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    ALT-C 2011 – Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate

    January 31st, 2011

    Second call for proposals

    The 18th international conference of the Association for Learning Technology will be held at the University of Leeds, UK, 6-8 September 2011.

    Abstract submission system live

    Conference co-chairs

    John Cook, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the Learning Technology Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.

    Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University.

    Whether you’ve been involved in ALT for years, are new to the learning technology domain, or are an experienced researcher or presenter from other fields with innovation to report, please take the time to review the call and guidelines documents below. With your help we can make the 2011 ALT Conference a truly outstanding, influential, and enjoyable event.

    Categories of submissions

    We welcome submissions of two broad types:

    1. An abstract of up to 350 words describing either a Demonstration (30 minutes), Short Presentation (ePoster + 6 mins), Short Paper (20
    minutes), Symposium (60 minutes or occasionally 80 minutes), or a Workshop (60 minutes). All abstracts will appear in the Conference
    Introduction and Abstracts.

    2. A full Proceedings Paper of up to 5000 words, for publication in the peer-reviewed Conference Proceedings of ALT-C 2011, together with a 350 word abstract (taken from the paper), and a 200 word presentation overview which will appear in the Conference Introduction and Abstracts and online.

    Calls and Guidelines

    Provided below are links to comprehensive documents on the ALT Open Access Repository for you to download and/or refer to prior to writing or submitting a proposal, and for you to make us of during the subsequent editing process if your proposal is successful. Please read
    the relevant documents carefully.

    Call and Guidelines for Proceedings Papers
    Proceedings Paper Template
    Call and Guidelines for Short Papers, Short Presentations (ePosters), Symposia, Workshops and Demonstrations

    Further information.

    Key dates

    Submissions close on 21 February 2011
    Presenters’ registration deadline 27 June 2011
    Earlybird registration deadline 4 July 2011
    Registrations close on 12 August 2011

    Outstanding and Best Proceedings Paper Awards

    All presented proceedings papers are considered by ALT for an Outstanding Proceedings Paper Award. To receive this award, the judges
    had to agree with the statement “This paper presents work that strongly advances the field of learning technology”. [If there is no agreement on the words "strongly advances" then the judges may make a Best Proceedings Paper Award.]

    Best Short Presentation Awards

    All accepted short presentations are eligible for the Best Short Presentation Awards, one voted for by the conference delegates and the
    other subject to a wider online voting community.

    Download a copy of the first edition of the flyer for the conference from the main conference web site.


    Socially Acceptable

    September 16th, 2010

    In a recent blog post I mentioned the impact of Twitter for me at ALT-C.

    Overall from my experience, Twitter has really added value to conferences I have attended and made them more joined up and much more a social affair. It has helped to build a real community, especially at ALT-C.

    I first went to ALT-C 2003 in Sheffield and to be honest found it quite a souless affair. I didn’t know many people and it was “quite hard” to get to know people without dropping into conversations over coffee, which can be challenging Though there were elements of the conference that were useful and interesting, I decided not to attend ALT-C 2004 even though it was in my own backyard in Exeter.

    I did go to Manchester for ALT-C 2005 as we had just done a project for JISC called Fair Enough.

    As a result we had a poster and I ran a workshop entitled Copyright Solutions. The workshop was a catalyst for social interaction and as a result I made a fair few new friends. Also having been part of a JISC project and attended programme meetings, events and conferences the circle of people I knew was growing. ALT-C was becoming not just a positive learning experience, but was also becoming a positive social experience too.

    Having had a really positive experience of ALT-C I decided I would go to Edinburgh for ALT-C 2006, where I ran a variation of the copyright workshop again and had another poster.

    This time, there was an ALT-C Wiki, which sadly due to the demise of jot.com no longer exists. What I do recall of the wiki was that it would allow presenters and delegates to post presentations and discuss them. What was sad was how little it was used by anyone… no one wanted it. With over six hundred delegates only six people contributed. I did put this down to the 1% rule initially. I was also one of the few people blogging the event as well (on my old WCC blog). I was surprised with the fact (and maybe I shouldn’t have been) that six hundred learning technologists were not using the very technology they were presenting on.

    However in 2007, things were very different, again not huge numbers, but certainly very different to the year before. ALT-C 2007 in Nottingham was a real sea change for the online interaction and was for me and others the year that blogging changed the way in which we engaged with the conference.

    Steve Wheeler it was the first time I really met him was at this conference said

    It’s a strange world. The entire ALT-C conference it seems is filled with bloggers. Not only are they blogging about the conference, they are blogging about blogging. The bloggers are even blogging about being blogged about, and blogging about bloggers blogging. Here am I, like an absolute idiot, blogging about the bloggers blogging about bloggers blogging about each other.

    Haydn Blackey also said

    I know I’m not finished yet, but so far I can reflect that blogging live from conference makes me pay much more attention to speakers than is my common practice.

