e-Learning Stuff Podcast #053: Last week or so…

July 4, 2010

James talks about last week and stuff he saw, wrote about and found…

This is the fifty third e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Last week or so…

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Last week or so…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Shownotes


Resistance to innovation

June 30, 2010

There has always been resistance innovation and I suspect it will continue…

Martin Bean last year gave an excellent keynote at ALT-C 2009 and in the first few minutes (from 3m 50s) described some historical views on innovation.

View the section of the keynote that deals with resistance to innovation from here.


2000+ Dead VLEs

March 12, 2010

Quite impressed that over 2000 people have now watched the video recording of the VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009.

It was a fun debate and I hope that in future conferences we can have similar entertaining, stimulating and popular debates.


Want to join the conversation?

February 5, 2010

I am in the process of planning two symposia submissions for ALT-C 2010.

If you were aware of the VLE is Dead Symposium from ALT-C 2009 then you will know that these can be not only great fun, but interesting, useful and informative.

So what are the two?

Are you stealing stuff?

So there you are creating a presentation, learning resources, handouts, learning objects, handouts…

Now in those is there any stuff, such as text, images, audio, video that you didn’t create, have “taken” from somewhere else (such as a website).

Did you think it was okay, as it was “for education” and it’s not as though you took it, you merely made a digital copy.

In this digital age it is much easier to create interactive, colourful, exciting learning resources. It is also just as easy to infringe copyright.

Should we as learning technologists be turning a blind eye to this, to increase the usage of learning technologies, should we be the guardians of digital content, should we be ensuring that infractions don’t happen?

This debate will look at the issue of copyright in a digital age and the role of users of learning technologies and learning technologists.

Best thing since the printing press!

Alternative title: Do you like books or do you like reading?

e-Books and e-Book Readers are going to be big! Apple have announced the iPad, Amazon have their Kindle, many other manufacturers are offering a wealth of e-Book Readers. Likewise publishers are now offering many more titles in the e-book format.

We know that some people like physical books, well if you like reading and e-Book Readers offer the reader a lot more than a traditional book.

With an e-Book Reader you can carry more than one book, you can carry a lot more than one book. You can carry documents too. The screen is reasonably large enough too so that it is easy to read. The battery life is pretty good too, much better than many laptops or a phones. With devices such as the iPad you can view video or play audio.

e-Books are not about replacing books, in the same way that online news sites don’t totally replace physical newspapers, or YouTube replaces TV.

Likewise e-Book Readers don’t replace computers; what both e-Books and e-Book Readers do is allow reading to happen at a time and place to suit the reader.

However is this all just hype? A marketing dream that will never bear fruit and e-Book Readers and iPads will be placed in dusty cupboards.

Will e-Book DRM make it impossible or difficult for educators to use e-Books effectively?

This debate will discuss the emergence of the e-Book as a new format to enhance and enrich learning. Is it the best thing to happen to reading since the printing press, or is it just a big hyped bubble that will burst?

———-

If you are interested in being part of this then please let me know either by e-mail or adding a comment below.

I would suggest if you haven’t done so already, watch the VLE is Dead debate , as this will give you an idea of the format; likewise read this blog post on how I feel about conference symposia and how the symposium will be run.

I am looking for people to have different views to my own. I am also looking for a chair for each discussion

Deadline for submission to ALT is the 15th February, therefore I need to know as soon as possible.

Photo source.


Top Ten Web Tools of 2009

January 6, 2010

Here are my top ten web tools of 2009. This is a list of web tools which I have used extensively over the last twelve months. Last year I posted my top ten web tools of 2008, here is my new list from 2009.

There were quite a few tools that I have been using and could have been in my top ten.

I really like Screenr, simply put, it is a free web based screencasting application. It captures what you do on your screen and then converts it a web video format and posts a notification to Twitter. You can then download the video as an MP4 movie file. I like it but haven’t made a huge use of it, so that’s why it’s not in my top ten.

A similar concept is Jing, though this requires you to download an application.

iPadio is a phone based podcasting service which has now been supplemented by an iPhone app. Some of the MoLeNET Mentors have made good use of iPadio, I have really used Audioboo.

I use to have strong reservations about Wikipedia, until I realised I used it on almost daily basis. No it’s not my only source, nor is it really an authoritative source, however it is a useful, quick and easy source of information.

I do like Prezi and have seen some excellent presentations using Prezi, however despite liking it, I have never used it in anger! Therefore it does not make my top ten.

