Last week I participated in the EDUCAUSE annual conference in the midwestern American city of Indianapolis. By “participated” I mean gave four and a half hours of presentations, helped with three hours of online presentations, and was interviewed once or twice. Plus taking in more than a dozen sessions and holding who knows how many meetings and calls. And made friends, while reconnecting with a great number of others.
Here I wanted to share what I did, and some of what I learned.
Tuesday morning was my preconference seminar on “Building an Emerging Technology and Futures Capacity in Your Organization”. The goal here wasn’t to present on future trends for education and technology, but rather to help campus information professionals figure out how to better think about the future themselves.
It was a methods session, in other words, and it looked like this:
8:00 – 8:30 am Introductions: participants; the day’s activities; futures methods, an overview (PowerPoint slides)
8:30 – 9:00 The Delphi process (example: the Horizon Report)
9:00 – 9:30 Environmental scanning
9:30 – 10:15 Trend analysis (example: FTTE)
10:15 – 11:00 Scenario creation and usage
11:00 – 11:30 Applications to your campus: discussion
If you’re interested in more on this, I have a very short and accessible 2009 EDUCAUSE Review article which introduces methods. And here are those intro slides:
I was impressed by all of the participants. We began on a cold, rainy day at 8 am, and I suspect the topic was a bit alien. Yet people dove in, asking great questions, firing up their imaginations, and bringing it all back to their organizations. A fine mix of practicality and vision. Bonus points: a hefty helping of folks from outside the US, including Canada and several European nations. Improving higher education’s ability to future seems to be an interest in 2015.
That afternoon EDUCAUSE and its ELI wing ran a virtual preconference session, on “Working with Emerging Technologies to Promote Engaging Learning”. Eleven (11) (!) presenters including myself took to Adobe Connect to share our perspectives. All of the materials are available from that linked page, and there’s a rich Storify.
It was very good to see people who couldn’t physically travel to the conference participating, and presenters doubling their face-to-face work with virtual audiences. The hard-working team knitted together the distant and the local seamlessly. It’s the kind of thing some of us have hoped for, and worked on, for some time. This looks increasingly like where conferences are going.
After that the brilliant Gerry Bayne interviewed me. I’ll link to that when it hits the web. So on one day: face to face, videoconferencing, and video production.
Wednesday saw a manic run of meetings and presentations. I didn’t lead anything, but had a great time with a Hangout organized by VConnecting. Autumm Caines, Joe Murphy, Maha Bali, and Alan Levine made it work.
Here’s a video recording of the session:
Combined with the earlier session, this gave me a sense that we’re seeing conference walls breached in two ways. There’s the professional, authorized method, and then there’s the DIY, user-driven approach. Adobe Connect versus Periscope. Let’s see how these complementary strategies develop.
On Thursday afternoon I presented very quickly on my FTTE work. “Looking Ahead to 2026: Trends in Technology and Education” (slides) focused on trends other than technology, since the conference covered tech so extensively.
By this point I admit to being in a darker frame of mind. Professor Steven Greenlaw and I woke up at our hotel (and that hotel, oh man, what a disaster, and a blog post to come) with an active shooter about one mile away. Yes, early that morning a man shot at some people then fled, uncaught. Arriving at the conference I saw Casey Green give a great presentation about his essential Campus Computing Project to a very unresponsive and not nearly big enough crowd. And people kept finding new queen sacrifices to send me. Outside it rained again. So I was grim when it came time to present.
And yet this happened:
@marianne99: “More than 1/3 of attendees at @BryanAlexander’s session at #edu15 are from countries other than the USA”
Which was splendid. And people started piling into the room, including friends and clients. All the seats filled. Folks lined the walls or sat in aisles. Security started turning people away. SRO time.
I think it went well. There was only 50 minutes to cover a lot of ground, so I emphasized nontechnological drivers, especially economics, demographics, and policy. People seemed energized, both in person and on Twitter. Good observations came back at the end. I tried out my new slogan: “Sometimes the best way to predict the future is to prevent it.”
Bob Nilsson blogged up a very good account. Here are my slides:
Next post I’ll reflect on the conference as a whole.