As of last Wednesday, I am now officially in Edinburgh until the end of 2018 at least as part of the Near Future Teaching project at the University of Edinburgh under my long-term mentor and all around exceptional person Sian Bayne. The post involves an assortment of tasks, but central to it all are the questions of what should the future of teaching in universities look like? How should teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university? The Near Future Teaching project is about working together to co-design the future of digital education at Edinburgh.

As is generally a sound strategy, I will let Sian explain what it is as she can articulate better than I (and most of us) can the challenges in digital education we face.

There will be a series of events over the coming year, research, workshops, presentations, and hopefully a renewed teaching practice, one the invigorates digital education at the University going forward. Discussions on values-driven education, critical rigour, resilience, and networks of viability. Engagement with blockchain, virtual Reality, future fiction, AI, hybrid intelligence, DIY filmmaking. Stakeholders across the university, oppositional voices, students, faculty, staff, all of us. A future strategy for the coming decades for this proud ancient university, my university. 

As part of this, I am being asked to consider my position on digital education for the future. There are many takes on that position, to be sure, and digital education is big enough to support them all, but I settled on a few that I thought most speak to my motivation. Digital education for the future is

  • generative of viability: the student has the opportunity develop capacity for serving themselves, their community, their families, their relationships. Citizenry is a bit reductionist as is employability, so viability it is. What can digital education do to assist in its development?
  • mobility inducing: Primarily a social mobility, but also community and engagement mobility. How is digital education contributing to the capacity of individuals and the communities they serve to enact the change they want to see? How does that contribute to their betterment?
  • augmenting creativity: again, avoiding the trope of innovation as that is just one part of this, but how does digital education provide capacity for creativity in approaches to self-development, to addressing community challenges, in identifying creative takes in application, in pedagogy, in research, and engagement?
  • producing or making possible equity: how do we address the digital divide, that shows no signs of abating? How does digital education provide opportunities for rethinking equity in the university, for redefining roles and processes that invigorate some but disadvantage others?
  • Rigorous critically: it must add to domain knowledge, must evolve and augment domain expertise and practices, must address systematic, disciplinary issues in increasingly critical ways. Digital education can be a positive principle in this regard.

Time to get started.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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