I initially couldn’t see the point of Cloudworks, however ALT-C 2o09 and Ascilite 2009 demonstrated the value of Cloudworks as a repository of information, links and comments on conferences and keynotes. I will see how I use it in 2010 to see if it makes the top ten then.

Probably in at number eleven was Slideshare. I used it much more in 2009 than in 2008. However for me the main issue was that my presentations don’t really work on Slideshare as they are mainly pictures and single words, and that’s probably why it’s not in my top ten.

This is an e-learning blog and I should really mention Moodle, I use Moodle everyday as part of my day job, however I see this more as an institutional service rather than a web tool.

There were others which are very popular and didn’t even come close, the one you probably have heard of is Facebook. I have hardly used Facebook this year and am considering as others are in closing my account down.

In last year’s list, but not in this year’s are Qik, Remember the Milk and Crowdvine. I did use Qik, but nowhere as near as much as I did in 2008. The main reason was that thw quality was good enough for people to go “wow” but that was about it. The “live” bit was okay, but not good enough to use on a regular basis. It was just as easy to record video on the iPhone and then upload to TwitVid or YouTube. I have though just downloaded the version for the iPhone 3GS and that may make a difference to how much I use it now. I still use Remember the Milk, but not as effectively as I would like, so more work needed there from me and them. I also did use Crowdvine at ALT-C 2009 and the scheduling was useful as was the communicating, but there was nothing new there compared to 2008 and therefore it dropped out of the top ten. If the social networking intergration was better I am pretty sure it would have probably creeped in. However it was too slow in picking up Twitter posts, Flickr photos and blog posts; this is very important for a conference networking tool.

Anyway onto the top ten for 2009.

10. Evernote

Now why would you use Evernote when you can use Google Docs? Well What I find Evernote is good for is note taking whereas I use Google Docs for writing documents. With Evernote though, you can use it through apps offline, through a web interface in a browser (useful on shared computers), in an iPhone app (iTunes Store Link). I like how you can add screenclips, screenshots, photographs and audio to your notes too. This blog entry was started on Evernote for example. It has great uses for learning too, learners can use it to store notes and with the ability to have different notebooks and tagging, will make it very easy to find notes when it comes to writing assignments or revision.

9. Etherpad

This is also one of those services which you may think, why not just use Google Docs? Well Google thought it was different enough they bought the company! Etherpad is a simple concept which works really well. Create a pad, share the URL and then everyone can help create a shared document; where it is special is that you can do this simultaneously. So as you type, I can type, you will be able to see what you’re typing and what I am typing too. This is brilliant in meetings and at conferences where you can share links, ideas, notes, comments together. In the past a group in a meeting may have had separate notebooks (real or virtual) now with Etherpad you can share a single electronic notepad. The MoLeNET Mentors have used it with great effect as a shared notebook. Imagine a study group of learners using Etherpad to share lecture notes, links, resources, comments, drafts.

8. Shozu

Shozu was my number five web tool last year, it has dropped a few places, but I still use it on a regular basis. What Shozu does for me is when I ever take a photograph using my Nokia N95 I can immediately upload the image to Flickr. With a little preparation I can add relevant tags (or edit tags on the fly) and it will also add the geo-data using the GPS on the N95. What this means is that when I am at an event I can take lots of photographs and people who want to see what is going on can easily see from my photographs. It also allows me to capture my day in a kind of lifestream giving me a record of what I have done, who I have met and where I have been. I also use Shozu to upload photographs and video to Twitter services such as TwitPic and TwitVid. I have also used it to upload content to my blog.

7. Audioboo

This has been one fun app to use on the iPhone. So what is Audioboo? Well it’s a service I first saw demonstrated at the All Together Now event at Channel 4. To put it simply it is an App (iTunes Store Link) on your iPhone that allows you to record an audio recording, add your location, a picture and upload the lot to a website. This has some real  potential for learning activities. As you have an account on the website (not essential but recommended) your recordings are kept together and also have an RSS feed as well, which people can subscribe to via iTunes or other podcasting applications. I have mainly used Audioboo to show people what Audioboo can do. I hope to in 2010 use Audioboo to do a regular short podcast.

