President’s Address

A welcome message from the ISLS President, Victor Lee

Victor LeeRight now is a time of change – we are seeing it in the streets, in the news, on the internet, and hopefully in ourselves. We are changing the ways in which we act in the world, and thus we are learning. That’s a central idea in the learning sciences – when we change the nature of our participation in the world, we are also learning. Right now, I and so many others in our community are working to make sure that we and our institutions all change and learn in ways that demonstrate that we are aware that anti-black racism is a real, it is a systemic problem, black lives matter, forms of racism and oppression exist throughout all over the globe, and we all need to and can do better if we want a more just and equitable world.

I am assuming the presidency of ISLS in circumstances I could not have foreseen. More voices are speaking out about injustice and state-sponsored violence against black bodies. We are faced with a global pandemic. We are battling widespread misinformation and disruption of our notions of leadership and governance and civic engagement. We are showing inadequate progress in doing what is necessary to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. We are in the midst of a data revolution where issues of privacy and ethics and bias are only now beginning to enter the mainstream conversation. We are seeing massive and abrupt transition to online education for those who have the resources and the absence of the support and care that can be provided in a school-based learning environment for those who do not. There has been so much happening that I know I have needed to retreat at times to even try to make sense of it all and to think about what place I have in this changing world. In those times, I have also thought about what place do we as learning scientists have in this world. What purpose do we serve when there are so many things that seem wrong and in need of change?

What I have concluded is one critical need we have as learning scientists is to better engage the public. The learning sciences is of the utmost relevance and importance for the challenges we see before us right now. We need rigorous work that understands how people think and learn in the real world, how concepts and epistemologies form and are maintained and changed in spaces like schools, home, and online. We need to understand and support new multimodal and computational literacies – new forms of thought and expression – that are emerging in conjunction with fundamental changes to our social and technological infrastructures. We need rich understandings of culture, of how cultures adapt and change and how participation in one or more cultures enables or inhibits participation in others. We need to understand the ideas and perspectives of youth, what they value and believe and what they have to say about a world that is as much theirs as it is ours. We need to know how we coordinate and collaborate with technology as more of us are living and learning in physically distributed arrangements and participating in complex and rapidly changing sociotechnical ecosystems. We need to understand and support our educators who have shown resilience and ingenuity despite insufficient resources and so many demands on their underappreciated expertise. We need visions and models for how research and practice can meaningfully pursue joint work that has consequence for communities and public institutions and for the academic endeavor. We need design, so that we can invent new technologies, new experiences, and new futures.

This year, members of our society will be addressing those needs and also doing a lot of introspection. And we will also be changing a number of things. We will no longer have alternating years of ICLS and CSCL conferences. Instead, we are moving to a model of an ISLS annual meeting with concurrent programs in learning sciences and computer-supported collaborative learning. This will be hosted in Bochum, Germany but likely a hybrid conference given current circumstances. We will be launching a new website that will better connect learning scientists with resources and with each other. We will experiment with new ways of engaging with different regions of the world. Throughout this, we will be reflecting on ways that we can do better in our work. Many ideas for that will come from our global membership. As you come up with ideas, please let me or a member of the board of directors know. We are eager to hear from you.

Victor R. Lee

ISLS President 2020–2021