Having a Gasta at #ALTC

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This is post #2 of my ALTC reflection. You can read my post 1 recap of the keynotes.

Me in full gasta flow. Photo by Chris Bull for Association For Learning Technology CC-BY-NC

A few weeks before ALTC, Maren Deepwell reached out to me to see if I would be interested in participating in their Gasta talks.

“Sure!” I said, followed quickly by “Um, what is a gasta talk?”

Turns out, gasta talks are a 5 minute lightening talk, modeled after similar talks, like Ignite and Pecha Kucha. The Gasta format is borrowed from the EdTech conferences organized by the Irish Learning Technology Association, ILTA, and the Gasta was organized and MC’d by Dr. Tom Farrelly of the ITLA. Along with myself, I shared the stage with Debbie Baff, Paul Gormley and Laura Widger of the ILTA, Donna Lanclos and Leo Havemann.

I only had 5 minutes, so I actually scripted my gasta out. I went back and forth with Maren about the topic. I wanted something that would resonate with the crowd, but still have some fun moments in it Turns out, I didn’t have to worry much about the fun part as Tom was a cracker of an M/C, providing plenty of opportunities for the audience to have some fun and interact. In the end, here is the description I submitted for my gasta talk.

As a child did you dream of a future as a Learning Technologist? Neither did I. But, here I am, 25 years into my career as an Educational Technologist (and current Manager of Educational Technologies for BCcampus in British Columbia, Canada) and enjoying every minute of it. My gasta will focus on 3 things I’ve noticed about the changing role of the Educational/Learning Technologist in those 25 years. And the Loch Ness Monster.

I put together a few slides and scripted the thing out. My Gasta talks starts at around 22:45.

I’ve never been referred to as the Wayne Gretzky of learning technologies. Thanks, Tom.

I really appreciate whomever it was that brought my name forward to do the Gasta talk. This was fun, and reminded me of a similar format that we have been doing at our ETUG workshops with 10 minute lightening talks followed by facilitated table top discussions on the talks. You can pack a lot into 5-10 minutes, and I really like having the tight time constraint as it forces me to focus on what it is I want to say. In this case, here is what I wanted to say. My slides and transcript of my talk are below.

When I grow up I want to be a Learning Technologist

(said no child ever)

3 observations from 25 years working as a Learning Technologist

Thanks for inviting me. I’ve titled my Gasta When I grow up I want to be a Learning Technologist (said no child ever): 3 observations from 25 years working as a learning technologist.

5 minutes is too short for long intros on who I am, but suffice to say…

I wear a number of different hats back in British Columbia. I am the Manager of EdTech for a regional higher education consortium called BCcampus. I am also associate faculty in the school of learning & technology at Royal Roads University, and am a community steward for an organization in BC similar to ALT called ETUG – the education technology user group.

In addition to this being the 25th anniversary of ALT, next year is also the 25th anniversary of ETUG. Next year is also my personal 25th anniversary as an educational technologist, although to be honest for the first 10 years of my career I didn’t actually know that I was an educational technologist. It’s a career that I fell into, and I suspect that I am not the only one in this room that fell into it.

At any rate, like many kids growing up in the Canadian north, my childhood dreams were to become a professional ice hockey player. Once I realized that you actually had to have some hockey skill to do that, I altered my dream to something that I thought more achievable – I wanted to be a professional Nessie hunter. I even had a backup plan should Nessie hunting fall through. In Canada we have a similar mythical creature – the Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan. I figured if I couldn’t make the big show in Scotland hunting Nessie, I could try my luck in the local leagues.

At no time did I dream of becoming an educational technologist. But, yet, 25 years later, here I am, and along the way I have noticed some changes and shifts in our field. Here are 3.

Observation #1: Education Technology has become both simpler and more complex.

On the simple side, in 2007 when I used Skype for the first time to bring a guest speaker into a class for an instructor, it took me 6 weeks to coordinate. The first hurdle? Convincing our IT department that this new thing called Skype wasn’t some kind of secret back door into our network for Eastern European hackers.

Today, a competent digitally literate instructor can bring a guest into the classroom using Skype in a matter of minutes. Some things have gotten easier.

On the more complex side, I doubt the learning technologist of the past had to worry about the student data retention policy of the overhead projector.

Which brings me to observation #2.

The Educational Technologist of 2018 is becoming much more critical. This is one where we need to continue to grow, but have made some great strides in, especially in the past 5-10 years, thanks to many people whom I know are in this room. Early in my career, I was often cast in the role of technology evangelist. Some of you may have even had the word “evangelist” in your job title at one time. Today, we are much less evangelists, and much more critical of not only technology, but the often unseen or unspoken processes that drive technology adoption in education. I am happy to be at a conference that has an entire stream dedicated to critical perspectives in Learning Technology.

Observation #3: the Learning Technologist is not an Instructional Designer.

Perhaps it’s the Canadian in me that phrases this as a “not”. Often when you ask a Canadian to identify what it is to be Canadian you’ll get a reply of “not American”. But I don’t mean this pejoratively or in a way to pit one role against the other. Both are valuable and important roles to maintain high standards of teaching & learning excellence in our institutions. But I think of those as 2 separate roles. Complementary and needing to be informed by each others practice, yes. But distinct fields requiring different skills and attributes, and I often feel that the profession that we call Learning Technologist or Educational Technologist is often undervalued in our institutions and tends to get tacked on to an equally important, but separate role, of Instructional Designer.

It is this third point that has actually brought me to ALT this year because I think ALT has a model program in CMALT that helps to demonstrate the value of the Learning Technologist role. I am here to find out more about how that works, discover the value that CMALT has both systematically and to the individuals who earn the designation. From my distant vantage point, I see CMALT as a tangible way to help to increase the professionalism of the specific role of the learning technologist.

So, there you go. In the end it may not be the career I dreamed about as a kid, but now that I have arrived I honestly can’t dream about being anything else. Those are my three observations. I look forward to hearing yours.

Thank you.


Aaron Davis September 22, 2018

I really enjoyed this Clint. I think the critical change in regards to technology is significant. I recently wrote a reflection on this after the Cambridge Analytica. I feel that the biggest challenge we face is being informed and building the capacity across the system.

Clint Lalonde September 24, 2018

Thanks for the comment & for sharing your posts, Aaron. And apologies for the comment taking so long to appear on the post. The multiple links sent it into my moderation folder. Any post that can connect LOTR and Mr. Robot will get my attention (as will a nod to Doug’s Eight Essentials work). It’s becoming more apparent to me that our efforts to build digital capacity in educators has taken on an extra urgency in the past few years as tech itself has become more complex and more deeply embedded in our daily life. Thanks for sharing.

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