Reflections on EdTech 2015

At the end of May over 200 Irish educators gathered at the University of Limerick for this year’s Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) Conference – EdTech 2015. It was pleasing to see so many people at the conference as current efforts to build digital capacity, promote institutional collaboration, and support new models of teaching and learning, depends to a large extent on the health, vibrancy and level of activity of our professional bodies. While it is important for us to contribute to major European and international communities in the field this should not be at the expense of supporting local, grass-root, professional learning opportunities.

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The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) is committed to supporting the work of ILTA, as evidenced by our successful partnership in developing and launching Ireland’s first Horizon Report for Higher Education. A large team of NIDL staff also travelled to Limerick in order to attend and contribute to this year’s conference. Notably, our people were presenters or co-presenters of 14 conference papers. Several other DCU staff and colleagues in our linked College also contributed to the conference over the two days with a variety of papers, posters and/or Gásta presentations.

We have embedded links to some of our presentation slides in this posting and the brief personal reflections on the conference that follow from Dr Mark Glynn.

Reflections from Mark Glynn…

There are numerous conferences on my radar every year with the ILTA “EdTech” conference always an interesting one to attend – one which I try to never miss. This year there seems to be more conferences than ever — or maybe just more that I have been aware of in the past — so I have become more fussy and discerning about which conferences I choose to attend. So why did EdTech make my list?

  • First and foremost it is an Irish conference bringing Irish educators together – which yields tremendous opportunity for collaboration. It is always exciting to see what our counterparts in other institutions are doing but when they are neighbouring institutions it makes the conference so much more relevant.

  • Second, with over 200 participants and 5 parallel streams there was bound to be several presentations that will be relevant

  • Finally, it is the informal atmosphere of the conference, combined with the openness of participants with respect to their willingness to share

These three factors ensure that EdTech will always appear high on my list. With respect to presentations that stood out for me: top of the list is the launch of the Horizons report. Having been involved with this since the start I was very excited to see the official launch and to quote Larry Johnson, CEO of NMC, “it is a catalyst for conversation”. Helen Beetham’s keynote resonated quite strongly with me too.

The talk from the team based in UL (Liam Murray, James Patton and Geraldine Exton) – “Gamification for education: rants, retorts, rebuttals and refinements” struck a chord with me. The Gasta sessions always throw up some good ideas and the thing that I like most about this format is that if you are not interested in what the current speaker has to say – you just need to wait 5 minutes for the next speaker. Our own Conor Sullivan raised a lot of interest with the use of Google drive for teaching practice.

The final presentation that stood out for me was the Assessment and Feedback presentation given by Lisa O’Regan from Maynooth University on behalf of a larger collaborative team – “Assessment Feedback Practice In First Year using Digital Technologies – A Baseline Review”. This is an interesting project funded by the National Forum with plenty of potential to make a significant contribution to the sector.

Release of Irish Horizon Report for Higher Education

H Report

Ireland’s first Horizon Report for Higher Education was formally launched last Friday at the Irish Learning Technology Association Conference (ILTA) at the University of Limerick. The report featured prominently throughout the conference, with Jim Devine helping to contextualise the study in the broader European context in his opening address, and Alex Freeman from New Media Consortium (NMC) describing the main findings on Friday in his keynote.

H Report Table

A feature of the report is the contrast with the recently published Australian and International reports for Higher Education. As the above table shows there are some notable differences between the reports, with under-resourced institutional infrastructure a key finding of the Irish report.

Irish Times

The report also featured in a story by the Irish Times, with particular reference to the need for greater investment in infrastructure, the current inequitable funding model and the need for educators to adopt new pedagogies in order to exploit the affordances of new digital technologies.

The previous Monday the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) hosted a pre-launch event where Dr Larry Johnson, CEO New Media Consortium, shared the main findings and facilitated a brief workshop with an audience of invited guests. He stressed importantly that the Horizon Report does not predict the future and simply offers another ‘futures tool’ for institutional leaders and policy-makers to discuss and plan for their preferred futures. Notably, the Report links to the Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World for Irish Higher Education along with recent European reports promoting the current modernisation agenda. It also acknowledges the value of comparing and contrasting the findings with other major publications such as the annual Innovating Pedagogy Report produced by the Educational Technology team at the UK Open University.

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The Horizon Report has its critics and the sample selection and methodology for the Irish report was adapted to ensure the greatest possible diversity amongst the expert panel, including a mix of experienced, and new and emerging educators. Approximately 70 Irish educators across every university and institute of technology were invited to participate on the panel and almost 50 people volunteered to contributed to the final report. In the context of Dublin City University (DCU), and the current Incorporation Project, it was noteworthy that the panel included specialist academic and administrative staff from across the University and linked Colleges.