    This is something we might want to think about in regard to Twittering at a conference.

    But it was David Bryson who really caught the blogging atmosphere in his blog post and his slideshow.

    …wandering around it was interesting to see how glued or involved folks are when working with a computer the common phrase “Do you mind if I use my computer when you are at a table” which we can interpret as something along the lines of “I don’t want to be rude but I am not going to talk to you but commune with my computer” or words to that effect.

    The main reason for this I believe was not that people weren’t blogging before, but it was the first time that we had an RSS feed of all the blogs in one feed. This made it much easier to find blog articles on the conference and as a result the bloggers. It did not mean people were hiding behind their laptops, on the contray it resulted in a more social conference.

    Importantly and this is why I think ALT-C 2007 was a sea change (and especially a sea change for me) was that these social relationships continued beyond the conference. We continued to blog, talk and meet well after everyone had flown from Edinburgh and were back home.

    So when ALT-C 2008 convened in Leeds there was an expectation that there would be more blogging, but it would be more social.

    There were though two big key differences between 2007 and 2008, one was the Fringe, F-ALT and the other was Twitter. I had used Twitter at ALT-C 2007 and I think I was probably the only person to do so…

    F-ALT added a wonderful new dimension to ALT-C by enhancing and enriching the social side of ALT-C and adding a somewhat serious side to conversations in the bar. It allowed people to engage with others in a way that wasn’t really possible at previous ALT-Cs.

    It should be noted that it was at a F-ALT event at ALT-C 2008 that I proclaimed Twitter was dead… well what do I know!

    Now just to compare at ALT-C 2010 there were 6697 tweets, in 2008 we had just over 300 tweets! There were only about 40-50 people using Twitter. But it was an influential 40-50 people. As it happens most people at ALT-C 2008 were using either Facebook or the then newly provided Crowdvine service.

    Like F-ALT, Twitter allowed people to engage in conversations that otherwise may have happened, but more likely wouldn’t have. Both F-ALT and Twitter allowed ALT-C to become more social, more engaging and more interactive.

    ALT-C 2009 in Manchester really gave an opportunity for Twitter to shine and this was apparent in that nearly five thousand Tweets were sent during the conference. Twitter was for ALT-C 2009 what blogs were for ALT-C 2007. At the time 633 people on Twitter used the #altc2009 tag, more than ten times the number of people at ALT-C 2008 and more than the number of delegates. Twitter was starting to allow ALT-C to go beyond the university conference venue and engage the wider community. This use of social networking was not just about enhancing the social and community side of ALT-C but also about social learning. The success of the VLE is Dead debate can be placed fairly at the door of social media in engaging delegates through Twitter, blog posts and YouTube videos.

    ALT-C 2010 in Nottingham for me was as much about the formal learning as it was about the social learning. An opportunity to learn both in formal and informal social settings. I was concerned slightly that the use of Twitter by certain people and FALT would be slightly cliquey. However no matter how cliquey people think it is, it is a relatively open clique. This year it was very easy to join in conversations using Twitter and then meet up socially, quite a few people I know has never been part of the ALT-C family (first time at the conference) and are now probably part of the clique.

    As Dave White said in his invited talk (let’s just call it a keynote) talked about the eventedness of the physical congregation of people at a lecture or a conference. It is more than just what is been presented it is the fact that we are all together physically in the same place. I suspect a fair few of us could recreate that kind of social aspect online and I have seen this at the JISC Online Conferences (another one this autumn) but for many delegates it is way too challenging.

    There is something very social about meeting up for something like ALT-C and even in these difficult times I hope we can continue to do so. Here’s to ALT-C 2011.


    Conference Formatting

    September 13th, 2010

    So I have spent a week in Nottingham at ALT-C that is in many ways a traditional academic style conference. We had keynotes and invited speakers, papers short and long, symposia with panels and workshops.

    The focus of ALT-C as I see it is very much about bringing together a community to share practice, network and move one’s own learning forward. I do enjoy the conference and learn a lot from it. It’s great to network, discuss, debate and share with other learning technologists from around the country (and the rest of the world).

    I have never seen ALT-C as the type of innovating conference that will “call for change” or move the whole learning technology agenda forward. The format as it stands just doesn’t allow for that. For example ALT-C 2011 is just under a year away, however we already know the theme, who the keynote speakers are and who the chairs of the conference will be. The process of speaking at ALT-C 2011 will be finalised in about five months time on the 14th of February when the deadline for proposals for inclusion is closed.

    In the past or for other areas this is probably fine and dandy, but for ALT-C it does mean that newer technologies are not even mentioned.

    For example nowhere at the conference was a huge deal made of Apple’s new iPad or any of the forthcoming Android tablets. Then again you could say why should there be, they haven’t been used for any length of time and therefore there are no results or research done yet.

