This is an updated version of this blog post from 2016. It now includes details of the 2016 and 2017 conferences.
Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!
Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!
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.
I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter. This is part two of my reflections on the conference, you can find part one here.
So on the Tuesday night I rendered and uploaded the video recording I had made of the VLE is Dead debate and put it on my blog. It has proved quite popular.
There have been 600 odd views of the video and I have served 40GB of video in just a week! I am impressed it has been that popular.
So back to ALT-C, where my Hood 2.1 Workshop was due to start at 9.00am (another early start). I hadn’t realised when I put my flyer for the event together that MLT was the acronym for the Main Lecture Theatre.
It’s quite big and not that suitable for a workshop, but we worked at it. I covered a fair bit and I have made a video recording which needs a fair bit of editing before I can post it online. In the meantime here is a list of the services we looked at.
One of the problems with ALT-C is the sheer quality of many of the sessions and as a result you will miss them. I video my sessions, so though no reflection of the experience of being there, if you have missed me at least you will be able to get a flavour of what happened.
I really enjoyed Martin Bean’s Keynote which he delivered with passion. Some great slides too, take note and learn.
With lunch I was on poster duty, showing off my Glossy Poster on our MoLeNET project.
I enjoyed the Xerte and SL demonstrations I attended, but the tightness of time meant that a good (and probably heated) discussion on a distributed repository model and the IPR implications wasn’t had. Time to write a blog post on that methinks.
Final session of the day was the Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video Presentations. I was one of the judges so was at this session presenting the videos.
In the evening was the ALT Gala Conference Dinner which was very well cooked by the students from Manchester College and Sheffield College and where I was presented with an award…
Thursday morning saw another 9.00am start and the Distribute This workshop which went really well and was very well attended. Lots of discussion and debate on digital identity.
After that it was the final keynote from Terry Anderson which saw a huge flurry of Twitter activity which alas was not presented to the rest of the auditorium who merely saw the Elluminate chat in which no one was chatting!
After that it was time to go home.
Reflecting on the conference, I know that Seb and the rest of the ALT team put a huge amount of work into the conference and I appreciate all that they do. I do not envy the work they put in and end result is fantastic.
For me the online element of the conference is very important, allowing conversation, chat and to meet new people. This year it felt that finally ALT-C was also online. Crowdvine which worked so well last year, worked ever better this year, Cloudworks, which I was initially hesitant about, has proved itself as a great online place for links, comments and resources. Of course Twitter really came into its own. At ALT-C 2007 no one was using Twitter (well I was) but everyone was using blogs – I remember that’s when I first met Steve Wheeler. Last year at ALT-C 2008 there was only about fifty or forty of us using Twitter, this year according to the stats in Brian Kelly’s blog post, 633 people used the #altc2009 tag, now not all of these were at the conference, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were hundreds of people at the conference using Twitter.
What I found interesting in the discussion was that @jamesclay was a trending term. I believe that this was less used as a descriptor in Twitter postings, but more more in reply to what I was saying, in other words I was stimulating the discussion on Twitter. Difficult to show that, but it’s not as though I was a keynote speaker or anything. Twitter added an extra layer to the conference and despite the spam was a really useful tool.
So what would have I added to the conference?
Well though there was a great social programme, for me there wasn’t enough social spaces, a decent coffee shop type place, somewhere to meet those people you had promised to meet in Crowdvine and so on.
Just going back to the coffee and a note to all conference organisers, please provide an alternative to conference coffee and I would be willing to pay for decent coffee. Also have coffee available throughout the day and not just at coffee breaks. Well I would say that wouldn’t I.
A social cafe area for people to meet and discuss during the conference would be a real advantage, you could see the potential by how people used the exhibition area.
