ETEC 522 and the 15th EEF

In early May I began my 5th MET course, marking the halfway point for my Master’s journey. This semester I had registered in ETEC 522: Ventures in New Learning Technologies, a course that dealt with the digital frontiers of learning and the skills required to be a successful pioneer in this educational media landscape. In a world where technology and education are being increasingly mixed, this course drove us to consider why some technologies were successful and others failed in order to emphasize the creation and launch of original “ventures” in the global learning technologies marketplace. Whilst related to business, it was actually more centered around analyzing emerging technologies and building a critical framework for understanding opportunity development and effective integration of technology into a range of educational environments. Guided by the savvy and wise David Vogt, an innovator and entrepreneur himself, the driving force behind this course was the aim to equip educators with the ability to venture and to understand the forces, processes, and people that create change in the educational and technological realms. As students in this course, we were expected to inhabit the role of a venturist and create work suitable for professional rather than academic environments. We were also encouraged to author projects that served open, global audiences of education professionals that were creative, critical, well designed and well-presented. I am a huge advocate for this work ethos and despite my lack of experience in this specific area, I was excited to give it a try and learn what I needed to know along the way.

The entire course took place on a WordPress website rather than the LMS we usually work on which was a refreshing change, particularly because I’ve been working with WordPress for years and am very comfortable on the platform. To orient ourselves and embark on our path to a working knowledge of the institutional and market design principles and processes which impact the success of learning technology ventures, we authored a quick introductory post to a welcome forum and then dove into an Emerging Markets Poll. This was a peer-sourcing activity in which we had to read, vote and comment on which emerging technologies we thought will be the most prominent in the EdTech marketplace in the coming years, thus determining the topics for our Open Educational Resource project and the focuses of this iteration of ETEC 522. We then went through a two-week bootcamp that gave us the theoretical and conceptual foundations we would need to engage with this course material which included looking at how business and educational interact, especially in the educational marketplace. We deconstructed the notion of a venture and the elements of a good pitch before researching and posting notable figures in the venture, innovation, and entrepreneurial worlds. During this time we were also beginning to work towards our first two assignments; the first being the production of an Emerging Market Analysis and the second being a group project in which we create an Open Educational Resource (OER) on a topic we are assigned based on the results of the earlier Emerging Markets Poll. 

I decided to step out of the box a little with my Emerging Market Analysis and focus on EdTech in Africa. It turned out to be a fruitful inquiry, as I found that Africa is considered as one of the fastest-growing emerging markets globally, with phone-based technologies popping up across many African countries! I spent a long time researching it and selected to present my findings in both video and written form. This allowed me to give a general overview of the marketplace in my video and more specific investment suggestions in writing. I felt a little out of my depth as I have no business background whatsoever, but the hard work paid off and I completed a project I was proud to submit. You can view the full submission here, or just watch the video I made below. It was fantastic to receive an email about 10 days later from David calling the project “creatively courageous” and awarding me a 100% grade for it. As far as I can remember, the last time I got 100% for something was in the third grade!

Having successfully role played being a venture analyst, the next task ahead was a participatory scholarship project where we would open publish an educational resource on a market we had been assigned from our earlier emerging market analysis. I had been assigned to a team and Personalized Learning market, which I knew very little about when this project began. Hours of furious reading later, I felt like I had a handle on the topic and a good idea on how to put together an OER. I must admit, this was one of the hardest group projects I had been part of in the MET, due mostly to lack of communication and input from my other teammates. As someone who likes to produce work of a high standard and to understand and build a shared vision with my peers, the radio silence and missed deadlines had my stress levels quite high. I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility than I would have expected in a group project and single-handedly built the website and did at least two out of the four research sections completely alone. Despite this, I do acknowledge that without the input of the team members the project would not have been what it was because we banded together toward the final deadline to get everything finished and up to standard. It’s worth remembering that at times, there will be moments in life where things don’t go as expected and even if you’re not quite sure why, it’s not worth dwelling on! At the end of the day, the project was finished and we even got a very good grade for it, so all’s well that ends well! If you’re interested in seeing the website or getting a baseline understanding of what personalized learning is and where we might see it in education in the next 10 years, you can click on the image below and enjoy the OER we built!

