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    ALT-C Reflections Part Two

    September 16th, 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.


    Please turn off your phones and close your laptops

    November 5th, 2008

    This week I am blogging at the JISC Online Conference. At an online conference it’s almost given that you will be using a computer, maybe even a laptop!

    What about at a non-online conference?

 Do you now pack your laptop, extra battery, power cable? Or do you use a PDA, an iPod touch to make notes? Or do you still prefer to use that trusty old pen and paper?

    Please turn off your phones and close your laptops

    I remember the first time I took a wireless laptop to a conference (a JISC programmes meeting as it happens) and the hotel had wireless access and I had a wireless laptop. Some of the older people out there may remember a time when laptops did not come with wifi cards as standard.

    It was a real enabler.

    When a link was shown, I could there and then check the site out, add it to my bookmarks, or ignore it.

    Whereas before I would scribble it down and try and remember to check it out later which would take up time – and there is never enough time. Often I would forget to check it out, or lose the piece of paper.

    If someone said something I didn’t understand or couldn’t remember, a quick internet search saved me having to ask a question. I could remind myself of previous projects, previous presentations.

    Today I will use Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter or Jaiku to correspond with remote colleagues and ask them the questions the presenters are asking me. Sometimes with interesting results. I will also blog about the keynote or presentation too.

    Having said all that, I will also admit that at some conferences I will with my laptop check out my e-mail or check a few websites, usually during a conference keynote. Though I will also take notes or scribble actions.

    This is more down to the conference speech being either not applicable or totally boring! You will know what I mean, some keynotes deserve to be ignored. I  remember going to one keynote at a conference  and they had a minister speaking who was so obviously reading a prepared speech he pronounced JISC, J I S C (spelling out the letters), rather than JISC (as rhymes with disc). Rather then walk out, I could get on with other things using my laptop.

    I think part of the issue is that a lot of conferences are very passive experiences, and we are now all more active learners then we may have been in the past.

    At the ALT conference back in 2006, most of the workshops I went to were 90% listening and 10% activity. The conference had a wiki and I think six of us contributed. It didn’t help that there was no wifi and very few places to charge a laptop.

    In 2007, ALT-C had good wifi and a good preponderance of bloggers and this was the medium of choice, lots of blogging and lots of contacts made.

    This year, Crowdvine (which I had first used at the JISC Conference) was the conference success story (though Twitter had its place too I think).

    I am making an assumption that in this year’s online conference we will see a similar level of discussion and debate that has happened in previous years. The depth and breadth of discussion is something that you never really see at a non-online conference, well not during the presentation or workshop itself.

    What I would like to see during a non-online conference, is an online area to enable further discussion and questions relating to the conference speech or workshop. Just to get a little of the depth of discussion we will see next week.

    I tried this out myself at ALT-C at the two workshops I ran, I used a blog and got the workshop participants to blog their experiences and thoughts, it seemed to work quite well. Made life easier for me as in my Web 2.0 workshop there were about seventy delegates…

    I have read that this hasn’t always worked when tried, but if there was full and proper wireless access and online delegates as well as attending delegates this could enable more discussion and debate.

    Finally at any e-learning or learning technology conference would you believe that there are still people who object to delegates using their laptops during keynotes and presentations? The main complaint that was given was lack of attention and the noise of typing. At any other conference I would expect that kind of attitude, at an e-learning conference I expect everyone to be connected, either via their laptop or mobile device.

    What do you think?


    "It’s not for girls!"

    September 14th, 2008

    One of the reasons I go to ALT-C is the workshops! Now don’t get me wrong I enjoy the short papers and some of the longer ones even interest me. The keynotes can be inspiring, whilst the demos can inform, but I seem to get more out of the workshops than the other parts. Though it has to be said that I did also enjoy the debate and discussion at the F-ALT events.

    Last year at ALT-C 2007 one of the workshops I enjoyed was the Web 2.0 Slam, from which Hood 2.0 was born.

