The end of MoLeNET?

September 9, 2010

Today was the third MoLeNET conference, a celebration of mobile learning and the MoLeNET programme.

There were a few presentations, but lots of demonstrations, discussions and workshops.

I was quite reserved this year and let others do a lot of work.

There were lots of lessons from the conference that I and others could take home and use with our institutions. The key here was that even someone like me, who is well versed in the potential of mobile learning, can learn something from a mobile learning conference.

I hope to over the next couple of weeks bring some of the highlights and thoughts from the conference. There are some really interesting thoughts and lessons about cultural change, sustainability, technical issues as well as people and training and development.

With the changes in funding recently it is looking like that we will not see anymore MoLeNET funding for projects. This doesn’t mean that this needs to be the end of MoLeNET as a community.

It’s obvious from the work of MoLeNET projects that mobile learning is here and is here to stay. Learners are using mobile devices for learning and institutions need to be ensuring that they have the infrastructure to support this.

Where MoLeNET comes into this, is by providing a community of expertise, knowledge and guidance. As I said above, we can learn from each other and there is always something new to learn.

Today should not be the end of MoLeNET, merely the beginning…

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ALT-C 2010 Day #2

September 8, 2010

So it’s day two of ALT-C here in Nottingham. It’s another very busy day with lots on.

First up I am going to attend the New Bottles, Old Wine? Symposium.

Educators have started using popular digital technologies, including mobile phones and media players; social networking sites like Facebook; blogging sites such as Twitter, immersive virtual environments, mainly Second Life; and online gaming platforms such as World of Warcraft and connected mainstream console based games. This is a significant development, a distinct departure from the use of technologies that are purely educational or institutional such as e-portfolios or VLEs, where educators and their institutions control the technology and impose the rules. Where popular digital technologies, are used beyond the walled garden of the institution, other rules have already begun to emerge. These technologies are creating more places and modes that people can inhabit, where communities can form and disband, where ideas, images and information can be produced, stored, shared, tagged, discussed, transmitted and consumed and where diverse expectations have developed about language, humour, posture, taste, fashion, etiquette and behaviour. They are like foreign countries, ones where we take our students or ones where we hope to find students, ones where we must learn the rules, where the inhabitants and communities each have their own ideas of what constitutes ‘identity’, ‘consent’, ‘privacy’, ‘harm’ or ‘risk’. There are no easy ‘for’ and ‘against’ formulations; different technologies are used in different ways with different students and in different contexts. The speakers come from social media, gaming, immersive virtual worlds, mobiles and transnational perspectives. This debate draws on a range of strongly held opinions emerging from within a newly formed HEA SIG exploring the ethics of educational interventions, both teaching, evaluation and research, in popular digital technologies. We hope delegates will join the SIG and continue to be involved as discussions and understandings evolve. We hope to identify important and over-arching issues and approaches for educators, in order to support and protect their students, and to enhance their institutional procedures and inform the development of relevant professional frameworks.

I think this may be the debate of the conference and certainly one to come to.

After the coffee break I am helping to run a workshop, Guerilla Narratives of Media, with the wonderful Helen Keegan, Frances Bell and Josie Fraser.

Mobile devices in educational settings are powerful tools for supporting and recording learning, but have had mixed reactions from students. Some students see educational media such as podcasts as an intrusion into their personal use of technology; others who are given standard mobile devices for a project don’t relate to them as ‘personal’ devices. Staff wishing to harness mobile learning technologies in their productive engagement with students can get distracted by the provision of technologies rather than focusing on learning outcomes. This practical workshop will introduce participants to a range of ideas for using personal technologies to enhance the teaching and learning experience through student-generated content production and geo-location services. The emphasis is on pragmatic and resourceful practice by students and staff in using platform-agnostic media and services to support the learning process. Participants will be introduced to new narratives using the mobile phone as a tool for data recording, media production and content sharing, and emerging web services as means of aggregating content from multiple platforms. Geo-location services will be introduced from the perspective of using hyper-local mobile phone applications in education, in order to give participants an idea of how these techniques could be used more widely in a learning context. Taking a ‘guerilla narrative’ approach to rapid learning design, participants will then work in groups to produce learning activities which take advantage of the devices in students’ pockets. Each group will produce 3 ‘snapshot’ ideas – audio, image and video – for using mobile technologies in the classroom. Using their own mobile phones participants will record their snapshots/ learning activities, producing media artefacts which can then be uploaded and shared with the wider community via the session wiki. By the end of the session participants will: have developed a conceptual understanding of a ‘guerilla EdTech’ approach to activity design; be able to upload media from internet mobile devices to web sites, including geo-location services; have acquired a range of sample media artefacts and learning activities for their students.

