Near Future Teaching Collider

I attended a Collider event as part of the Near Future Teaching project at the University of Edinburgh. The project is about addressing questions on what should the future of teaching look like in both universities in general, and University of Edinburgh specifically. What social, cultural and technological trends will come together to drive new teaching practices? As a truly ‘wicked problem’, the Near Future Teaching project is operating on principles of collaboration and co-design. The Collider event is part of this project process.

A collider is a design process event involving short presentations from people with very different perspectives. For this event, we had presentations from:

  • Michael Rovatsos from Informatics speaking on massive human/ machine collaboration addressing human problems with complex computational solutions. He spoke on the use of technology in large-scale social orchestration [a ‘vanilla’ example being lift-sharing apps] and on the social and ethical aspects of algorithmic decision-making.
  • Jo Holtan from the Mastercard Scholars program dared us to think small. Drawing on some of the approaches of the KaosPilot programmes in Denmark to talk about focusing future teaching on the whole person and that learners and teachers should bring their ‘full selves’ to the educational experience. This is contrasted with a university view of staff and students as fragmented slices of course attendance, research outputs, etc. She also emphasised the importance of student identity and that mass higher education diminishes the students’ sense if identity and this feeds in to increasing student anxieties.
  • Fionn Tynan-O’Mahoney from the Open Experience Centre at Royal Bank of Scotland. Fionn talked about innovation in a highly regulated industry and the issues for the sector of trust, intimacy and being disliked! He emphasised innovation as generating exponential rather than incremental change and as creating meaningful impact.

Once the ‘problem’ had been outlined for us by Sian Bayne  in terms of how to design university teaching for a creative, risk-taking, values-led digital future? The rest of the session was for the participants to explore the spaces between the ideas and themes of the presentations to consider the future of higher education. The group I was in spent a lot of time discussing the values of higher education – especially whose values – as well as the potential for co-production of very flexible and emergent curricula.

After an hour or so, we presented these back as performance pieces with some very cool props. Chris Speed tweeted our group looking very cool.

All the groups really honed in on both the structural issues of the curriculum and the human experiences of higher education and especially those issues of identity-making and intimacy. The future of teaching and learning (or at least curricula design)  should embrace and enhance interdisciplinarity and fluidity in dialogue with those very human issues of identity and intimacy.

The Collider format was a great way to finish the week and a useful way of thinking about the future without simply relying on extrapolating past trends or the constraints of feasibility.

[a storify of the event can be viewed here]

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