    This year at ALT-C 2008 Frances, Helen, Josie and Christina presented us with the Digital Divide Slam.

    It's not for girls!

    Creatively create something which explores the digital divide.

    So myself, Steve Wheeler and Joss Winn got together and thought about what to do.

    We decided to do a talking heads video, influenced by Monty Python, Smith and Jones and Pete and Dud.

    We had 30 minutes to develop, write, create, film, edit, export and upload this video. Shot in one take it’s not perfect, but it was never suppose to be perfect.

    We enjoyed making it, and the other workshops delegates seemed to enjoy it too – they voted us the winners in the workshop vote.

    I was surprised to find out later that a lot of people thought we had created it the day before, or even before ALT-C. No we actually created it in 30 minutes. Thanks to a wonderful camera a Panasonic HD Camera and iMovie ’08 on my MacBook Pro it was possible to shoot, edit and export a short film like this. Obviously the technology can’t do anything about the acting.

    It wasn’t as easy I make out. I didn’t have a SD card reader, and the Panasonic HD Camera I used records onto SD cards. Helen’s laptop did, so I had to copy the files from the SD Card onto my 1GB USB stick which I did remember. I then managed to import the HD video files from the USB stick into the MacBook Pro. I then realised I had left my DVI-VGA adapter in my accommodation and there wasn’t one to be found. Hmmm, so I had to export the movie from iMovie as a Quicktime movie, I then used VisualHub to export the movie to a Windows Media format, copy back to the USB stick and show the audience on Helen’s laptop. I couldn’t use Windows Movie Maker (as you may have thought) on Helen’s laptop as it doesn’t support the HD footage from the HD camera.

    In the end it worked.

    More slams can be found here.

    Vote for this video here by Monday in the online voting.


    Using Jaiku (or Twitter) for learning in a coffee shop

    January 3rd, 2008

    I demonstrated Jaiku at ALT-C and then sent a good hour out of session taking to a English Literature lecturer who was very interested in using Jaiku (or Twitter) to enhance a session on discussing a book.

    The book was set in a cafe, and he wanted the students to go to a cafe and then post their observations and discuss the book whilst drinking in a cafe.

    Using Jaiku (or Twitter) for learning in a coffee shop

    Obviously you could do this face to face (difficult in a cafe to find enough chairs) likewise you could use a moodle discussion forum (such as this one), however one of the strengths of using something like Jaiku or Twitter was that the students wouldn’t need a wireless laptop, all they need is a phone capable of SMS and what student doesn’t have a phone these days?

    Photo source.


    Using external web services?

    September 14th, 2007

    Brian Kelly (who writes the UK Web Focus blog) has been asking the question:

    Externally-hosted blogs, wikis, etc: (a) valuable solution for institutions which can save effort and resources; (b) to be avoided, as institutions need to be able to manage and tweak their own services or (c) an alternative view (please describe)?

    He’s been using Facebook to ask the question and it is a valid question to ask. Should we as institutions take advantage of such services or should we be running our own services.

    Some of the answers on Brian’s question make for interesting reading (Facebook login required) and he has been discussing this on his blog.

    I use Flickr quite a bit now, finding it useful for not only organising photographs but allowing staff within Gloucestershire College to use them simply and easily. Now if I used an internal service this would probably also meet their needs, however those of you who have checked my Flickr feed will know I also used it quite a bit at ALT-C and delegates (and non-delegates as well) would have been unable to view (and in some cases use) the photographs. From my perspective using a single service makes life easier, there are lots of guides online, also using an external service allows me to use such clever applications like ShoZu.

    One potential downside is what happens when staff leave? They can remove the photographs very quickly and easily.

    Also though most Web 2.0 services are free, some like Flickr have limitations on the free account. The “pro” upgrade does cost and the question is who pays for that?

    There are many more questions. Luckily for us some Universities have already been down this route and have created guidelines, check lists and risk assessment so providing the basis for any college which is looking at using external web services.