6. Ustream

So you want to create video, live video? You want to share that live video with lots of people? Well yes you can stream from your computer, however if you have limited bandwidth then this can be a problem. Services such as Ustream allow you to easily stream live video across the web to many different users, even if you have limited bandwidth such as over a 3G connection. I used Ustream a few times over 2009 to stream keynotes from the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, the VLE is Dead session live from ALT-C 2009 and also various MoLeNET Live “online conferences”. There is now an iPhone app so you can stream live from your iPhone 3GS. Simple to use, easy for people to interact with, live video streaming from UStream is a great technology with lots of learning potential. Learners in the workplace could stream from their work or access live streams from lecturers in college or in the field (or literally in a field).

5. Google Docs

Last year Google Docs scraped into my top ten at number ten. This year I have put it in at number five. The main way I use Google Docs is to write a document that I know I will be working from on multiple computers. Now I know I could use a USB stick, but it assumes I have the same application on all machines, which is not always the case. For example my work machines have Office 2003, fine, but my Mac has Office 2008 (the newer version), my home Mac only has Pages, my Samsung Q1 only has Open Office as does the Asus EeePC. Sometimes the PC is runing Office 2007. Using Google Docs allows me to have a single copy of a document, share that document and export or print in variety of formats. For example I can download my document as a PDF. I have used Google Docs many times throughout 2009 to work on documents with other people from across the world and that has proved how useful this service is to me. Learners will find that using Google Docs as the service to use in writing their assignments (especially group assignments) will avoid the headaches of different versions of Word, losing USB sticks, inability to access network drives from outside college, etc, etc…

4. Ning

So you want to create your own social networking service? Why not use Ning? Create your own creepy treehouse!!! I used Ning a fair few times in 2009 in the main in supporting events I was running or attending. I used it initially for the ILT Champions Informal Conference and the Fringe for the Plymouth e-Learning Conference. It allowed delegates at both events to communicate, share pictures, video, write blog posts and have discussions. I was surprised by how well they worked. I am currently using Ning to work with various communities, and in 2010 it will be the service used by the Becta Technology Exemplar Network to share and collaborate. I don’t actually see Ning as a “social networking” service as such, more as a web site that I don’t need to build! For learning, it has many uses especially when you want students from multiple institutions to collaborate and work together.

3. Flickr

Last year Flickr was number six, this year it has climbed three places to number three. have nearly 2700 photographs on Flickr up from nearly 1500 last year, that means I have uploaded nearly a hundred photographs a month, or three a day! They cover a range of topics and events. From an events perspective I think Flickr adds so much more to an event. It can capture the event in ways that can’t be caught in any other way. Flickr is not only a great way of storing photographs, also a great place to find photographs, and many images on this blog are from photos from Flickr which are creative commons licensed to allow me to use them on the blog. Flickr is a great way to store photographs and to find images.

2. WordPress

Though it’s all about quality I did publish 232 e-Learning Stuff Blog posts last year… I use WordPress.com and have been very pleased with it. One of the key reasons that I like WordPress is that it has made it very easy to post video to the web. Now YouTube is great and all that and I do use it, however with the ten minute limit, this can be quite constraining. WordPress with the (paid for) Videopress upgrade does a very good job of converting my films into Flash Video. The quality is certainly much better than YouTube, and I can embed the video on other sites as well. It handles the bandwith too, with the VLE is Dead video the blog was delivering 40Gb of video that first week! I use a WordPress.com blog for many reasons, the main is convenience. As it is web based all I need is a browser to write a blog entry, though there are other tools such as Shozu and the WordPress app on the iPod touch which also allow me to write. The stats are useful in finding out how people are finding the blog, likewise comments allow feedback. Blogs can be public like mine, or private, restricted to say a group, or a tutor and a learner.

1. Twitter

Last year Twitter was my number two web tool, beaten there by Jaiku, which took first place. As you can see Jaiku doesn’t even make the list this year. For me 2009 was the year that Twitter became even more useful as a tool to converse, collaborate, share and communicate. The reason that Twitter is my web tool of the year is down to a variety of reasons.

Conversations: This is what Twitter is all about, the conversation, the community, the Water Cooler moment, the coffee break.

Backchannel: At conferences, the Twitter backchannel can be fantastic, but can also be a nightmare! I really find that the Twitter backchannel can enhance and enrich the social and networking side of a conference, improve communication and add to sessions taking place. It allows for the converation to continue after a presentation or keynote and can also widen that conversation to outside the conference.

Links: In many ways for me and others Twitter has almost replaced RSS, I find out much more information and useful links from Twitter now then I do any other source.

