Learnovation 2018: “I want to be augmented, not replaced!”

Notes and Thoughts from the Learnovation 2018 Conference, Croke Park, Dublin, 3 October 2018

For what future am I preparing the participants of my creative computing classes?

My vision is to enable them to develop their skills so they can become confident, creative, and competent digital citizens.

What does that mean, in concrete terms? Plus is there anything new and doable out there that I’d love to try in my groups?

These were the main questions that I was asking myself as I went to Croke Park two days ago (3 October 2018) for the annual Learnovation conference, put together by Learnovate. Learnovate is a research and innovation centre funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland & attached to Trinity College Dublin.

Here are some of the answers I came back with:


  • There needs to be an awareness that what could be done is not automatically the same as what should be done. (Owen White, Learnovate Centre Director).
  • That’s true for cccSkerries, too. Just that it’s possible doesn’t mean I should do it!

General skills / future of work

  • Work is not a place you go to, but a thing you do – what is needed is skills development, not job training. (Peter Cosgrove and others)
  • Creativity, resilience, problem solving – those are the main skills that are needed now & will be needed even more so in the future!
  • AIs can learn faster than humans can. Driverless cars upload their journeys (and learning), and have access to the learning of all the other cars – no human could process so much data in the same time.
  • Anything that can be automated, will be automated (driverless cars; online systems that evaluate issues relating to insurance, tax, health symptoms…). If data is there to be crunched, it will be crunched.
  • This could free our time up for more interesting, creative, fascinating, pleasant work!
  • Lifelong learning is key, and it’s up to the person (employee) themselves, not to others, to identify what they should learn, and how.
  • The choice of learning is wide – lots of “online microbite learning opportunities” (Siobhan O’Shea, cpl)
  • One challenge is to follow through once a topic / skill / course has been identified, and not to start a multitude of courses without finishing them (and then applying what you have learned!).

Future of first to third level education

  • Just giving every child a device (iPad, laptop, smartphone) does not accomplish anything. It’s not about the tap, shiny though it might be, it’s about the plumbing behind it!
  • Some schools, like the Olive Tree School in Bolton (whose founder, Abdul Chohan, was one of the main speakers), are using technology in innovative ways that allow teachers to speed up tasks like lesson planning, evaluation, corrections while offering better-quality, more personalised learning to the students (plus easier access to information on how their child is doing to the parents). Two aspects are central when introducing technology: Simplicity and reliability!
  • Virtual Reality is becoming more and more accessible, and as the price for headsets is coming down, educational material will be more available. Plus some of it can be accessed for little or no money (and can be seen on normal screens, too).
  • I’d love to create 3d landscapes with my participants and then walk through them in a virtuality… Has anyone seen Ready Player One? The book is even better. I can’t wait for multidimensional 3D rigs so we can walk around in virtual reality without bumping into walls in real reality….
  • Currently, io is in Beta. It has directional audio, i.e. when you are all “sitting” around a table, you can “hear” where a voice is coming from, and it runs on many standard devices such as smartphones and laptops; better with VR headsets, but they are not required!
  • Virtual reality meeting rooms could be a path for me for teaching classes to participants who are not based in Skerries (or near the libraries where I teach)… Food for thought there!
  • The art subjects, sports, music are at least as important as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects! As humans, we should focus on the things that robots / computers can’t do. (Aisling Teillard, HR specialist, during a panel discussion). Plus… The heads of many hugely innovative companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon have an arts degree. Thinking, evaluating, questioning, looking at facts from various angles… all these are skills that will continue to be very important.
  • Learning must never stop! From early childhood through all phases of adolescence and adulthood, the one thing that will be constant (and will speed up) is change. Learning some skills and facts in the first third of one’s life and then using them for the rest of one’s professional existence is a thing of the past.
  • In order to change behaviour, it helps to understand the plasticity of the brain & how it changes when we’re learning (Celine Mullins, Adaptas). Nudges can help to change people’s behaviour… in discussions following Peter Gillis‘ talk on how this economic theory can be applied to learning, many agreed that being ‘nudged’ can be hugely annoying and even feel creepy. Who gave anyone the right to decide that I need to be nudged??? However, if you sign up to a program that includes behavioural change (health, fitness, learning a language), then the same types of nudges (emails, pop-up windows, notifications), if judged well, can be very helpful. It’s all about the why!
  • I’m now wondering how I could better nudge my participants… πŸ™‚

Moving from change on a personal level to change in general (and as far as technology is concerned, in particular)…. yes, it still seems to be speeding up. That’s the message many speakers were disseminating. Plus we really don’t know what our future will look like. 2030 seems to be a key year that a lot of predictions focus on (here is one interesting selection of predictions I found).

That’s only 12 years from now, so we’d like to think we have a pretty good idea of what our world will be like. However, as was pointed out during the conference, if you look back only 12 years, you get to 2006… a world that was pre-Facebook and Twitter. The first iPhone was four years away…

  • So all we can do is be ready, willing and able to change with the times while remaining true to our values, it seems!

Digital Intelligence: DQ (as well as EQ and IQ)…

  • This was only a small part of the presentation by Abdul Chohan. If you’re interested in what he has to say, you could start with his 2017 article on How Technology Opens Up New Possibilities in Teaching
  • Screen time, distraction by multiple screens, and not spending enough time with physical activity while spending too much time staring at a digital device is not just something that children do – adults need to evaluate what they’re doing and set a good example. Many children wish their parents were giving them more undivided attention and are jealous of that little shiny box their mum or dad is interacting with too much…

It’s important to develop an understanding of all digital issues, from one’s digital footprint (recruiters already routinely check applicants’ social media presence!) to digital safety and lots of other aspects in between. Have a close look at this overview (click to enlarge):

Central is the ability to understand technology – to know what tools are there; to know when to use them, and when not to use them. Good learning needs activity, authenticity, being invested in the subject, motivation, and technology – all of these aspects are important, and technology should not be seen in isolation.

Click to enlarge! Abdul Chohan in action.
  • This is an issue that I will follow up in a future blog post, as it is so central to what I’m doing with cccSkerries and my teaching.
  • According to the Digital Readiness Model (reported by Occupational Psychologist & Executive Coach Siobhan Kelly, cut-e Ireland), we need to be able to learn, to be agile, and to be curious. So, she says… Be curious! Try new things! Break old habits! A good message for ourselves – and for the young people we work with.
The skills that make up digital readiness spelled out (Siobhan Kelly)

By the way, computational thinking and coding should definitely be taught to everybody… not because everybody should be a programmer or develop their own apps, but because it’s a great way to train the brain to solve problems! (after Abdul Chohan, co-founder of The Olive Tree School, Bolton, UK)

Looking back…


Could I have spent a day thinking about all these issues without attending a conference (and moving this week’s Wednesday classes for its sake)? I could have… but would I? Plus: Some of the ideas that were put forward by the individual speakers only formed themselves into a more or less coherent mosaic in my mind during the inspiring and stimulating chats I had with other participants during breaks and lunch. Being part of a learning and thinking community is invaluable, even if it’s just for a day.

“If there are teachers out there who could be replaced by computers / AIs, then they should be…” That’s a sentiment which was shared by a number of speakers. (Implying that good teachers / educators are so much more than just teaching machines.)

I love the way Richard Millwood (who specialises in helping educators develop their teaching through technology) rephrased this:

“I don’t want to be replaced, I want to be augmented!”

Hear, hear! On that note…. Until the next blog post! (Which will probably be based on my attending my favourite annual unConference, CongRegation, in November 2018)