Becoming a Digital Emanator

Picture-068OEB 2015 focuses on enabling change…‘the shift’. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to consider driving your area of learning or teaching towards your vision. But, how do you shine a light and create a viable pathway to a place that doesn’t yet exist?

A guest article by Professor Gilly Salmon, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Innovation) at the University of Western Australia
This is indeed the challenge that every innovator faces: to envision, illuminate, reach for and indeed influence the future before it happens.


We know that the emergence, adaption and adoption of digital technologies has transformed most sectors around the world. But the rhythm and flow for educational organisations of all kinds has been an uncomfortable and bumpy journey. The learning from failure has been undesirably slow, the creative swiping from other sectors has been unstable and achievements uneven.


So what to do? You could consider becoming a digital ‘Emanator’. An Emanator is someone or something that creates the flow of constructive and productive achievement. To emanate takes capacity, capability and courageous action! More emanation and emanators for education are needed.
Emanators could be the key to accelerating ‘the shift’ to beneficial, worthwhile digital learning.


What all great emanators and futurists have is the ability to make sense of rapidly changing worlds.  I’m hoping my sessions and those of many others at OEB15 will give you all a framework in which to place your own insights and choose your pathways.


We all know that the emergence and adoption of digital technologies has rapidly transformed some sectors, businesses and industries around the globe. Digital technology has been impactful, as it has enabled organisations to engage more effectively with customers and clients, tap into new sources of revenue and change their ways of working. We also know that the bridges to successful digitally emanated transformations are unstable. Security concerns, technology adoption and integration, and resource constraints are frequently cited as impediments. In universities some of the most powerful potential of emerging digital technologies also represent an anathema to some members of academia: consider for example the rising power of consumers, the removal of traditional barriers to entry and the ease of crossing cultural and physical boundaries. A dagger to the heart of some in universities.


There are two main ways of operating as a digital emanatory. The first is to see the future for learning in your industry and construct bridges towards your desired vision. In higher education, and as scientists, we are used to this approach. We can create hypotheses for testing or disproving from empirical evidence, make game changing observations and provide pathways for others to build upon.


Or you can build your bridge, start crossing it with your torch and allow futures to evolve and gradually emerge from the mist – this implies small scale experiments, rapid feedback from your context and a tolerance for failing often and fast.


At my traditional, research-intensive university (with a truly amazing campus in Western Australia) we are finding that both kinds of approaches are needed to emanate futures for learning. We are using a ‘quadrant’ approach to developing adaptive and incremental learning innovation along with more radical but smaller scale developments, involving large numbers of the academic community. Through my Centre for Education Futures we are undertaking projects that are larger in impact, time limited in nature and designed to reach specific objectives. Our approach is through partnerships and within the sense of shared knowledge.


My kind of emanation is about stand up visualisation, rapid development and fast feedback from our context, including our students. Experimenting also with new organisational models, exploring alternative funding, new types of partners for learning as well as research. The university encourages all its community to pursue the seemingly impossible.
This is how you too could emanate through digital technologies, illuminate the bridges and reach for your preferred futures. ‘I’ should be ‘us’ – the educators and influencers – who make sense of these complexities and challenges.


Have courage and become an emanatory in Berlin!
Professor Gilly Salmon is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Innovation) at the University of Western Australia.

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