Mobile: The mobile element has made Twitter a much more effective and efficient tool. The fact that I can now easily access and contribute to Twitter from my iPhone has increased how much I use, engage and interact with Twitter. It’s so easy, I access it on the train, waiting in line for stuff, at events, when I am away. When I was in New Zealand, the lack of connectivity (and the 13 hour time zone difference) made me aware of how useful and important Twitter was to the way I worked.

Twitter also matured this year with the addition of really useful tools such as TwitPic, TwitVid and TweetMic. TwitPic is a simple tool that allows you to post pictures to Twitter. TwitPic really made the news when an airliner was set down on the Hudson River in New York. TwitVid took TwitPic one stage further and allowed you to post video to Twitter. And if you are camera shy then TweetMic allows you to post audio instead.

Though I know that one day Twitter will die, for me 2009 was the year of Twitter and was my number one web tool of the year.


The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

January 1, 2010

These are the top ten posts from this blog (according to the stats) in terms of views. In reverse order…

10. Sony eBook Reader – First Impressions

Back in March I got my hands on a Sony eBook Reader and posted my first impressions. Since then I have found the eBook Reader to be a very useful device. So much so that in October I wrote e-Book Readers, are they the future? and in November I wrote So do you like books, or do you like reading? I also gave the Keynote at the JISC Collections AGM in which I discussed the future of e-Books.

9. It’s all about the coffee…

Twitter has been the service of 2009 and this was the blog posting of my presentation on Twitter that I delivered at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 in October.

Of course really Twitter is all about the coffee. It’s the coffee you drink with colleagues during a break, where you discuss work, but also your commute, TV, films, the weather. It’s the coffee you drink whilst browsing the web and posting links of interesting web site to your blog or in an e-mail. It’s the coffee you drink in a coffee shop, reading the paper or a book. It’s the coffee you drink with fellow delegates during a break or at lunch at a conference. Where you discuss the keynotes, the presentations, the workshops, where you are going next, your hotel, the food, the coffee, what you do, where you’re going, what gadgets you have in your bag.

8. Sanyo CA9 Video Camera

This post from April was a repost of a blog entry that  first appeared on the Shiny Project Blog. The Sanyo CA9 Video Camera was one of the devices we had purchased as part of our MoLeNET project and these were my initial thoughts about this small handheld video camera. The camera proved to be a huge success in the college causing major cultural shifts in the way that practitioners and learners used video. Nice thing about the camera was that it was waterproof.

7. The VLE is Dead

This was the PR post for the VLE is Dead Symposium at ALT-C 2009. Just a trailer…

6. No Flash player on the Google G1

There is no Flash player for the iPhone and at its release there was no Flash player for the Google G1 either.

5. It’s not dead… yet…

This was posted before the ALT-C VLE is Dead debate. This was my response to various posts made by others on the death of VLEs.

4. G2 Google Phone

This posting is this high due to a high Google search ranking I expect… Not a huge amount of content, just some thoughts and a link on the then new G2 Google phone.

3. Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t

One of two Twitter “ten things” posts I made in 2009. One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it. This is the top ten things you should never say about using Twitter.

2. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

We filmed the VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009 and this was uploaded within 12 hours… I served something like 40GB of video in the first week of this post going live.

1. Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die…

Though Twitter has been the service of 2009, one day it will die… These were my ten reasons why it will die… one day….

It is a fact known to all that use Web 2.0 tools and services that one day they will no longer be flavour of the month, or will be swamped by spam, cons and hustlers. We have just seen the death of Geocities and services such as Friendster and Friends Reunited are not once what they were. The same will, one day happen to Twitter!

So there are my top ten blog posts of 2009 according to the number of visitors.


It’s about the conversation…

December 9, 2009

So it was day three of Ascilite 2009 and this was a big day for me as I was delivering the final Keynote.

As I was still doing some final preparation I missed out on the first morning session. After that I attended the Thinking about a new LMS: Comparing different institutional models and approaches symposium

Selecting a new Learning Management System (LMS) is a strategic decision. The LMS is a key part of your institutional culture and shapes not only the student experience but also the future direction of your institution. This symposium describes the experience from the initial selection phase to early implementation of Moodle in four case studies: University of Waikato, University of Canberra, University of Canterbury and Massey University. The central question explored is: how do you successfully implement a new LMS within a large institution? In answering this question, the symposium compares and contrasts different models and approaches to successfully implementing such an important educational innovation and large-scale institutional change. The symposium shares lessons learnt from each university and offers participants an excellent opportunity to hear first hand about the benefits and challenges of adopting an open source LMS in the university sector.