I also wonder if it is time that an unconference strand was added to the conference? A series of rooms available for open discussions and demonstrations. With Crowdvine and Twitter it would make it much easier to advertise these sessions and for people to join in with them. F-ALT has shown there is a demand for venues that allow for discussions and debates which don’t quite fit into the abstract submission process. It would also allow for debates on issues which arise out of formal presentations and keynotes that we don’t have time for in the main strands. An unconference format doesn’t mean disorganised or unstructured, but it does require an element of trust that something happens.
Overall I did enjoy the conference and it was certainly one of my highlights of this year. I would recommend that you do go to Nottingham in 2010. I know the timing is awful for those in schools and FE, for many it is the first week of term. However my view is that surely your institution can run smoothly if you’re not there and you can always check your e-mail and make phone calls. If you can, do go.
Following on from the success of the Hood 2.0 Workshop at ALT-C last year, at this years ALT-C I shall be running another workshop, Hood 2.1 – it’s still a Web 2.0 World out there.
Web 2.0 is exciting and innovative, with new services appearing almost daily. These services can incorporate social networking, video and audio production, sharing, collaboration and user-created content. Some will be useful for providing information and entertainment, some will allow us to create innovative learning activities.
This stimulating and interactive workshop will explore new Web 2.0 services that can be used to solve some of the issues facing learners.
Ideas to be explored
During the workshop participants will be shown different learning scenarios and activities that utilise a range of new and exciting Web 2.0 services.
It is expected that the workshop will utilise the newest and most exciting Web 2.0 services out there, but could include: the use of Audioboo.fm for fieldwork; using Jing to create learning resources and web reviews; and using ipadio to allow learners to create a series of work-based podcasts.
Participants will discuss and debate the Web 2.0 service and the scenarios in small groups, covering how they could be utilised within their own institutions.
The groups will also discuss how the pedagogy needs to drive the scenarios and not the technology, and address how Web 2.0 can empower learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Each group will provide feedback through either a blog entry, an audio podcast or a video presentation. These will then be made available online to allow further comment and discussion beyond the workshop, and also allow other conference delegates to participate.
The participants will have a greater understanding of the innovative role of Web 2.0 to support.They will have considered how Web 2.0 can be used to redesign the pedagogy, the curriculum, and assessment methods to secure a substantial positive impact on learning.
The participants will have presented the results of their discussion to other participants and to other delegates through the use of a variety of learning technologies and Web 2.0 services. This will allow them to understand which services are innovations of true value, rather than mere fads.
There are many people out there who believe that the institutional VLE is dead and we should allow learners to use their own PLE (personal learning environment) and/or a selection of Web 2.0 tools and services.
The institutional VLE is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change, whilst the personal web is led by one user. The personal web has one more key advantage – it is owned by the individual who created it.
I have previously argued that VLEs tend to constrain students into particular ways of thinking and stifle creativity. I also maintain that most proprietary VLEs have been designed by businesses not by teachers, and therefore are unfit for purpose.
To be honest I don’t actually disagree with Steve on principle. I do believe that in order for learning to be accessible and personalised for all learners, institutional services often fail as they provide a service for all which can only meet some of the needs of some of the learners. Eventually learners will be able to choose the tools they want to use and when they want to use them. For those learners the VLE will be dead.
However we do need to question whether we bury the VLE now or wait…
Well Steve argues that learners are able to utilise the online tools and services available on the web to facilitate their learning.
There’s a big problem with this, in that most learners do not know how to use the web effectively and many of these only “visit” the web to do some stuff.
The concept that the majority of learners are adept at using Web 2.0 tools and services, are engaged with social networking and importantly are able to apply these skills to learning is a flawed concept at this time.
Most learners are not using these tools for anything let alone learning. There are no digital natives and there isn’t a Google Generation. Various papers have been published on this subject.
From my experience, most e-learning professionals aren’t engaging with the Web 2.0 tools and services out there let alone learning professionals. At ALT-C 2008 for example, six hundred delegates who were coming to a learning technology conference, and of those less than 8% were using Twitter! Though I expect the situation to be different at ALT-C 2009 I still don’t see the majority of the delegates at that conference engaging with the very technologies that are supposed to be replacing institutional tools.
