I am honored to serve as society president for 2018-19. In my comments here, I'd like to build on the ICLS 2018 conference theme, "making the learning sciences count." In the coming year and beyond, I call on our society to focus on people, places, and pathways.

With regard to people: the learning sciences need to be human sciences, or we all lose. We need our work to humanize rather than dehumanize. Who are the people in our research and development groups, at our meetings, and in our journals? And what positionalities, practices, and purposes do they represent? For instance, in our community, we have seen increasing involvement of learners, practicing teachers, and school administrators as active, agentic participants in our research and design efforts. As we expand who is involved, we must continue to critically examine issues like: who is interacting with whom, and whose ideas are being heard, by whom? We should not expect everyone to agree, but we need to engage with each other in true dialogue. A further issue is: Who is not at our meetings and in our journals, from cultural, theoretical, and methodological perspectives?

Which brings me to places. In our research and development, we must continue to think about: What are the places we are doing research, and taking action? We have not limited our work to schools, and we must continue to be concerned with learning wherever it happens. Who do we collectively and individually engage with deeply, and where do we do so? I implore all members of the Society to work together in overcoming ideological, methodological, theoretical, and geographical boundaries. It is extremely important that we work to overcome barriers both within and at the edges of our current community.

We can overcome barriers by focusing on pathways. In the learning environments we design, many of our community members thoughtfully plan for and examine how well we welcome in and provide guidance as well as opportunities for agency by all participants. In the Society, we have a long tradition of striving to have supportive pathways for the diverse society membership, with wonderful programs like the doctoral consortium, early and mid-career workshops, and NAPLeS. But we can't be complacent. I invite you all to consider people and places who could be part of our big tent, as former president Nikol Rummel referred to our community. I especially invite you if you are new to the society, or early in your career. Who else would be productive dialogue and action partners with us? Please invite them personally to come to our future conferences, and submit to our journals.

Over the past few years, the board has been pursuing a number of boundary-breaking initiatives. These include our involvement in the International Alliance to Advance Learning in the Digital Era (IAALDE), the co-location of ICLS 2018 with Learning@Scale and AIED, and a regional workshop sponsored by the Society in early 2018 in South Africa. Look for announcements this year of expanded efforts to support further regional and thematic initiatives.

And be a part of expanding the people and places engaged with the learning sciences, by constructing and tending pathways we can take toward transforming our world.


Joe Polman

President, International Society of the Learning Sciences

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