This was an interesting presentation with some useful experiences that were passed on.The experiences by the four institutions had valuable lessons to pass onto any other institution contemplating changing their LMS or VLE.

However I do feel that it shouldn’t have been labelled as a symposium. Now though a symposium originally referred to a Greek drinking party, it is now used to describe an openly discursive format, rather than a lecture and question–answer format.

The LMS symposium was a series of four presentations with a few questions at the end. That is not a symposium, that is a series of four presentations with a few questions at the end…

It would appear that I am not alone in thinking that the symposium format needs to be rethought for academic conferences.

Sebastian Fiedler on his symposium said in his blog:

Altogether, our slightly eclectic individual statements/presentations apparently worked as a conversation opener. There was clearly interest in the over-arching theme and present ASCILITErs were eager to chime in an voice their opinions. However, when things just started to get somewhat interesting we already had to wrap up the session and disperse the convention. I found this extremely unfortunate.

He goes onto suggest:

I can easily imagine to simply start with a conversation among a group of informed peers on stage… that gradually draws in more and more participants. It would provide a hyperlink-cloud around the individual contributors to get an idea of where they are coming from, and possible end with recommendations on further readings… plus some form of mediated conversation and exchange beyond the event. No presentations, no lecture halls, no 60 min time-slots.

When I was planning the original VLE is Dead symposium at ALT-C 2009 one of the key issues for me was to ensure that the delegates attending the debate had ample time and opportunity for discussion.

So how did we do this?

Well the first thing we did was get the discussion going well before the conference. The speakers were posting to their blogs with their views. One result of this was that lots of people responded to those blog posts, which continued the debate.

At the symposium itself, we restricted the amount of time to each presenter to just five minutes; Josie in the chair was under strict instructions to stop us after five minutes. I also wanted the presenters not to use PowerPoint, though in the end some presenters did use them.

As a result we had a wonderful debate looking at a range of issues, allowing delegates an opportunity to ask questions, voice their opinions and join in.

Well our symposium worked very well, with a room for 80, we had 150 delegates in the room, and about 200 online. I recorded the debate and that video has now been seen (at the time of writing) by over 1500 people!

So what can we learn from this, especially those that are thinking of putting in symposium submissions and conference organisers.

Lesson 1: Less is more

If you can’t get your viewpoint across in five minutes then you just need to try harder. Likewise I wouldn’t have more than four presenters for an hour debate and no more than six for a ninety minute session. Don’t try and cover “everything” try to keep to a single or simple viewpoint.

Lesson 2: Early start

Start the debate early well before the conference. Get the presenters to blog their viewpoints. Encourage others to debate the issue using their blogs. Use Twitter to get the debate going.

Lesson 3: Amplify

If you can stream your symposium over the internet, use a service such as Ustream. Use Twitter to cover the debate and if possible have a Twitterfall type service showing during the debate.

So ask yourself the next time you consider running a symposium, are you interested in the debate or are you only interested in presenting your point of view.


Visitors and Residents

October 14, 2009

When I was at FOTE 09 a few weeks ago I stayed overnight and went out for a meal at a terrible Italian restaurant; one of the problems I have visiting different parts of London is that I am merely a visitor and unlike the local residents do not know the best places to eat. I remember visiting London a few years ago and my sister-in-law who lived in London at the time (a resident) took me to a wonderful local pub with fantastic food. The more I visit London the more confident I get with getting about (on foot and on the tube) and knowing which places to avoid and when and which places to seek out and try. First time visitors to London know it differently to those that visit more often and likewise people who live in London will know some places better than others. Visitors and residents know London in different ways and the same can be said for those who use digital and online tools and services. I really don’t want to use the term digital world as I don’t think it is a useful term.

Last year we discussed the concept coined by Dave White of Visitors and Residents and how this relates to how people interact and use the online and digital tools and services out there.

Dave has made a video of the presentation he gave at ALT-C 2009 and it makes for interesting viewing.

You can read more on his blog.

Most people should by now realise that the age demarcation of the digital native and digital immigrant is a flawed concept and should not be relied upon. Projects and research have again shown that young learners are not digital natives and often have issues with digital and online technologies.