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The intention over the next few months is to workshop the findings with institutions wishing to think more deeply about the impact of new technology-enhanced models of teaching and learning on higher education. Accordingly, please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to host a workshop in your own region or institution.

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Finally, we would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Horizon Report project since the beginning of the year, especially panel members. The full press release produced by NMC supporting the launch of the Horizon Report appears below.

NMC, NIDL, and ILTA Release the 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland

Limerick, Ireland (May 28, 2015) — The New Media Consortium (NMC), the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at Dublin City University, and the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) are releasing the 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland at the 2015 EdTech Conference at the University of Limerick. This inaugural Ireland edition describes findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

Ten key trends, ten significant challenges, and twelve important developments in technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next five years, giving Irish higher education leaders, decision-makers, and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning. The report helps to provide these leaders with indepth insight into how the trends and challenges are accelerating and impeding the adoption of educational technology for higher education institutions in Ireland.

“Ireland’s role in Europe and in the world as a critical hub for technological development and innovation continues to grow in importance and influence,” says Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the NMC. “I think it is an extremely timely moment for a report that looks at the ways Irish universities and institutes of technology are responding in their own uses of technology and where they are heading. The use of digital and hybrid learning designs are increasing across Ireland, and it is clear that Irish institutions are looking forward to a technology-enhanced future that will play out in more effective and engaging learning across the entire country. We believe this new report from the NMC, NIDL, and ILTA will be a significant catalyst for strategic planning and high-level discussions at universities and colleges that will spur even more campus and off-campus innovation in teaching and learning.”

“Our collaboration with the ILTA and NMC is a strong step toward promoting more strategic conversations about future models of teaching and learning in Irish higher education,” said Professor Mark Brown, Director for the NIDL. “Drawn from the collective expertise of leading Irish educators, this report supports work already underway to help universities and institutes of technology throughout the country to develop a more future-focused strategy for higher education in such rapidly changing times.”

“The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland could not be timelier in providing a comparative international evidence-base to inform research, policy and practice in the Irish higher education landscape over the medium term,” says Paul Gormley, Director of ILTA. ”This report offers exciting opportunities to identify commonalities and regional differences in higher education across an increasingly global landscape, and contributes a unique Irish perspective to inform the wider NMC Horizon Project. It is significant that the Expert Panel has identified the development of digital literacies to support the changing roles of staff and students in an increasingly digital age. This is a key enabler in maximising the opportunities for creative and innovative learning opportunities in Irish Higher Education.”

Key Trends Accelerating Educational Technology Adoption in Irish Higher Education

These ten trends are identified as very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years, and they were ranked in order of importance by the expert panel, with the first trend listed being deemed the most impactful. The key trends are: “Rethinking the Roles of Educators,” “Increasing Use of Hybrid/Blended Learning Designs,” “Rise of Digital Delivery,” “Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators,” “Growing Focus on Measuring Learning,” “Redesigning Learning Spaces,” “Increase in E-Portfolios Created by Learners,” “Proliferation of Open Educational Resources,” “Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation,” and “Increasing Preference for Personal Technology.”

Significant Challenges Impeding Educational Technology Adoption in Irish Higher Education

A number of challenges are acknowledged as barriers to the mainstream use of technology in Irish higher education. Because not all challenges are of the same scope, the discussions were framed by three categories defined by the nature of the challenge. The expert panel ranked challenges in order of significance, with the first challenge listed being deemed the most prominent. They are: “Underresourced Campus Infrastructure,” “Scaling Teaching Innovations,” “Improving Digital Literacy,” “Engaging with the Ethical, Privacy, and Ideological Aspects of Learning Analytics,” “Integrating Technology in Faculty Education,” “Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities,” “Blending Formal and Informal Learning,” “Competing Models of Education,” “Keeping Formal Education Relevant,” and “Teaching Complex Thinking.”

Important Developments in Educational Technology in Irish Higher Education

Additionally, the report identifies Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), flipped classroom, mobile learning, and online learning as digital strategies and technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less. Badges/microcredit, games and gamification, learning analytics, and open content are seen in the second horizon of two to three years; adaptive learning technologies, collaborative environments, digital identity, and social networks are seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.

The subject matter in this report was identified through a qualitative research process designed and conducted by the NMC that engaged an Irish body of experts in higher education, technology, business, and other fields around a set of research questions designed to surface significant trends and challenges. The Irish expert panel was also asked to identify important development in technology that have a strong likelihood of adoption in Irish universities. The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland details the areas in which these experts were in strong agreement.

The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland is available online, free of charge, and is released under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.

Download the report at go.nmc.org/2015-ie