Category Archives: jisc

Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc

This was an article I started to write on the train home, then I left it for a while, wrote a little more, and then a few weeks later, thought, I really ought to get this finished, so I did…


The Association of Learning Technology Conference in Manchester is the biggest conference of its kind in the UK. Over the course of three days, hundreds of delegates (in the main from HE and FE) descended onto the University of Manchester to listen, discuss, network and discover what was happening in the world of educational technology and learning technologists.

You get a real mix of attendees at the conference, as well as a large smattering of delegates from overseas, there are people employed across HE, FE and Skills. They are in a variety of departments, from dedicated IT staff, staff development as well as technology enhanced learning. They are also in a variety of roles, from learning technologists, managers, leaders.

This is the first time since 2012 (which was in the same venue) that I have attended the whole conference, I missed it in 2013 and only managed one day in 2014. It was great to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. Back in 2012 there was only a few people from FE at the conference, it was refreshing this year to see many more FE people at the event. The people I spoke to certainly seemed to be enjoying the conference.

As has happened before there was a lot of talk about how there was still too much focus on small scale initiatives with little big picture thinking taking place. I heard discussions about how we had heard many of these things before, but with a slightly different gloss or skin.

To be honest I am not surprised, as the ALT Conference is very much about showcasing the work of learning technologists in institutions, their small scale pilots and projects. They are on the same journey that we made years before in discovering how they and their small cohorts can take advantage of new technologies, tools and services. If you think about it, the conference process isn’t totally conducive to showcasing large scale holistic change,

The paper submission process, geared to attending the conference, will push the focus to those projects that are research based, small scale, small cohorts, the work of individuals or small teams. This is not to say you won’t find gems in the conference on large scale implementations, but they will be rare and limited. Can you really for example talk about whole institutional change in 15 minutes?

This isn’t a criticism of that process and I think it is a valuable way for learning technologists to focus and present on their work in front of an expert critical audience. However if you attend the conference with the aim of finding out how to approach the embedding of learning technologies holistically across an entire organisation, you may find yourself disappointed, and you may need to think about scaling up the projects and outcomes you do get to hear about.

So why do I attend this conference:

  • Inspiration: Across the conference you can find out about amazing work going on, really innovative practice that inspires you in your own work.
  • Reflection: I find many of the discussion sessions enable me to reflect on my own practice and really think hard about what I do and how I do it.
  • Benchmarking: Something I use to do when working within an institution, was to use presentations and papers to benchmark our progress and work against that of other institutions.
  • Meeting and networking with old friends and making new ones: Though I spend a lot of time networking through social media, such as the Twitter and Google+, it is still nice to meet people face to face. I took the time to print off my Twitter avatar, which I have used since 2007 and stuck it to my badge so that people could link me to my Twitter account. As a result it was nice to meet many of the friends I have on Twitter for real.


  • Connections: As well as meeting old friends and making new ones, conferences also allow me to make connections, other helping connect people together, who both know me, but may not necessarily know each other.
  • The Exhibition area: This is interesting to see what new technologies are been pushed by suppliers. At this year’s conference I noticed that Portal were there pushing the IBM Student Experience, whilst Instructure were talking about Canvas, the “next generation” VLE. Usually in the exhibition areas, the exhibitors focus on pushing one aspect of their product portfolio. I find these areas quite interesting as you will often find a gem or nugget of news about how one institution (or another) is using these new products.

Continue reading Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc

Feltagging – ALT-C 2015 Day 2


It’s the second day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Yesterday was an exciting and exhausting day with some great sessions.

Disappointed that the Museum Café is closed for three weeks, so no real coffee for me.

Really looking forward to the keynote this morning from Jonathan Worth, who will be talking about photography and his journey.

After that I am presenting a FELTAG session in 4.206. In this session we will be talking about ideas and strategies in regard to implementing the FELTAG recommendations.

After the coffee break, straight into digital capabilities with Helen Beetham and Lou McGill, Here Comes Everybody: digital capabilities across roles and boundaries [908].

After lunch, I am going to 4.204 to see CMALT: recent trends in learning technology specialisms and CPD opportunities as I am working with the team to get our CMALTs.

The ALT AGM is at 4:05pm where the business of ALT will be confirmed.

At 4.45pm in the Main Theatre I will be leading the FELTAG SIG and open FE forum. Find our how working together and collaboratively we can support each other to support the implementation of the FELTAG recommendations.

So another busy day.

Marmite – ALT-C 2015 Day 1

It’s the first day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Everything kicks off, after the introductions and welcome, at 10:50 with the first keynote from Steve Wheeler, the marmite of keynote speakers.

Steve Wheeler

The abstract doesn’t give very much away about what Steve is going to talk about so we will have to wait and see what it will all be about. Looking forward to a heated discussion on the Twitter.

After the usual coffee break, popping over to the Museum Café for a decent coffee methinks, it’s a series of parallel sessions. One of the challenges of ALT-C is finding the right session to go to. This isn’t an issue of signage and location, but finding a session, that will inspire, challenge and make you think. There is nothing wrong with going to a session that you know you will enjoy, but sometimes you need to find a session that will challenge your approaches and make you rethinking about how you work.