From the MoLeNET programme for example.

The experiences of several MoLeNET projects suggests that not all young people are the “digital natives”…

“We came to this project with an unspoken belief that young learners would innately understand how these devices worked, we quickly came to understand that, while they can use them well on a superficial level, more demanding tasks stretched their knowledge of the technology”.

The key lessons to remember is that you can’t assume that younger learners will be confident in how to use new technologies, likewise also don’t assume that older learners will not know how to use technologies.

If you are an online resident it can sometimes be difficult to remember that a lot of people are merely visitors and that they may not fully undertstand the local customs, practices or best places to go.


ALT-C Reflections Part Two

September 16, 2009

I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter. This is part two of my reflections on the conference, you can find part one here.

So on the Tuesday night I rendered and uploaded the video recording I had made of the VLE is Dead debate and put it on my blog. It has proved quite popular.

There have been 600 odd views of the video and I have served 40GB of video in just a week! I am impressed it has been that popular.

So back to ALT-C, where my Hood 2.1 Workshop was due to start at 9.00am (another early start). I hadn’t realised when I put my flyer for the event together that MLT was the acronym for the Main Lecture Theatre.

altc09003

It’s quite big and not that suitable for a workshop, but we worked at it. I covered a fair bit and I have made a video recording which needs a fair bit of editing before I can post it online. In the meantime here is a list of the services we looked at.

I also mentioned a few gadgets as well, just to add a little bit of interest.

Due to a scheduling clash, it does mean I  missed David Sugden and Lilian Soon’s excellent Active learning with Mobile and Web 2.0 technologies workshop. I also missed Brian Kelly’s session too.

One of the problems with ALT-C is the sheer quality of many of the sessions and as a result you will miss them. I video my sessions, so though no reflection of the experience of being there, if you have missed me at least you will be able to get a flavour of what happened.

I really enjoyed Martin Bean’s Keynote which he delivered with passion. Some great slides too, take note and learn.

With lunch I was on poster duty, showing off my Glossy Poster on our MoLeNET project.

I enjoyed the Xerte and SL demonstrations I attended, but the tightness of time meant that a good (and probably heated) discussion on a distributed repository model and the IPR implications wasn’t had. Time to write a blog post on that methinks.

Final session of the day was the Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video Presentations. I was one of the judges so was at this session presenting the videos.

In the evening was the ALT Gala Conference Dinner which was very well cooked by the students from Manchester College and Sheffield College and where I was presented with an award…

Thursday morning saw another 9.00am start and the Distribute This workshop which went really well and was very well attended. Lots of discussion and debate on digital identity.

After that it was the final keynote from Terry Anderson which saw a huge flurry of Twitter activity which alas was not presented to the rest of the auditorium who merely saw the Elluminate chat in which no one was chatting!

After that it was time to go home.

Reflecting on the conference, I know that Seb and the rest of the ALT team put a huge amount of work into the conference and I appreciate all that they do. I do not envy the work they put in and end result is fantastic.

For me the online element of the conference is very important, allowing conversation, chat and to meet new people. This year it felt that finally ALT-C was also online. Crowdvine which worked so well last year, worked ever better this year, Cloudworks, which I was initially hesitant about, has proved itself as a great online place for links, comments and resources. Of course Twitter really came into its own. At ALT-C 2007 no one was using Twitter (well I was) but everyone was using blogs – I remember that’s when I first met Steve Wheeler. Last year at ALT-C 2008 there was only about fifty or forty of us using Twitter, this year according to the stats in Brian Kelly’s blog post, 633 people used the #altc2009 tag, now not all of these were at the conference, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were hundreds of people at the conference using Twitter.

What I found interesting in the discussion was that @jamesclay was a trending term. I believe that this was less used as a descriptor in Twitter postings, but more more in reply to what I was saying, in other words I was stimulating the discussion on Twitter. Difficult to show that, but it’s not as though I was a keynote speaker or anything. Twitter added an extra layer to the conference and despite the spam was a really useful tool.

So what would have I added to the conference?

Well though there was a great social programme, for me there wasn’t enough social spaces, a decent coffee shop type place, somewhere to meet those people you had promised to meet in Crowdvine and so on.

Just going back to the coffee and a note to all conference organisers, please provide an alternative to conference coffee and I would be willing to pay for decent coffee. Also have coffee available throughout the day and not just at coffee breaks. Well I would say that wouldn’t I.

