Tag Archives: dave white

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

We are all of these…

Avon Gorge

Over on “Don’t Waste Your Time” David Hopkins posts a nice cartoon of how to support staff in using emerging technologies and his interpretation of the roles within the cartoon.

Supporting emerging technologies

‘Laggards’. Those who follow on once a technology has proven itself.

Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support its use.

Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.

Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.

Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

This is a nice model and people who are responsible for embedding the use of learning technologies will very likely recognise these stereotypes.

David asks with whom you identify with?

My observation is that we are all of them. Which one we are depends on which technology we are using.

For a long time I was a laggard (sceptic) with regard to Second Life and virtual worlds, really couldn’t see the value and how it could be used in an effective (and efficient) manner to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It took a while and I remember seeing a fantastic presentation from Bex Ferriday on how Second Life was been used to create art displays that couldn’t exist in the real world. However despite that really nice exemplar, I still remained very much a conservative sceptic with regard to Second Life.

On the other hand, having used mobile technologies for years before the iPhone and the iPad (going back to the 1990s), I would describe myself as an innovator with regard to mobile learning. Very much the enthusiast and early adopter.

I would describe the model above more of an continuum than discrete roles that we fit into, and that where we sit on that continuum depends on where we are and how we use the technology. When you start to talk like that you suddenly realise that the Visitor and Residents model from David White and the work undertaken by him and Donna Lanclos resonates much more.

You could describe the enthusiast and early adopters as resident’esque behaviour and the behaviour of sceptics and the conservator majority as that of visitors.

One of the aspects of the V & R model I like is that as well as the horizontal continuum you also have a vertical continuum where technology is used between a professional and personal capacity.

Many years ago I was delivering training to a group of sixth form staff, one practitioner was quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology to support teaching, learning and assessment, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life. These individuals can be sceptics in a professional capacity, but early adopters in their personal use of technology.

Models like the one above which shows learning technologists as bridging the chasm assume that there is a chasm that needs to be bridged and that people aren’t willing to cross it. It assumes that people’s view of technology is consistent across all technologies. It can be a starting point, but if you then move to the mapping exercise of the V & R model then it helps practitioners (and managers) realise that they are early adopters and sceptics and everything in between and that all of them can help each other to cross the many different technological chasms out there.

Of course one of the real challenges is to do this is from an holistic organisational perspective and get everyone to start to embed and increase their use of learning technologies where appropriate to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment.

Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries

Old Book Shop

Ned Potter has published an interesting slidedeck on the relevance of Dave White’s work on Visitors and Residents on social media in libraries.

He describes the many different ways in which libraries can engage with users and visitors using a range of social media tools. One of the challenges when using social media in libraries is to focus on using it as a broadcast mechanism and not thinking about how to engage and interact with users.

There are lots of existing and new tools out there that can be used to promote, engage, collaborate and inform.

He does make the usual assumption of seeing the concept as separating visitors from residents into two distinct groups, when as Dave White makes clear in his video is much more of a continuum. When it comes to social networks people can be both visitors and residents depending on the context and what they need or are doing. You can be a visitor to Facebook, but you can also be a resident in Facebook. Resident in a personal capacity interacting with friends and family, and a visitor in a professional capacity, going to Facebook pages as and when required.

I made the same assumption myself when I blogged about Visitors and Residents back in 2008.

Dave’s recent video on Visitors and Residents and the mapping exercise shows much more clearly how the concept can be used to describe how an individual interacts with social media, and additionally the continuum between professional and personal.

Understanding how both the concept of Visitors and Residents and  social media can be used to increase usage and engagement with users of the library is really useful, and Ned’s slidedeck and accompanying blog post gives you lots to think about.

One suggestion that I found helps, is if the entire team engage in using social media and that the tools are also used for internal purposes. This helps build familiarity with the tools, but also helping to understand what sorts of activities on social media work and what may not. One of the questions you will need to ask is how are you going to increase the social media capability (media literacy) of your team?

Image source: The Shop of Books.


Taking the time for ALT-C 2014


Last year I missed ALT-C, the Association of Learning Technologies annual Conference, as I had literally just started at Activate Learning. Though the conference coincides with the start of the academic year in FE, I did manage this year to attend the second day at the conference.

This has been for me for over ten years one of the best conferences on learning technologies, the topics, issues and subjects that are covered are inspiring, informative and certainly make you think about what you do and what you are going to do.


The sessions at this year’s conference have been just as inspiring and as good as I have seen in previous years. I particularly enjoyed Catherine Cronin’s keynote and the session from Dave White.


As well as the informative sessions, it is also good to make contact with fellow learning technologists from HE, FE and other sectors. Sometimes the conversations over coffee are as useful and interesting as the sessions in themselves.

It’s a pity that I could only make one day this year, but I certainly am going away with lots to think about and follow up over the next few weeks.

Visitors and Residents

Still talking about Digital Natives, time to move on and talk about Visitors and Residents.

This is Dave White’s presentation on his Visitors and Residents model and his work on this for JISC.

Read Dave’s original blog post on Visitors and Residents.