Most learning professionals aren’t engaging with the web tools and services, so will learners?
Most learners who engage with post 16 learning could in theory already choose a personalised individual route to learning and use the wide variety of tools out there. They don’t choose that route though, they choose to engage with their learning via a physical learning environment, a college, a university, they choose to engage with a learning environment which is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change.
If the VLE is dead then maybe we need to ensure that the physical learning environment is buried alongside. However it will be some time before we see the demise of the physical learning environment, why it’s not perfect, but it does a job.
All things considered, it is inevitable that the personal web will win in a straight fight against the institutional VLE. The VLE has had its day and will meet its demise, even though its supporters cannot see it coming. The personal web is on the rise.
The personal web will probably win, the personal web however is currently the domain of a select few individuals and not embraced or used by learners. For these learners they need guidance and advice on what tools they should use. This does not need to come from tutors alone, however where do these learners start from? Where should they go first? They need some kind of starting place (and dare I say it) some kind of portal to their learning.
The VLE can be that starting point.
Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE and web tools can be used together. For example this blog has an RSS feed which feeds directly into my institutional VLE. I use Slideshare to host my presentations which I can then as well as embedding into this blog, also embed them into my institutional VLE too. As well as embedding presentations, I also embed YouTube videos, videos from this blog and other sites too. My delicious tag cloud is embedded into the VLE to allow staff to see what I am bookmarking. My Twitter stream is streamed into the VLE to allow staff to stalk track my activity.
The VLE is not perfect, but it does a job that with the current cohort of learners and teachers could not do by themselves.
Eventually the VLE will be replaced as are all tools, but at this time we can’t afford to bury a tool which for some is their starting point on their learning journey.
Is the debate over?
No it’s just beginning. You can join myself, Steve Wheeler, Graham Attwell and Nick Sharatt at ALT-C 2009 in our symposium, “The VLE is dead” where we will be presenting and debating these issues.
Newsgator allows you to aggregate newsfeeds from a variety of sites, combined with NetNewsWire on the iPhone it makes it very simple to keep up with a number of blogs or dip into the stream now and then.
This week I am blogging at the JISC Online Conference. At an online conference it’s almost given that you will be using a computer, maybe even a laptop!
What about at a non-online conference? Do you now pack your laptop, extra battery, power cable? Or do you use a PDA, an iPod touch to make notes? Or do you still prefer to use that trusty old pen and paper?
I remember the first time I took a wireless laptop to a conference (a JISC programmes meeting as it happens) and the hotel had wireless access and I had a wireless laptop. Some of the older people out there may remember a time when laptops did not come with wifi cards as standard.
It was a real enabler.
When a link was shown, I could there and then check the site out, add it to my bookmarks, or ignore it.
Whereas before I would scribble it down and try and remember to check it out later which would take up time – and there is never enough time. Often I would forget to check it out, or lose the piece of paper.
If someone said something I didn’t understand or couldn’t remember, a quick internet search saved me having to ask a question. I could remind myself of previous projects, previous presentations.
Today I will use Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter or Jaiku to correspond with remote colleagues and ask them the questions the presenters are asking me. Sometimes with interesting results. I will also blog about the keynote or presentation too.
Having said all that, I will also admit that at some conferences I will with my laptop check out my e-mail or check a few websites, usually during a conference keynote. Though I will also take notes or scribble actions.
This is more down to the conference speech being either not applicable or totally boring! You will know what I mean, some keynotes deserve to be ignored. I remember going to one keynote at a conference and they had a minister speaking who was so obviously reading a prepared speech he pronounced JISC, J I S C (spelling out the letters), rather than JISC (as rhymes with disc). Rather then walk out, I could get on with other things using my laptop.
I think part of the issue is that a lot of conferences are very passive experiences, and we are now all more active learners then we may have been in the past.