A social cafe area for people to meet and discuss during the conference would be a real advantage, you could see the potential by how people used the exhibition area.

I also wonder if it is time that an unconference strand was added to the conference? A series of rooms available for open discussions and demonstrations. With Crowdvine and Twitter it would make it much easier to advertise these sessions and for people to join in with them. F-ALT has shown there is a demand for venues that allow for discussions and debates which don’t quite fit into the abstract submission process. It would also allow for debates on issues which arise out of formal presentations and keynotes that we don’t have time for in the main strands. An unconference format doesn’t mean disorganised or unstructured, but it does require an element of trust that something happens.

Overall I did enjoy the conference and it was certainly one of my highlights of this year. I would recommend that you do go to Nottingham in 2010. I know the timing is awful for those in schools and FE, for many it is the first week of term. However my view is that surely your institution can run smoothly if you’re not there and you can always check your e-mail and make phone calls. If you can, do go.


ALT-C Reflections Part One

September 15, 2009

I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter.

It was really nice to meet up with a lot of different people, some I knew, some I knew only from the web, some I had never met and those that knew me though I didn’t know them.

There was some great presentations, workshops, keynotes and debates and I felt I learnt a lot and was given a lot to think about.

I had a reasonable journey up to Manchester (no connectivity on the train) and having arrived, caught a taxi to the venue. I was relieved to see that my Glossy Poster had safely arrived though for some unknown reason at that time my flyers for my workshops and that symposium had failed to arrive.

I bumped into a few people I knew and then someone came up to me and said hello. I recognised him, but couldn’t name the face… I hate it when that happens, and after turning over their name badge (why do they always flip the wrong way at the wrong moments) I saw it was Richard Elliot from New Zealand. I am doing the keynote at ASCILITE 2009 conference so it was good to meet one of the organisers to chat and discuss the conference.

After the pre-conference buffet and chatting I headed up to the F-ALT event on post digital and managed to catch the last bit and added a little to the discussion.

altc09001

These fringe events add a lot to the conference, they’re not competing with the conference, but adding a social, informal side to the conference that allows delegates to add a social learning element to the conference. It also allows delegates to discuss and present issues on stuff and technologies which at the time of the abstract submission deadline maybe wasn’t available or didn’t even exist.

Tuesday morning, saw a bright and early start with the conference kicking off proper at 9.00am. After the conference introductions we moved onto the conference keynote from Michael Wesch.

It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press and a few hundred again before the telegraph. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges. New types of conversation, argumentation, and collaboration are realized. Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, YouTube, classrooms, and “the future,” this presentation will demonstrate the profound yet often unnoticed ways in which media “mediate” our conversations, classrooms, and institutions. We will then apply these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we may need to rethink how we teach, what we teach, and who we think we are teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his presentation and presentational approach, however I do wonder and still wonder if all our learners are like his students? Are all our learners using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools and services on a regular basis and importantly are they using them for learning?

I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.

See what you think from the recording.

I enjoyed the short papers on staff skills, some of the work that Alan Cann is doing at Leicester is very illuminating and interesting.

Then lunch and I won’t dwell on the conference catering, all I will say how much I enjoyed the coffee from the Museum Cafe across the road from the conference venue.

After sustenance we had the big debate, you know, the one about how the VLE is Dead! The debate was a lot of fun and it would appear that the delegates who attended enjoyed the debate. In a room with space for eighty, we had nearly a hundred and fifty people, many sitting and standing. We also had about two hundred people online following the live stream.

vleideadterrywassal

Photo source

The debate was based on the following proposition.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

I know that most people realised that the debate (and especially the title) was provocative and that the aim was for a fun debate as well as looking at the issues. You are not going to be able to give serious academic consideration to the issues in an eighty minute debate.

I was pleased with the interest shown, not just at the conference, but also online on Twitter and on various blogs. Cloudworks has a list of the blogs that have discussed the issue. The “marketing” for the debate worked well (probably better than expected) with the trailer, the flyer and the numerous blog posts by me, Steve and many others…

As expected, I didn’t get to the next session, but did make Steve Wheeler’s Twitter session. A very popular session with lots of different people attending, some like me who are immersed in Twitter to people who had never used it.

After all that I missed the new ALT Members Reception, and as Gloucestershire College joined ALT this year I should have been attending. Ah well.

In the evening I went to a nice Tapas bar with Ron, Lilian and David.

More later…