Starting up phase two of the Future Trends Forum

I’d like to announce a new development in the Future Trends Forum, and invite everyone’s participation.

We launched the Forum more than two years ago, and it’s been very successful on a variety of measurements: number of participants, sheer amount of video produced, a proof of concept that webinars don’t have to be terrible, and the development of a community.

So what’s next?

Let’s talk about the Forum’s phase two.  What can we make of the Forum over the next few years?  What new shapes should it take, as we experiment with the technology?  Especially, how can we:

  1. Grow and further diversity the community?
  2. Make the Forum sustainable?

Naturally, I turn to the community for, well, just about everything: thoughts, brainstorms, feedback, plans, dreams, cautions.  That’s how this works, and how I work.

Forum_Bryan Maria Mark Vicky

Me, Maria, Mark, and Vicky brainstorming away

Last week we held a Forum session devoted to phase two.  I was hoping to get some thoughts.  Instead, what occurred was a wide-ranging torrent of ideas, with dozens of people volunteering, arguing, and dreaming together.

Here’s the full recording.  Right after it are my notes, if you’d prefer to read rather than watch and listen.  In those notes I try to mention individuals who volunteered points, as best I could.

Please let me know what you think.  This is an open and participatory process.

We began with a design thinking question: what do you value in the Future Trends Forum?  The intent wasn’t to cheer ourselves – well, a little of that – but to derive what values the Forum provides, so we can shape what’s next to deliver them even more effectively.

Many chimed in with these benefits:

  • networking
  • exposure to cutting edge ideas
  • interaction with thought leaders
  • getting out of professional silos, to get perspective beyond one’s institution   
  • the live format can help clarify a complex idea (Monty Kaplan)

One note: I think the social benefits (networking, thought leaders) applied to both guests and fellow Forum participants (of which there’s some overlap).

Focusing on guests: which new guests and topics should we invite?

A ton of responses came in.  Here’s a quick list, not in any order beyond rough chronology, and which mingles topics and people:

Certification (Nate Otto or Dan Hickey).  Degrees (David Blake).  Accreditation.  Ex-Department of Education staff (United States).  Jesse Stommel. Robert Marzano (Ed Hilton).  The impact of technology on attention management and attention spans.  AI and machine learning.  Learning analytics.  Learning spaces.  Mobile and immersive learning.  Connecting the future of education with climate change (Tom Riley).  Rick Crain.  “I would enjoy seeing you talk to the folks behind Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science.”  College and university presidents.

Assessment: assessing online learning communities versus F2F communities;  alternative assessment measures (Myron Williams).

“How can we do more in education to tie core social / survival issues to what we teach? Recycling, Use of Resources, Climate Change, Famine, Refugees, etc.” (Maria Andersen)

AR/VR/MR/XR: Maya Georgievna and Emory Craig of Digital Bodies.   Walter Greenleaf.  Mursion.

(Maya and Emory are long-time Forum friends.  They were great guests on this topic back in 2016:)

More authors : Heather Staker, Michelle Miller (Minds Online) (Rita-Marie Conrad)

Working in higher education.  And how do we make change in education?

Next we turned to the Forum’s shape and structure.  What new programs or formats should we try?

How about classes or tutorials?  Maybe.  Some said yes, as a Forum class would meet different needs.  Others said no, deeming such to be off mission for the Forum.

“Appy Hour”: everyone shares their favorite mobile app. “How about a session on “bring your favorite mobile app, explain what it does, tell us what you think it will do in the future?”  (Maria Andersen and Rita-Marie Conrad came up with this one.)

Persistent themes: these stretch across multiple sessions.  We identify them, and develop new programming accordingly.  People seemed to like this.

Live video experience: how about watching an important and germane video, then discussing it together?  We could arrange for everything to screen the same video, then talk about it in the Forum.  Perhaps we can do this within Shindig itself.

Scenarios: a Forum session might involve the presentation of scenarios to the community, live.  In the session we’d respond, thinking through the possibilities and how we understand them together.   

Certificates: should the Forum give certificates for certain achievements?  Some people thought this wasn’t appealing to themselves, but others considered that institutions might appreciate evidence of professional development.

We then turned to a big question: how best to grow the Forum community?