I then intend to listen to David White, who is one of the invited speakers.

Earlier this year my group at the University of Oxford were commissioned to undertake a study of online learning for the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. Our research showed that the vast majority of online distance learning provided at higher education level is in postgraduate ‘professional’ courses which in these Return-On-Investment times offer an attractive income stream from employers and employees alike. Increasing activity in this area could lead us to believe that we are in danger of generating a parallel ‘training 2.0’ HE sector but the reality is far more complex. Using evidence published in the study, this presentation will explore how the emergent culture of the web is encouraging online students to expect a form of engagement that many in the HE sector have been advocating for years. It will discuss how this is challenging the role of the academic and what strategies institutions are taking to meet the demand for discursive, activity based pedagogies. The presentation will also discuss the need for non STEM disciplines to move online to maintain a balanced representation of the character of our university system in the mêlée of course offerings from around the globe.

Over lunch it’s time to re-visit the posters before attending the keynote from Sugata Mitra.

Then I have decided to attend the Meeting changing student expectations session.

After the ALT General Meeting I will be in the presentation of the Jorum L&T Awards (as I was one of the judges).

Of course in the evening it is the ALT Gala Dinner, which has a lot to match up to the last two years, which were fantastic.


The lecture is dead

September 7, 2010

Donald Clark opened the ALT 2010 Conference with a controversial keynote on the lecture.

This keynote certainly got people riled and discussing the lecture on the Twitter back channel. I do think that Twitter has changed how we discuss keynotes now. In the last we would have discussed the keynote after it had finished, either over coffee or a reflective article like this one. Twitter allows discussion during the keynote itself and brings in people who are not even in the auditorium or at the conference.

So what was the gist of the keynote, well the lecture is dead!

Donald gave us a history of the origins of the lecturer, attacked the value of the lecture and showed us a clip from Ferris Bueller. He talked about the culture of research which pervades HE and that good researchers don’t necessarily make good teachers. I didn’t feel though he offered us any real alternatives though.

In my experience there are good lectures and there are bad lectures. However it would appear that the good inspiring lectures are rare. The key question is the norm of the lecture so ingrained into the culture of our institutions that any one questioning their value is seen to be questioning not just the value of lectures but also the value of the institution. Do we lecture because we have always given lectures?


ALT-C 2010 Day #1

September 7, 2010

So it’s Tuesday the 7th September and I am in Nottingham for ALT-C. It’s a very busy day with lots on and I have a fair bit to do too.

The conference opens at 10.00am and then Donald Clark delivers the first keynote of the conference.

He is intending to be controversial and I need to pay attention more so than usual as I will be on a panel later discussing the keynote.

…there’s a dark secret at the heart of HE that really holds it back – the lecture. Apart from being pedagogically suspect, many are badly delivered and few are recorded. Donald will do some deconstruction of the lecture in terms of its history, lack of relevance in the terms of the psychology of learning and serious limitations for students.

This may well be controversial for the largely HE audience at ALT-C whose institutions are dominated by lectures.

And before you ask, yes he is aware of the contradiction!

After the keynote there are many parallel sessions and as per usual a fair choice of subjects and topics. I quite like the idea of the mobile learning demonstrations, but I do know a fair bit about that subject so will probably not go. The Fun with ‘Faux-positories’ sounds like  a different and interesting workshop.

This workshop will give participants a chance to work hands-on with Diigo and Netvibes to develop their own resource sharing and dissemination sites for their departments, communities, or classes.

Alas it was cancelled due to illness.

I do also think the two e-book short papers would be of interest and useful for the symposium later on.

After lunch I am as I had said part of the facilitated discussion on Donald’s keynote. I suspect this will prove quite popular once the keynote has happened!

Like the morning the afternoon parallel sessions offer a wide choice.

I think the Changing staff development short papers will be useful. The demonstration on copyright would also be of interest, less sure about the advertising demo in the same session.

I am really liking the look of the Institutional changing paradigms short papers session.

I would probably attend the Student voice expectations short papers session, however from the abstracts it looks like it may have too much of an HE focus to be really useful.

After a range of other sponsored presentations I will be running my e-book symposium.

