my travels, and tomorrow my vacation starts so I’ll see if I can get a post or two in before then. In fact, this will be a twofer wherein I can point to Martin Hawksey’s brilliant keynote at Domains19 as well as bemoan missing ETUG, as a way to nod to Maren Deepwell’s keynote while at the same time recognizing the month the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) ate North American edtech 🙂

Dr Maren Deepwell - @MarenDeepwell

Photo credit: “Dr Maren Deepwell – @MarenDeepwell” by Tom Woodward

Keep in mind I’m biased having already proclaimed my love for the ALT team on this blog, so take the following musings with a grain of salt. That acknowledged, it’s my contention that ALTs recent headlining talks by Martin Hawksey at Domains19 in Durham, North Carolina and Maren Deepwell at ETUG in Kamloops, Canada represents a kind of “British Invasion” for edtech organizations. One of the things I think the US edtech scene is in desperate need of right now is a solid, grassroots organization that does outreach, development, and runs a conference that really highlights all the central, ethical issues at the heart of the field. I can’t pretend to speak for Canada, but I imagine they’re also scratching their heads these days for conferences to attend that have resisted becoming a vendor-driven pitch for analytics as a way to solve the university’s efficiency problems. In fact, while I’ve never attended ETUG, I have seen the community shaping it over the last decade or so and I have no doubt, given the actors involved, they represent a beacon of hope in the edtech conference fog. 

So, it can’t be coincidental that two of the major talents behind the ALT organization should find themselves in North American last month offering us a peek into the magic they have brewed across the pond with their OER conference, amongst many other events.* I’ll gladly go on record saying that OER19 was the best conference I have been to in the last ten years, hands down. The co-organizers Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz set the perfect tone and the quality and variety of sessions was amazing. What’s more, I think Reclaim was the only true-blue vendor there, so while they’re not entirely pure—their just compromised enough to have some fun 🙂

It’s my contention that Maren and Martin’s presence in the Western Hemisphere last month was a sign from the edtech gods we need try and bottle some of  the  community/conference magic so many of the good folks in the UK and beyond have been brewing, so we can export it to the Brave New World of learning engineers and personalized learning dashboards to provide a needed antidote and alternative to the relentless march of edtech to the vendors’ drum.

Come at me, bro!


*Admittedly I have not been to the main ALT conference just yet, I hope to rectify that sometime soon.

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3 Responses to ALT Takes North America

  1. Brian says:

    Sometimes I wonder if conferences are better with keynotes or hobbled by them… but when someone like Maren comes to your small western Canadian city, and drops such a thoughtful and rich talk, and is so engaging throughout the event, it demonstrates what a keynote can be. I’ve lost track of all the great feedback I got.

    Did anyone hit the OER19/Domains/ETUG trifecta? I’m supersad I missed Domains, but two out of three was pretty fab.

    Your suggestion that ALT may have unleashed a transcontinental harmonic convergence of ed tech magic has me thinking…

    • Reverend says:

      I’m also mindful that I may have half promised I would come to ETUG in Galway, but that was ruled out when I was traveling with Tess. I know Tom Woodward made two of the 3 as well, was Jim Luke at ETUG? I’m thinking that trifecta was not realized by anyone.

      Funny, the last few years we have shared several European conference experiences, and they have all been a blast. Part of me does not want to be in the conference business at all, particularly as a vendor, but the other part of me wants to export some of that goodness at OER19 back to the US for all sorts of reasons. I mean OER19 was right up there with Northern Voice 2007 and 2008 for me, and the other one would be OpenEd 2009—none of which took place in the US 🙂 I don’t know what I am saying, but I am saying it dammit.

      • Brian says:

        I knew it would not be simple for you to make it to Kamloops on that trip, so I didn’t push you. But had I known Tess was in the mix, I would have launched a full bore campaign to convince you.

        Conferences are a weird way to structure so many of our human interactions. One thing that OERxx, Domains, ETUG all seem to share is recognition that the human dimension is key, and leaving lots of space for the community to step up and make the real action happen around the edges.

        Fervently hoping we share some more European adventures this fall.

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