For Professor Siân Bayne, creating a brighter tomorrow isn’t just a lofty ideal, but the foundation of her life’s work. As director of education at the Edinburgh Futures Institute and director for the Centre for Research in Digital Education at Edinburgh University, she focuses her research primarily on the future of educational technology and institutional change.
“I’m interested in what universities will look like in the future and how academic communities can come together to define their own visions and values for it,” Bayne says.
She’s currently working on a project with the Future University Lab at Una Europa, trying to understand and shape the ideal university of tomorrow. In her work with the Edinburgh Futures Institute, she’s helping to create new future-facing education models that are both inclusive and flexible.
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Bayne is presenting at the 37th annual University of Wisconsin–Madison Distance Teaching & Learning Conference (DT&L) with Dr. Jeremy Knox, who co-directs for the Centre for Research in Digital Education with her. Their talk, “The Manifesto for Teaching Online,” which will be delivered as the opening conference keynote on August 2, will focus on the future of education and is based on their book of the same title, consisting of a series of 21 statements they co-authored with a team of faculty at the University of Edinburgh.
Recently published by MIT Press, The Manifesto for Teaching Online explores the pedagogy, politics, and philosophy of teaching online. It emphasizes the need to continuously and critically question educational technology while considering the value of having a research-led understanding of digital teaching and learning.
“I hope people will take some of the provocations we raise forward into discussions with their own teams and networks,” Bayne says of her upcoming talk. “The Manifesto is primarily aimed at provoking and shaping active discussion about educational technology and how we work with it as teachers.”
Not a one-size-fits-all solution
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As co-director at the Centre for Research in Digital Education, Jeremy Knox spends his time driving the use of data-intensive technologies in education. By drawing from research in digital sociology and science and technology studies, his work looks to understand the broad impact of technology on education.
Knox is also currently working in collaboration with Shanghai-based education company Squirrel AI to examine the use of artificial intelligence in education. He believes that ethical issues surrounding AI and education need to be understood in context, rather than being established as universal principles.
“I think that suggesting all-encompassing ‘effective educational strategies’ without any understanding of the very real contexts, challenges, and lived experiences of educators and students in context is more often damaging than it is helpful,” Knox explains.
His work will be deeply intertwined within the DT&L keynote, critiquing the idea of the universally applicable “best practice” and stating the importance of situational context.
Knox is very much looking forward to hearing about the different creative uses of technology at the DT&L Conference, while Bayne is excited to meet new people and hear other perspectives on how digital education might shift in a post-COVID world.
Handling with care
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An associate professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, Maha Bali’s primary focus is incorporating equity and care into education, and she practices what she preaches.
She is co-founder of virtuallyconnecting.org, a grassroots movement that challenges academic gatekeeping at conferences, and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound, which aims to create equity-focused, intercultural learning experiences across classes, countries and contexts.
“I always try to walk the talk of embodying care in my relationships with faculty and students,” Bali says. “I am also a critical pedagogue and have emphasized social justice in my approach to teaching and faculty development for years.”
The unusual events of the past year have shed a unique light on the importance of Bali’s work.
“It’s a complicated journey; you face resistance,” she explains. “I felt like during the pandemic, everyone suddenly realized why it’s important to approach education with equity and care in mind. The sudden shift to online learning and trauma of the pandemic made care essential and uncovered so many inequalities previously invisible to us when we were teaching in person.”
Bali’s closing keynote at the DT&L Conference on August 5th will be interactive and a direct reflection of her work. She looks not only to encourage educators to practice both equity and care but to give them the practical applications to do so. After her talk, she plans to engage participants and their experiences on a closer level to help further develop her models.
Bali is looking forward to engaging in the sessions and workshops at the DT&L Conference, as well as the presentation by her fellow keynote speakers.