Category Archives: coffee

Still, the coffee is usually better

Still, the coffee is usually better

It’s that time of year again, yes the JISC e-learning team are running their online conference again, and once more I will be blogging at the JISC Innovating e-Learning online conference, Shaping the Future.

So what is it about an online conference?

Well it has all the features you find when you attend a physical conference, but it is all done online. With the JISC Online Conference, you get live presentations (through Collaborate), an online platform for asynchronous disucssions and sharing (through Moodle). There is the innovative thinking space (again) and an opportunity to try out new tools and techniques.

For me the main reason for attending an online conference, as well as the excellent presentations, is the engagement between the delegates. Most physical conferences I have attended have in the main been passive affairs, I sit, I listen, I think, digest and reflect. Discussion and debate does happen at these conferences, but usually informally over coffee. At the online conference the debate and discussion takes place using a textual asyncrhonous discussion forum over the days of the conference. As a result it allows for reflection, it enables delegates to refer and check other papers and sources, and for all delegates to read that discussion and if they want to, add their own comment.

Other reasons why I like online conferences, is that I can attend the conference even when doing other things. I can still attend meetings, see people in my office, teach, even go to other places. At the last few online conferences I have had to go to London during the week of the conference, and have using 3G and coffee shop wifi hotspots continued to take part in the conference even though I am away from my desk.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college or university.

You can see presentations again, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

Unlike a physical conference, the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference remains open for reading until well after the conference has finished to allow participants to catch up on what they missed. So unlike missing the train to a physical conference or falling ill, it is possible to still get a lot out of the online conference.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider. The conference has always been outstanding value at just £50, but in these tough economic times, when even finding the funding for train fares to free events can be a challenge, there is something about paying just £50 for five days of presentations and discussions.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider.

Combine that with the activity week, no need to miss too many meetings and you might need to start asking yourself why you’re not going?

Of course the real value of the online conference is the programme, one that will inspire and challenge you. It has variety and interest. In some future blog posts I will look at the programme in more detail. However I am looking forward to the opening keynote from Dr Sue Black.

Oh and the coffee? Well you and I both know that the coffee at conferences often leaves a lot to be desired, at least at an online conference you can attend while drinking a decent coffee in your local coffee shop, now that can’t be all bad?

So if it is proving difficult to attend all the conferences you want to, one you shouldn’t miss is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference, maybe you too can help shape the future. Register now.

Make mine an Americano….

I don’t know about you, but what is it about conference coffee? Why is it so bad?

I do understand large scale catering, in the past I have worked in the industry so know a bit about the issues.

It is a real challenge to provide coffee for three hundred plus delegates in less than 30 minutes.

The main reason for poor conference coffee is poor planning and an audience that doesn’t really care.

I was aware at one conference that the catering team decided to use instant coffee for the conference, as they couldn’t work out how to do a large amount of filter coffee for that number of delegates so decided to go down the easy route…

Another conference the mid morning coffee was actually prepared a couple of hours earlier! So by the time it was served to the conference it had been hanging around for so long that it was rough and bitter.

Another factor in the awfulness of conference coffee is that conference delegates don’t really care how awful it is… most of the delegates probably only drink instant coffee or Nescafé at home or work and only drink “proper” coffee now and again. Even then they probably go to Starbucks and any coffee aficionado will tell you that Starbucks coffee is certainly no where near good coffee should be, as it is slightly over-roasted.

So there is no hope is there?

Well at two conferences I attended last year what was nice was there was for delegates a choice. They could either go with the standard conference coffee experience that was free, or they could if they wanted pay for a real proper coffee experience if they so wished. At Ascilite 2009 there was free conference coffee, but upstairs at the University of Auckland there was a coffee shop and I could go and buy a proper Flat White with an extra shot.

At Handheld Learning 2009 outside the venue was a wonderful invention, a Piaggio Apé conversion that had a real coffee machine in the back. So during a break (even though it was raining) I could go out and buy a proper Americano with a splash of milk.

The issue here is not about conference organisers and conference venues providing free decent coffee for all delegates, because to be honest I don’t think  many of them would appreciate it. It’s about providing delegates with a choice. Enabling those who prefer and are willing to pay for decent coffee, can get one, likewise those who aren’t can get a free conference coffee!

There is one conference coming up that has the perfect conference coffee, well perfect for me, as I will be making it. That conference is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference. As it is an online conference I can not only choose and make my own coffee, I can also choose when I want to drink it. I can drink my coffee during the keynotes, whilst in discussions, debates and in the social area.

Okay it isn’t the same as drinking a coffee at a face to face conference, but when it comes to an online conference you can at least choose when and what you drink.

Make mine an Americano….

myStarbucks UK – iPhone App of the Week

myStarbucks UK – iPhone App of the Week

This is 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.

This week’s App is myStarbucks UK

Free

For some unknown and arcane reason (well some comments I made on Twitter I believe) it has come to pass that across the e-learning world (and beyond) that I am a coffee addict.

Or it might be that I don’t touch instant coffee with a barge pole and only drink what I believe to be real coffee! You know the kind made with beans…

Now I do visit Starbucks, but to be honest it is not my first choice when I buy coffee, but it isn’t as bad as some places I have been to.

There is now an official Starbucks App on the iTunes store.

The official UK iPhone application from Starbucks! Want to find a store that’s open nearby or near a place where you’re meeting a friend? Now you can do that and more with myStarbucks. Explore our whole bean coffees, find delicious food and nutrition information, and build your own perfect drinks. Want to share? You can send your drinks to your friends by email, SMS, and via Facebook and Twitter directly to their iPhone or iPod ®Touch.

The only real reason to get this app is to find your closest Starbucks, and that’s about it.

You may recall, back in February 2008, I wrote about a proposed Starbucks App.

Imagine going to Starbucks having already ordered your drink from your iPhone?

Well this App doesn’t do that. It does list what drinks and food you can buy, but doesn’t tell you if they have sold out of a particular muffin or sandwich.

However if you do like drinking Starbucks coffee (maybe you are a fan of their Frappacinos) then this is certainly one useful App if you are ever in a place you don’t know and want a coffee.

The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

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.