    Once you understand that ALT-C is not about innovation or new shiny things, but is about practice, research and outcomes the less disappointed you will be about what you see at the conference.

    Though this is no excuse for poor presentation skills. I know that the ALT team try really hard to get presenters to be more effective, they produce excellent guides, tips and advice; but still now and again with people’s lack of confidence in themselves we see slides and slides of bullet points. I do think presenters sometimes forget that the idea of a short paper presentation is to either inspire people to read the short paper in more detail or to undertake further reading, or as an opportunity to allow questions to be asked of the short paper. The presentation is not there to provide your audience with lots of bullet points, explanatory notes on methodology or the inside leg measurement of the lead researcher.

    If you want innovation, ideas, cutting edge, then to be honest you are not going to find them at ALT-C. So where do you go?

    Well ULCC’s FOTE 10 one day conference this year does allow for this kind of radical thought, innovative ideas and inspiring new practices.

    So does ALT-C need to change?

    Paul Lowe in his recent blog post says

    But the overriding feeling for me at my first ALT-C was a sense of nagging disappointment that despite being populated with over 400 of the best practitioners of learning technology around today, what did we actually achieve in concrete terms, what artefact, statement, decision, conclusion or prediction did we build?

    Though I agree with Paul in the essence of what he says, we need to remember that the focus of ALT-C in my opinion is not (despite even what it says on the advertising literature) that. It is about Learning Technologists reporting on what they are doing in their institutions, probably based on work they started planning two or even three years ago! ALT-C is not about the future it’s about the past.

    Also with the date of ALT-C the same time as one of the busiest weeks of the year for FE we saw FE under-represented at the conference and much of the energy and innovation we do see in FE wasn’t going to be discovered at this year’s ALT-C. The other aspect of that is the proposal submission process does not allow or reflect the actual work and stuff that happens in FE.

    Paul continues…

    I had expected something much more creative and collaborative, along the lines of the unconference idea or barcamp for example.

    I would like to see an unconference stream at ALT-C, the challenge is to get people to attend that stream. At one of the Handheld Learning conferences, they did try that, but it was surprising how few people wanted to be involved in those sessions. It’s not to say there isn’t the demand for ad hoc stuff, at this year’s ALT-C I discussed with various people the merits of Elgato’s EyeTV and Apple’s iPad as well as cultural change in expanding the use of learning technologies in institutions. All interesting subjects that would fit into a barcamp type stream.

    However one of the problems with running a non-traditional conference is that it is then challenging for people to get the funding to attend.

    ALT-C works in one sense that people will get the funding to go if they present a paper at the conference, if they can’t present a paper then they can’t get the funding. ALT-C isn’t viable unless it has lots of delegates attending. So the format of the conference is dictated by the fact that in order for it to run, it needs lots of delegates to attend, they will only attend if they are presenting and as a result the conference has to consist of lots of papers and presentations. This is why you get lots of short papers and workshops that are only 60 minutes long.

    An unconference stream would be really interesting and useful if run well, however I can’t see people getting the funding to attend to facilitate sessions in that stream as it would not be related to particular projects, research or institutional objectives.

    I have run various unconferences in my time and I have had lots of correspondence from people who wanted to attend, but couldn’t because staff development funds weren’t available for travel (the events were free) as there was no concrete objectives or outcomes for the event. Well there were, it was just that in order to secure funding it is easier if they can show a programme of keynotes and presentations!

    At the end of the day I do think we let ALT-C be ALT-C and try not to change it. To change it to something that is that different probably would result in it not working at all.

    The only way to change things, is to instigate that process of change yourself. If we want to see different kinds of innovative events then we need to create these events that produce the results we want to see. We can of course involve ALT, or ALT could even lead that process. I would like ALT to add two more events to their calendar in addition to ALT-C.

    Firstly would like to see a conference with an FE focus, one that was less about research on FE practice, but more a showcase of existing FE practice. With the demise of Becta there is now a real vacuum for FE in sharing what they do.

    The second conference would be on that focuses on the issues Paul talks about in his blog, on innovation, predictions, new stuff, future stuff. This could be a TED type conference but could instead have an unstructured unconference format. We could have a series of bar camp events that lead into the conference. One of the issues however with the unconference format was mentioned by me on an article I wrote for ALT on the Second ILT Champions informal conference in which I said

    I did consider that such an informal approach this may have a possible downside, since what we want to see and discuss might not always correlate with what we need to see and discuss. This is not so much about dictating what should happen, but ensuring that delegates are informed about issues and subjects which they may have not have previously considered fully or dismissed as irrelevant.

    So it is important that we not only have an open format, but we consider all the issues. Though who decides on these issues is an important question.

    I do expect that ALT-C 2011 will take place in Leeds next September. I am hoping to attend, though with the budget cuts expected this year that is no certainty. Will there be an ALT-C 2012? I hope so.