At the ALT conference back in 2006, most of the workshops I went to were 90% listening and 10% activity. The conference had a wiki and I think six of us contributed. It didn’t help that there was no wifi and very few places to charge a laptop.
In 2007, ALT-C had good wifi and a good preponderance of bloggers and this was the medium of choice, lots of blogging and lots of contacts made.
This year, Crowdvine (which I had first used at the JISC Conference) was the conference success story (though Twitter had its place too I think).
I am making an assumption that in this year’s online conference we will see a similar level of discussion and debate that has happened in previous years. The depth and breadth of discussion is something that you never really see at a non-online conference, well not during the presentation or workshop itself.
What I would like to see during a non-online conference, is an online area to enable further discussion and questions relating to the conference speech or workshop. Just to get a little of the depth of discussion we will see next week.
I tried this out myself at ALT-C at the two workshops I ran, I used a blog and got the workshop participants to blog their experiences and thoughts, it seemed to work quite well. Made life easier for me as in my Web 2.0 workshop there were about seventy delegates…
I have read that this hasn’t always worked when tried, but if there was full and proper wireless access and online delegates as well as attending delegates this could enable more discussion and debate.
Finally at any e-learning or learning technology conference would you believe that there are still people who object to delegates using their laptops during keynotes and presentations? The main complaint that was given was lack of attention and the noise of typing. At any other conference I would expect that kind of attitude, at an e-learning conference I expect everyone to be connected, either via their laptop or mobile device.
One of the things we seem to do in the world of e-learning is categorise ourselves and our learners into groups.
One of the key pieces of work on this was from Marc Prensky on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Now I was never really very happy about this idea that if you were old (like me, well I am not that old, but it’s sometime now since I first sent e-mail, 1987 I think it was) you were only a digital immigrant and young people were digital natives.
However when I looked at the students at my college, I couldn’t see this age divide at all. Yes it was true many of the students were very happy and capable with handing digital devices and playing games, but not all.
We had some digital natives that fitted the description, but we also had a fair few that didn’t. There were students who didn’t and in some cases couldn’t use the internet and the web, not because they hadn’t been immersed in a digital world since birth, but because they didn’t want to. Also there are issues with many students in relation to the digital divide; they may play video games, but don’t have access to the web.
I also couldn’t see how myself fitted into this, I may not fit the digital native sterotype, but I knew (well others told me) that I was very much immersed into a digtial world and used the internet in ways in which they couldn’t fathom or understand. Was I merely a digital immigrant?
From my experiences on the web I met many digital natives and quite a few of them were over forty!
There are some who live in an online world and see the internet as part of their everyday life. This I can identify with. It was for example very strange at ALT-C 2008 to meet Kev Hickey, someone I knew very well from Jaiku. Over the last year we had discussed many e-learning issues and shared experiences of applications, but also I had seen his photographs from Blackpool, I knew the names of his dogs, I felt he was someone I would call a friend.
So it was very weird to actually meet him in person at ALT-C. He is just one of many people I know from online in just my e-learning sphere, better wave to Lisa at this point…
I can quite easily see how that I can be a digtial resident, living part of my life in an online world. I do use the internet a lot and do use a range of online services and applications to make my life easier, to communicate, to share, to drink coffee and to have a bit of fun as well.
Working with many staff in the college (and quite a few students as well) I often find that they are merely visitors, using the online world when it suits them and meets their needs.
I’m reminded of a member of staff at a training session who was quite vocal about being a “technophobe” and didn’t want to use technology in her teaching (note the word teaching and not learning). So basically I ignored her, there were staff there who were interested. As we moved around the room, another member of staff started talking about how she used learning technologies, how she used the VLE and then she remarked on how she used MSN chat to converse with her students at a time and place to suit them. At this point the “technophobe” spoke up and said, “oh I use MSN chat all the time to talk to my daughter in Australia”. For me she is the perfect example of a visitor to the online world, using the technologies when it suits her needs and ignoring the potential that other tools, services and applications could offer her and importantly her learners.