Launching phase 2 of the Future Trends Forum: new directions

Over the past month or so a group of us have been exploring next steps for the Future Trends Forum.  I’ve called it “phase 2.”  People have offered ideas, feedback, and general brainstorms through a live Forum session, a survey, email to me, and Twitter.

Now it’s time to set those ideas in motion.  Actually, to set the rest of those ideas in motion, since we already did a few, including the appy hour session.

I’ve selected the most frequently raised ideas, the most sought-after plans, and meshed them with my sense of how the Forum community has grown and worked after two and one half years.

First up, changes and new things.

Guests and themes

People were very forthcoming with topics to address and guests to invite.  According I sent off dozens of invitations to people around the world, many of whom agreed to join us.  We are, in fact, booked solid through mid-November.

I’m finishing up a new Forum site to replace the current page.  That new site will have a calendar of sessions to come.

New formats

Forum folks had many ideas for new or different session formats to offer.  The leading model was, by far, panel discussions, so I’m setting out to find groups of 2-3 to speak to key ideas.

Forum survey 2018_format ideas

Scenario discussions came second.  So I’m preparing several scenarios to present, and a session will explore one.  Community brainstorming came third, to my delight, and we’ll fire up one of those this winter.

Please suggest topics for these new sessions – panels, community brainstorming, scenarios.

Discussion venues for between Forum sessions

There was a great deal of interest in keeping Forum discussions going between live sessions.

Now, things got interesting when we asked people two different questions about this in the survey.  First, we asked which social media platforms people used most often.*  Second, we asked where in the digital world they’d like to host such conversations.

The leading replies to #1?  Twitter, email, and Facebook.  To #2?  Slack was, by far, the most popular request, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, and email.

So this is tricky to respond to.  On the one hand, folks want to use Slack for discussions.  On the other, a clear majority don’t use it much themselves, with only 25% claiming it as a favorite tool.  On the third hand, while Twitter is popular on both, people rarely use the #FTTE hashtag between sessions.

What to do?  My solution is to launch three platforms, and see how you all take to them.  Forum discussions can now occur via:

To join the Facebook or LinkedIn groups, just click on it and ask to join.  To get into the Slack space, email me (bryan dot alexander at gmail).  I’ll start a few threads and tinker with look and feel, but the majority of content is yours to create.  Go to it!

The #FTTE Twitter hashtag remains, if, on reflection, that’s where you’d prefer to converse.

Interest groups

To recap: some suggested we form interest groups based on topics or professions.  Such groups could connect with each other, suggest future programs, maybe hold sessions themselves, and generally be productive along lines of shared work.

In the survey we asked which interest groups people would be, well, interested in joining.  There were a lot of ideas.  One respondent cautioned me that too many small groups couldn’t thrive, and I’m taking that advice seriously.

Here are the biggest groups:

  • Instructional design and educational technology
  • Libraries
  • Professional development
  • Technologies of all sorts.

You can see how many topics can fit under these headers.  For example, “AI in education” sits nicely under Technologies, but also under instructional design/ed tech.

Here’s the tricky part.  How will these groups self-organize?

I’ve set up venues for that to occur, including live Forum sessions. I’m going to keep mentioning the groups, and do what I can to help IGs grow on the various platforms.  But now it’s up to you all.    Use the technologies.  Peer up and get going.  You might think of a fun name for your group, or set up a new site for it, or make t-shirts.  Do what it takes to make a convivial and productive group.

And let me know how I can help.

How to grow and sustain the Forum?

How can we expand this successful project?  How can we make it sustainable?

The leading answer to the survey question, and a popular response in general conversation, is partnerships.  I’ve started reaching out to potential allies.  Please let me know of any you think are especially apt.

A second and popular answer was creating a podcast.  We’re on it, exploring the best workflow for turning Forum video recordings into suitable audio files.

…After all of that, you might be wondering what won’t change?

Communication methods should remain the same.  When asked, people overwhelmingly prefer to receive Forum information through email, so that Mailchimp will continue to be busy.

We’ll keep using Shindig and conducting most sessions in the now-established format: a brilliant guest, a bearded MC, and a crowd of thoughtful people hurling questions.

Above all we’re committed to using technology to host brilliant, open, diverse, and wide-ranging conversations about the future of education.  I think the Forum has grown into an extraordinary thing, due entirely to the thoughtful and generous participation of its community.


*Here are those results.  First, what people prefer to use:

Forum 2018 survey_social media people actually use

Second, where they would prefer discussion to occur:

Forum survey 2018_desired fora

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