Often I go to a session that is been delivered by someone I know, whom I have heard before, and I will know deliver an interesting and thought provoking session, but often it just reinforces my thinking and thoughts. This doesn’t mean I won’t go, but you take it for what it is.

I was going to attend Using CMALT as a vehicle for team-building and professional development [990] as I am working with my colleagues at Jisc in helping them (and me) to complete their CMALT. This is less a session that will challenge and inspire, but more of a session to help and support my practice. Alas I found out yesterday it has been cancelled, so time to choose something else.
I quite like the sound of To BYOD or not to BYOD: Factors affecting tutor acceptance of faculty and student mobile devices in their classroom practice [856] as I am currently reflecting on the different models around learners bringing their own devices.

There are generally two reasons behind BYOD, the first is a financial saving, if learners are bringing their own devices then the institution won’t need institutional devices, this reduces capital outlay when refreshing equipment and reduced support costs. The second reason is to create a paradigm shift in the way that learning takes place by taking advantage of the devices learners are bringing to college or university.

In terms of the first reason, the potential savings that can be made need to be offset with the improvements in infrastructure that need to take place to ensure a seamless experience for learners.

The second reason also requires investment, but more investment in ideas how to design a curriculum that takes advantage of BYOD, how to deliver sessions when learners are using their own devices and also designing their assessments.

Similarly I also quite like the thought of attending Sharing stories around the microphone: digital storytelling as a collaborative learning experience [1013] as digital story telling is something I am aware of, but actually know very little about.

Over lunch I will be on the Jisc stand, available to discuss digital capabilities with interested parties.

ALT-C 2009

I am trying to choose between a few sessions, most of which will aid my thoughts in the project I am currently managing for Jisc. This session, Learning technology from the middle out: Breaking down functional tensions and resistances between stakeholders to lead institutional change [913] sounds like it might well be of interest in how they overcame the barriers that institutions face when building digital capability.

Don’t tell Lawrie, but I am also interested in attending Badging the Open [940] as I do feel I need to know more about the practical aspects related to open badges and the impact they can (or may not) have.

At 3:05pm I am going to attend Lawie’s and Donna’s session, Are learning technologies fit for purpose [881]. This is going to be a fun sessions, one that I am sure I am going to enjoy.

This presentation and paper will open up the debate, reporting on discussions and engagement after the original debate and eliciting more viewpoints to further the discussion and encourage delegates to think critically about their existing use of technology. It will also propose a continuum of practice with technology, seeking to not identify a right or wrong answer, but instead provide a series of questions, checks and balances that institutions should consider in their deployment of technology.

At 4:45pm it’s a pity that Bex Ferriday’s session, Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow [803] has been cancelled as Bex’s sessions are bright, loud and fun. So a slightly more serious option will be Harmonious Developments in Learning Technologies; how to align IT and LT cultures. [1009]. This session reminds me of my presentation on the dark side I delivered at FOTE 14 in London.

After a long day it doesn’t stop and I will be off to the Palace Hotel for the Gala Dinner.

So what does your day at ALT-C look like?

Travelling – ALT-C 2015 Day 0


As I write I am sitting a slightly cramped seat on a CrossCountry Voyager train to Manchester, heading towards the annual Association of Learning Technology conference. This is the first time since 2012 that I have attended the full conference. I missed it in 2013, having just finished one job and starting another, and could only attend one day in 2014.

I will be presenting in two sessions and also supporting in a third. In addition I will be on the Jisc stand talking and discussing digital capabilities.

What I like about the ALT conference is a combination of the sessions, the people, the networking and the sharing of ideas and solutions.

ALT-C 2009

I have attended ALT-C before in Manchester and the venue is quite nice, however the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. As a result at previous conferences I would pop over the road to the Museum café where the coffee is pretty good.

I think I have packed everything, nowhere near as bad in some years demonstrating mobile learning or other technologies, as I would often have a complete suitcase full of laptops and devices. A few years ago I would bring a portable TV studio with me… two jobs later that’s one “gadget” I no longer have.

I think I have remembered all my cables and chargers (along with a four way gang). I am also intending to take more photographs this year, but instead of using an iPhone, it’s a 16GB model with limited storage space, I am going to use my Canon DSLR. The fact I also have multiple lenses means I am intending to capture the essence of ALT-C on film (well digital images and upload to Flickr).

Looking over the programme, there looks to be some great sessions and keynotes, looking forward to it all.

Emerged Technologies


Four years is a long time in technology, but how much has happened since 2011?

Back in November 2011 I was asked by the AoC to present at a conference with Donald Taylor on emerging technologies and how FE Colleges should be preparing for them.

My slides and Donald’s are in this slidedeck.

My notes from that presentation are here, but how much has changed since then and had education really embraced and started to embed these emerging technologies.

Continue reading Emerged Technologies