Following the group project, there was only a participation portfolio left to submit and an exciting event to attend! Prior to this course beginning, I had applied to a conference hosted by the European Ecological Foundation with a paper on science communication for public audiences. My paper had been accepted, I had been given a travel funding grant by the Education Department of UBC, and I had booked flights to spend a week in Lisbon during the final week of my semester to attend the conference and present my research. Before I knew it, I had submitted my final assignment to David and was ready to be on my way to Lisbon, Portugal for a full 5 days of idea and research sharing. As the time neared and the final schedule was released, I was suddenly filled with nerves due to it becoming apparent just how ecologically and scientifically focused this conference was. I was left second guessing why my humanities and education perspective would be valuable to this community and their ongoing conversations. Despite this, I held my ground and decided that a bit of social science never hurt anybody. Upon my arrival I realized how fruitless all my stress had been, as the opening discussion and panel – hosting speakers from universities and the UN – emphasized how ecology would be unable to properly impact current global practices unless it worked with other fields and how many of the interrelated social and environmental issues being identified required interdisciplinary collaboration.  Cue Jamie and her educational, philosophical, sociological, science communication research!

My slot for presenting my research was at the very end of the second day, and I spent the whole morning and afternoon before my presentation attending talks and panels. The conference had a packed  schedule with three or more talks happening at all times, regular snack breaks, and Ecology and Art exhibits to visit as well. The first three days of the conference heavily featured science communication topics and I was inspired and awed by many of the projects and insights brought forward by other speakers. Two that I found particularly inspiring were keynote speeches given by Dr. Dawn Sanders and Leen Gorissen on the topics how media in science communication can flip scales and give usual perspective scales, and the amazing opportunities for natural intelligence to educate human design. Whilst being presented by ecologists, they tapped directly into many of the topics we discuss within education; storytelling and narratives, knowledge hierarchies and legitimacy, media as a tool for new communication, and building novel perspectives and literacies that are better suited to the 21st century world and it’s many features. You can view both these talks in the video clip below, and all other keynote speeches from conference on the associated SPECO YouTube channel:

Dawn Sanders
Leen Gorissen

The rest of the week flew by and can be tracked well via the Twitter Channel @eeflisbon2019 and the hashtag #EEFLisbon2019. Not to be all work and no play, I spent my free time out taking trains across the city to see some of the sights (and food!) it had to offer.  The week flew by in a flash and before I knew it, I had eaten all the palmier I could find and was getting ready to return home. All in all, this was an exceptionally enriching experience in which I got to participate as a knowledge sharer and consumer, and I learned so much that I feel will make me a better thinker, researcher and writer in the future. It seems my presence did not go unnoticed, however, as it was announced in the closing ceremony that I had won the SPECO Best Oral Presentation Award out of the 300 odd speakers from that week! Sadly, I was at home frantically packing for my departing flight and did not get a snapshot of me on stage, but the honour of the recognition still stands. This was one of my first big international conferences and will certainly not be my last. Thanks to the conference organizers and participants for hosting this event, as well as the UBC’s MET program and Education department who were invaluable in both helping me build something to say and funding me to get me onto a stage to say it!

Beautiful Lisbon, captured from the side of Rossio Square.

In a course where my academic success was a result of sound research, independent thought, creative synthesis, teamwork and focus, and a conference where my contribution stemmed from adding a new social science perspective into a primarily scientific mix, I am feeling quite validated in my ability to follow my instincts and make valuable contributions as an interdisciplinary scholar to a variety of worlds. What follows now is my first semester doing two courses; including a core course on Application of Learning Theories and a new course being run for the first time titled ‘New Materialism meets the History of Educational Media’. The latter I am particularly excited for, as I will be back on my home soil of history, philosophy, and culture! Onwards and upwards, as the MET journey continues!