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.

The decline of SMS


In a recent Ofcom report, the decline of SMS was noted.

SMS use fell for the second consecutive year, from 129 billion messages in 2013 to 110 billion messages in 2014, largely due to increasing smartphone take-up and use of internet-based communications.

This move from SMS to other forms of internet based communication is partly the result of the increase in the number of people owning internet capable smartphones, also the increase in the use of 4G (making it faster to do so).

…during 2014, 4G subscriptions have leapt from 2.7 million to 23.6 million

In addition we are seeing an increase in the availability of wifi both on campus and in urban areas.

The decline may be happening, but SMS usage is still much higher than it was a few years ago, back in 2007 we sent 52 billion texts.

So what does this all tell us?

Well there are three things we should take away from this.

Firstly if you are already using SMS to support teaching and learning (or learner support) then keep doing so, the decline is there, but the use of SMS is very much embedded into the daily lives of many people and will continue for the next few years.

Secondly, note that the increasing smartphone take-up and use of internet-based communications, means that in addition to SMS you should be using internet-based communications as well.

Finally if you’re not using either SMS or internet-based communications, then planning for the future, the focus should be on internet-based communications and not that means to ignore SMS, but note that it is in decline and resources may be better placed elsewhere, as the growth in internet based comms will continue to replace SMS.

What this report demonstrates is how challenging it can be to keep pace with changes in technology, that some technologies come and go, and that sometimes you need to move fast to take advantage of technological advances before they become obsolete.

Image source.

#blideo – You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

Well I have been avoiding this whole #blimage thing, but even not entirely, as a certain person who shall remain nameless, let’s just call her Bex, wanted to borrow this image for #blimage.

Then, that David Hopkins, decides to write a blog post, not using images, but a video clip, another hashtag, #blideo, and then decides to challenge me (and Julian Stodd, and Terese Bird) with this clip from The Italian Job.

I have to admit my first reaction was to ignore it and dismiss the challenge. It’s not as though I’ve not done these before, back in 2008 I was challenged by someone called Steve Wheeler on a meme called Passion Quilt.

Right. It’s an interesting challenge and looks a little like a chain letter, but here goes. Mike Hasley, of TechWarrior Blog, has laid down a challenge for me and 4 others to add to a collection of photos that represent our passion in teaching/learning. I have to tag it ‘Meme: Passion Quilt’ and post it on a blog, Flickr, FaceBook or some other social networking tool with a brief commentary of why it is a passion for me.

That Doug Belshaw challenged me in 2011 to write 500 words on the purpose of education. There was also an image challenge with that too

So for this challenge I need to look at the video clip, and what it makes me think of, professionally or personally. As I said I was going to dismiss it, but hang on a minute…

The Italian Job 1969

The Italian Job is one of my favourite films of all time. I like it for a lot of reasons, it’s also the same age as me. I am surprised it didn’t make my cinematic advent calendar I did in 2012.

It’s a classic British 1960s crime caper. It’s got Michael Caine in it, as well as Noel Coward. Yes it’s full of cliché, yes it’s rather sexist and does have a fair few unfair stereotypes in there too, the Italian Mafia and Camp Freddy are examples of this. Having said that, if you can forgive a film of it’s time, this is an enjoyable romp through 1960s London and Italy, with a great script, photography and cast.

The story tells how Charlie Croker gets out of jail and plans a heist of Chinese gold that is been delivered to the Fiat factory in Milan. The film has a classic chase sequence as the three Mini cars are filled with gold and driven across Milan, with the Italian police in pursuit.

The Italian Job 1969

The film ends with the cliffhanger clip shown above, showing that despite a successful heist, crime doesn’t pay…

From a professional perspective, what does this clip mean for me?

Well what the film shows is a robbery, but an expertly planned and executed h, one that takes into account a range of issues and the plan mitigates these. The success is dependent on the planning and planning down to the smallest detail.

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

From checking how the Mini cars would perform with all the gold in the boot, the amount of explosive to evading the traffic jams.

“If they planned this traffic jam, then they must have planned a way out of it.”

The Italian Job 1969

In addition there is a lot of preparation to ensure the success of the plan, from people to resources, to computer programming.

However as the clip shows, despite all the planning resulting in success, one slight mistake and success is on the cliff edge (literally) with the prospect of it going either way. Despite all the careful planning, innovative thinking is required if disaster is to be avoided.

I am a great fan of careful planning and good preparation, when it comes to teaching and learning. When I was a teacher I would plan out the entire year in advance, including lesson plans for each lesson. Alongside these I would prepare the majority of the resources required and these would be printed in advance and stored ready for use. When I “discovered” the internet, for some courses I created my own “VLE” and the scheme of work and resources were available for learners to access and download. On the site were additional resources, links, news items and a discussion forum – this was in a time when not many people had internet at home.

However what was also important was having the space to be innovative and responsive to accommodate unexpected events and issues. In addition there was space to allow for topicality and for ideas from the learners. When opportunities arose, they were grasped (as there was the flexibility in the planning to allow for this) and not ignored because we had to stick to the plan.

If you think of the impact snow can have, or service failure, having the space and the initiative to adapt is critical to take account of these unexpected million to one chances that happen nine times out of ten.

I know speaking to teachers over the years, that many don’t like this approach, they see planning as inflexible and doesn’t take account of what happens in the classroom on a weekly basis. So as a result they don’t plan. They take a more ad hoc approach, though this can work for some people, often it can result in core elements been missed or rushed.

Good planning does not mean rigidity or lack of flexibility. Having a plan doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for innovation. No effective planning, will build in room for innovation, will be flexible and will allow for topicality and spontaneity. In reality an ad hoc approach usually results in a bland approach falling back on using the same methodology,

We often do things because we have always done it that way. We take the same route to work, we go the sandwich place for lunch, we choose the same thing from the menu when we go out to lunch.
I recall an apocryphal story about the Royal Horse Artillery who have not used horses for a hundred years, but still have five people for each artillery piece, four to fire the gun and one to hold the horses. The essence was that we do things because we have always done them that way and sometimes the reasons for doing it this way have actually changed or disappeared, but we still keep doing it.

Doing everything last minute, usually means doing everything the same way every time. Planning allows for innovation, creativity and the last minute cliffhangers.

Just going back to the Italian Job, if you didn’t know, a few years ago the solution to the problem was “discovered” in a 2009 competition.

In addition to that competition, according to a making of documentary, the producer Deeley was unsatisfied with the four written endings and conceived the current ending as a literal cliffhanger appropriate to an action film which left an opportunity for a sequel. The documentary describes how helicopters would save the bus seen on the cliff at the end of the first film. The grateful gang would soon discover that it is the Mafia that has saved them, and the sequel would have been about stealing the gold bullion back from them.

So as this is #blideo in theory I have to challenge someone with a clip, well here’s the clip, as for the challenge, well that’s open to everyone.

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

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