People offered a bunch of ideas:

  • Bring a friend day! We could give gifts.   (Maria Andersen)
  • Costume day.  We can dress up and show off on video.   (Thanks to Forum friend Roxann Riskin)

(We did this once, for a holiday party:)

  • Partnering with other groups: some suggested the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) (Rita-Marie Conrad)
  • More face to face meetings: Rick Crain remarked that “I had not heard of you or the forum before the pre-conference workshop you did at EDUCAUSE last year. Keep doing things like that. Meetups at major conferences might help to strengthen the existing group.”  (We’ve done several live sessions at conferences and meetings, such as EDUCAUSE, the late New Media Consortium, and the similarly late Campus Technology.)
  • Buy in: what follows when we visualize the Forum’s success? (Tom Riley)
  • Interest groups by topic: Forum participants could identify topics they were especially interested in – say, VR – or by professional focus – such as administrators – then organize future speakers and maybe some programming along those lines, and more.  Interest group work could spread out through the year, with groups taking turns with Forum sessions.  Each one could have its own leader.  (One kind person thought this might take some organizing burden off of my shoulders)

Another topic came up over the past few weeks in conversations.  How can Forum discussions continue between sessions?

Ed Hilton kicked off this discussion by suggesting a social platform to communicate/ interact between weekly sessions.  People then suggested a variety of tools: Twitter, Slack, Telegram, BuddyPress, Discourse, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, Instagram, Snapchat.  And email, the original digital social medium. Noreen Barajas called for a “prompted, time specific twitter chat”. Roxann Riskin summoned up “One full day of Twitter Storm”.

No clear leader emerged from that swarm.  This suggests we should poll the community for their preferred platforms.  Maria Anderson asked us to think of the three platforms we check before breakfast.  Some suggested turning to new or emerging platforms, but there was skepticism on this score.

So what’s next?

First, I want to applaud everyone who contributed their thoughts during this rich sessions.  Noreen Barajas, Rita-Marie Conrad, Ed Hilton, Monty Kaplan, Tom Riley, Roxann Riskin, Myron Williams and more were very generous.  Maria Andersen became a co-host for the session, happily generating and fielding ideas nonstop.

Second, I want to signal some thoughts that really stood out for me.  All of the guests and topics are great.  Appy Hour is golden, as is bring a friend to Forum day. The interest group idea is especially fascinating, and I’d like to follow up.

Third, we’ll poll the entire Forum community via email.  I’m going to run these ideas and more past them/you all, including the inter-session platform preference topic, and soon.

So: what do you think of these ideas, and this open process?

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4 Responses to Starting up phase two of the Future Trends Forum

  1. Bryan – I think it is worth recognizing that the members of the FT group cut across a broad section of the higher education industry – from faculty to ed tech outfits to theorists.

    With this kind of consituency, I would think that there would be organizations, businesses, or even individuals who would gain some benefit from earning some form of endorsement from the FT community.

    I’m not even 100% sure what “endorsement” means, though my sense here is that what we say as a community matters and that it comes from a valuable variety of stakeholder interests.

    It could be something as informal as a “FT Likes You” to something more formal where the community issues a summative commentary on an issue, product, or initiative to whoever asks (in exchange for cat treats or something for the official FTTE mascots).

    At some point, we should self-recognize that we are a “thing”. We should communicate like one, if that is in the charter of FT.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Steve, that’s a fantastic thought. Maybe we could have a regular contest or at least a vote for “Future Trends Forum Innovator of the Year”, or something similar.

  2. Email, Facebook, Twitter — often but not always in that order. Lately, especially in the wake of Google News’ latest (dis)improvements, I’ve been following more and other channels on YouTube. It’s hard and, as a analytics friend explained to me, misleading to ascribe narrowly. Those three include notices/links to posts on blogs I follow. Whether or not I comment — in addition to following more than I can read — blogs remain a primary source. So which do we count? Blogs or the reminders? Then there’s the feed reader.

    Short version — most of us have more than one; there is no platform or app that rules them all, nor should there be (Facebook mission to the contrary). There should be enough overlap to keep things moving around on their own or with minimal connecting across nodes. Anarchists commune or connectivist MOOC…

    Expanding on “bring a friend” idea ~ bring (cultivate or suborn) a group or organization.

    Wouldn’t a day long “Twitter storm” be similar to “slow Twitter chat”? Both involve hanging out at and/or dropping by a special hashtag for the day/occasion — either an FT(TE) plus something tag or tag the plus separately with #FTTE.

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