After dinner there is a range of F-ALT activity and the EduBloggers meet up in the city centre.

As is usual for ALT-C a very packed and busy day.


ALT-C 2010 Day #0

September 6, 2010

So it’s Monday and I am off to Nottingham for ALT-C.

For FE this is a particularly busy time and as a result not many of my FE colleagues will be attending the conference which is a pity as there is so much they could contribute to this conference and so much they could take away. I am lucky in that I have a fantastic team working hard in the libraries, likewise most academic staff I work with are working their socks off with enrolment and induction. As a result though it is a busy week for FE, it’s usually quite a quiet week for me, so in many ways an ideal time for a conference!

For me that is the real value of ALT-C. I am usually presenting in some capacity (and this year is no exception) and I always learn something new that will help me in my day to day role at the college.

I am driving to Nottingham, slightly wary, as the last time I was in Nottingham three years ago, my car was broken into and I had a load of stuff stolen. This time I am taking a lot less stuff (as I am not doing a mobile learning workshop this time) and I am expecting to rely heavily on my iPad (rather than a laptop) for my conference amplification and back channels.

I am involved in three sessions this year. The first is being a panel member in a session that responds and feedbacks to Donald Clark’s keynote. The second is my e-book symposium which is generating some interest, though nowhere near the hype and expectation of the VLE is Dead last year. I am also part of the Guerilla EdTech workshop which will be fun.

The networking and social side of ALT-C is also good and it will be nice to touch base and make contact with old friends and new ones too. Social networking services like Twitter, blogging (and in my case Facebook slightly) have ensured that contacts made last year, and at previous ALT conferences have been sustained and built on.

So looking forward to what will be an interesting conference.


Enhancing Learning – RSC Eastern eFair

July 5, 2010

My keynote presentation from last week’s RSC eFair.

The world is changing.

Technologies are changing.

Learning is changing.

Our learners are changing. How they learn, where they learn and with whom they learn, all are changing.

Web 2.0 technologies allow learners to remove the social, geographical and physical barriers to communicate and learn with others.

Mobile technologies allow learners to be more mobile and be able to access learning and learning communities in ways which have never been possible before.

Both allow for an enhanced and enriched learning experience.

James Clay has extensive experience of mobile learning and has a vision that goes beyond mobile technologies and focuses on the mobility of the learner, blurring the demarcation between formal and informal learning. His current vision for education encompasses the use of Web 2.0 technologies embedded into an institutional VLE which can be accessed through mobile technologies. Allowing learners a focal point for their studying, whilst allowing the depth and breadth of Web 2.0 to bring a personalised learning experience to students at a time and space to suit them.

For the future, James hopes that institutions and others will allow for a flexible, personalised, accessible learning experience for all.

View the section of Martin Bean’s ALT-C 2009 keynote that deals with resistance to innovation.


Sometimes it does go wrong…

July 1, 2010

Today I delivered the keynote at the JISC RSC Eastern eFair at Hertford Regional College.

Though the presentation went down well, lots of positive feedback I did have a few technical hitches. Now I made the most of them and used it as an opportunity to talk about the issues of practitioners lacking confidence in the technology and not wanting to use it in case it went wrong. The point I made was that tradition, technologies sometimes fail us, but as professionals we compensate and change what we were going to do. For example if your marker pen runs out of ink on a traditional whiteboard, doesn’t usually stop someone from ever using one again. Likewise if someone has used a permanent marker on the whiteboard, does this stop you ever using one, because the one day you come across a whiteboard where this has happened will ruin your lesson. Practitioners sometimes decide they won’t use the VLE as sometimes it doesn’t work! Would they say the same about a physical learning environment ie a classroom? Sometimes they don’t work, like when it snows for example. So yes sometimes it does go wrong and as a professional you need to either fix it, or get someone else to fix it, or change quickly what you were going to do.

So what went wrong?

Firstly, though I was assured that once I had logged into the wireless network that it wouldn’t time out. It did. Took a minute or so before I could start.

The other issues was about two thirds of the way through the presentation Keynote on my Mac froze! I couldn’t move to the next slide. Without checking fully I think what happened was one of two things. Either the script auto-posting to Twitter was not working properly. Or Powerpoint which was also running on my Mac decided to “hog” all the resources and stop Keynote from working properly. Whatever it was it did mean that I couldn’t move my slide forward for a few minutes.

In the end the pause worked fine as we could discuss technical problems and also showed that tech problems happen to all of us.