Yes we can!” – Digital Education for Better Futures: Reflections and thoughts from EDEN 2023 in Dublin

EDEN Conference: what does a better future look like?
Source: EDEN 2023 conference

The 2023 EDEN conference (18-20 June 2023) at Dublin City University (DCU), explored the theme, “Yes we can!” – Digital Education for Better Futures. This theme focused on the language of opportunity and challenged participants to dream big. With 324 participants from 35 countries and over 200 submissions, it provided a mix of insights into the current state of digital education and future developments.

Dr Bettina Schwenger presents at EDEN 2023
Dr Bettina Schwenger presents at EDEN 2023

While there are many big and small challenges that can’t be ignored in building a more inclusive digital future, the conference placed the spotlight on the “art of the possible” in reimagining teaching, learning and assessment and delivering on the promise of better futures for all.

The conference encapsulated the spirit of optimism through the enabling language of “yes we can”, with participants focusing their presentations on the following questions: What does a better future look like? How can digital education contribute to this future? What can you do to help make and shape a better future?

Hopepunk Imagination Concept
Source: EDEN 2023 Conference

Associate Professor Rikke Toft Nørgård as the first keynote speaker explained how we can take a hopepunk approach to designing for the future in digital education, focused on hope, humanity and virtuousness. Her message resonated with the participants, supporting “a mood of gentleness or softness and a sense of self-awareness of weaponized optimism, with a worldview that fighting for positive social systems is a worthwhile fight”.

Others such as Dr. Alexandra Mihai , day 1 spotlight speaker, focused on practical strategies such as how to design for blended staff development activities. Lots of ideas from all presenters! Have a look at the recordings, you will find lots of valuable ideas and advice that are relevant for our work in Aotearoa New Zealand and the South Pacific region.

Person Standing on Mountain: We should not go back to the Ivory Tower
Source: EDEN 2023 Conference

Now is a good time to create a shared vision about education and our institutions. This creation is inspired by opportunity and hope rather than limited by fear. We need to create a space and time to talk and think about the future we need to create. Be intentional in promoting change, integrate technology after clarifying pedagogical reasoning, value all elements and foster the space to envision and build the future we dream of for education.

Together we can shape the future of education and pave the way for a more inclusive world. Let’s demand a better, brighter future for education. The time is now.


Author: Bettina Schwenger

Dr Bettina Schwenger has a background in sociolinguistics, digital literacies and academic development. She is now Curriculum Development Manager at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland.  With her work as an online teacher and course developer, Bettina has a strong interest in the experience of students and teachers as participants in digital pedagogies and in supporting sustainable, inclusive and accessible design for learning.