Regular readers of the blog will have noticed that things have been a little quieter than usual with me posting a lot less.
The main reason for this is that I have for the last week been attending the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference 2010 which has been taking place in… well online as you might expect. I am going to write a more evaluative piece on the conference later.
I was the conference blogger at the conference so as a result I was posting a lot of blog entries there instead of here… Most of the blog entries on the conference blog (which is not available to non-delegates) were about the conference itself, however some were on more general web and e-learning issues. These will be expanded upon and published later on this blog – so you won’t miss out.
Running a conference blog has been fun, if exhausting, but I’ve had a lot of nice positive comments back from people, so well worthwhile.
A conference blog is something that you sometimes you see at other conferences, but I certainly would recommend that other conference organisers think about having a conference blog for their conferences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though you may be reading this on my blog, for some practitioners and learners using a blog is an alien idea and they may not even know what a blog is, or what blogging means.
A VLE can be a quick and easy way for practitioners and learners to start blogging and learn the value of blogging.
A blog is an abbreviation of web log (weblog) and to put it simply is a log of commentaries, observations or reflections that is placed on the web.
Maintaining a reflective journal, thoughts about assignments, or writing notes about lessons; these activities can all be done on a blog.
Not everyone has the confidence or the technical ability to start a blog.
Now I know that starting a blog is a piece of cake, however that may be easy, it is not necessarily such an effective practice for a complete class, curriculum area or a whole college.
Some institutions may consider putting a WordPress MU Server for blogging purposes. However this may not be an option for all colleges. If a WordPress MU Server is put in, then you can link to college systems to ensure that every learner can create their own blog.
Though one issue is not just technical confidence, but also confidence in what is being written. It’s one thing to write a reflective journal and be very open, it is a fundamentally different thing to post those reflections on an open blog for all to read. A learner is likely to be less open if they know everyone, their mum and their employer is going to be reading it. So you might want to close it off to just the learner (or learner group) and the tutor. This requires a modicum of technical confidence; can we assume that every learner can do this?
So though blogging systems such as WordPress or Blogger are great tools for individuals, they don’t really scale with groups or whole colleges.
This is where the VLE can come in.
It’s already configured with logins for learners, so that’s one job done, learners and staff who already use it have a familiarity with it as a tool.
You can use included blogging tools, but for some learners even a discussion forum might be a useful starting point. Advantage of built-in blogging functionality will be (hopefully) that it generates an RSS feed.
Blogging has real potential to enhance and enrich the learning experience of many learners; the VLE can be the right tool for some practitioners in introducing the concept to their learners.
Regardless of the above, if learners want to use other tools such as WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, instead of using a provided blogging tool on the VLE, then practitioners need to consider how they are going to incorporate these blogs into the learning activity. An obvious route is to use RSS feeds from these blogs.
The VLE is not an ideal blogging tool, but for many practitioners and learners it can be a useful and scalable blogging tool.
I am hoping that this will be a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.
I have written before on this blog about the WordPress App for the iPhone.
Back then I said
The interface is not fantastic, though having looked a little more into it, if you had an iPhone (it has a camera) you can add photos quite easily; from the iPod touch you can only (obviously) use images stored on the device.
I am reasonably impressed with the app and if it allows me to blog more easily and more often then that can only make my blog better (or will it).
In the end I have made use of it, as well as writing full blog entries I have also used it for ideas for blog posts which I can then use as drafts once I get behind a full size computer.
WordPress 2 is a revised version which looks and works better than the previous version. It also now supports password protected self-hosted blogs.
WordPress is blogging software, that you can either use free via WordPress.com (which is where this blog is hosted) or you can go to WordPress.org, download and install the software on your own server.
Once installed you can then post blog entries. One of the features of the software is you can either have a fully open blog or one with a password; a closed blog allows for example a learner and a tutor to reflect and communicate without letting the rest of the group (and the world) in on that conversation. A blog is different (better) than e-mail in that the reflections and conversations can be tagged, allowing both the learner and the tutor to collate and look at a group of blog entries. With e-mail they can get lost in amongst the body of e-mails we now get and many places limit how much e-mail you can store!
Since WordPress.com took advantage of the WPTouch theme, it can be much easier to view a WordPress blog on an iPhone (or other mobile device). You can also install WPTouch on your own WordPress installation if you are self-hosted.
The WordPress App on the iPhone allows you to post blog entries to your blog whilst on the move.
You can write entries, add images and then either publish direct, or save as a draft.
The App also works offline which makes it useful if you have the iPod touch, as you can write offline and then publish once you are in range of a wireless network.
Simple to use for just plain text, you can attach photographs, but can only embed them if you know soem HTML and already have the image somewhere already online! Not the easiest thing to do with an iPhone, though at least now we have copy and paste!
The WordPress App is a free app and WordPress.com can be used for free, so if you like free then this is one way that you can blog without needing to spend any money.
Blogging software is very much a personal thing, some like WordPress, others don’t. If you already and are happy using another service such as Blogger or Typepad then you are probably not going to swap to WordPress. However if you already use WordPress or are new to mobile blogging then the combination of the WordPress blogging software and the WordPress App has made it quick, easy and simple.
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.
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.
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.
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.