Category Archives: altc2009

Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #32 – 18th October 2019

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Monday I was undertaking the final preparations for some presentation training I am delivering on Thursday. This included printing some postcards as well as designing activities.

I took advantage of Pixabay to find images for my postcards, this is a great site for images, and due to their open licensing, you can use them in a variety of ways. Though I often attribute the site for the images I use, it’s not a requirement, so if you use them later or forget, it’s not really an issue.

Tuesday I was off to London for a meeting to discuss some future collaborative work that Jisc may undertake. What are the big challenges that HE (and FE) are facing for the future. One comment which was made I thought was interesting, was how challenging it was to get people to think about long term future challenges. Most people can identify current issues and potential near-future challenges but identifying the really big challenges that will impact education in the medium or long term, is really hard. Part of the challenge is that there are so many factors that can impact and predicting the future is thus very hard.

Reminded of this challenge of predicting the future, this week with the imminent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Watching the haunting nuclear war TV film, Threads in 1984, I had no idea that the Cold War was every going to end, it looked like it would last forever and we would always be living under the threat of nuclear war. Five years later on the 9thNovember 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching it on the news in my student accommodation, thinking, what’s happening, how is this happening? Back then we didn’t have social media, mobile phones or the web, so the only way for news to filter through was by television and newspapers. A year later we had the reunification of Germany. A year after that the USSR was dissolved.

I have often spoken at events about the future of learning and only a couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the predictions I was making ten years ago at the FOTE 2009 event.

The future of learning… ten years later!

So what of my predictions?

Well we know predicting the future is hard and generally most people get it wrong.

 You will no doubt not be surprised that I got a lot of things wrong…

 One thing I feel I did get right was that mobile was going to be big

I think predicting those challenges is hard, but deciding not to prepare for them is not a good course of action. One of the things you need to also consider after predicting the future and start to work on stuff,  is when to stop doing that stuff. Has the concept or idea reached somewhere, has it stopped being useful, has it been superseded? Sometimes you stop, sometimes you park and sometimes you keep going.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

One future technology that a lot of pundits have been talking about has been virtual reality. So it was interesting to read this news item in which the BBC reported this week that they were stopping VR development.

The BBC has disbanded the team it created to make virtual reality (VR) content, saying its funding has ended.

They were not the only people to do this, in the same article it was reported that Google was reducing its involvement in VR.

It comes as Google halts sales of its Daydream View headsets, admitting it does not see a future for smartphone-based VR.

What does this mean?

Well we might want to consider the fact that virtual reality as it is, is really not going to be as disruptive and game changing as predicted. Maybe there is no future for VR in entertainment and information, but that doesn’t mean necessarily there isn’t a future for VR in education.

Back in 2013 on my Tech Blog I talked about the death of 3D.

3D is no more, defunct, gone, finished…

So if 3D is defunct, can’t bring myself to say dead, what is the next big thing in video? Well according to the pundits who attended CES it is 4K or ultra HD as some marketing people are calling it.

Here we are six years later and in all the big stores I have been into recently, 4K is everywhere, I don’t see 3D any more.

I was always surprised that 3D video didn’t gain the same traction that VR has in educational development circles. Having said that they are very similar in concept, maybe we should learn from the lessons of 3D.

I seem to have gained a bit of a reputation in the edtech world as, well as I was once described as the “Grim Reaper of Education” and “it’s not dead until James Clay says it’s dead”.

So I did read my colleague, Duncan Peberdy’s article on WonkHE, Is the lecture dead? with a little raised eyebrow.

Once ubiquitous, the lecture-based model of disseminating information and instruction is evolving rapidly. But we may still be too early in these evolutions and the research projects into their outcomes, to fully write off the lecture, although many – including vice chancellors – are already advocating this.

Of course we have been here before back, ten years ago, when Donald Clark at ALT-C 2009 said the lecture was finished….

My reflections back then were written up in this blog post.

The Lecture is… ALT-C Reflections

 

Of course at that same conference we had the infamous VLE is Dead debate…

The VLE is still dead… #altc

London
View of London from the QEII Conference Centre

Wednesday was the HE Conference, a last minute change meant that I was asked to chairthe morning session. This was something I hadn’t done before,

HE Conference
HE Conference

In the afternoon I delivered my session. I had fifteen minutes to cover a range of subject matter.

HE Conference
HE Conference

My presentation was entitled Boosting Student Retention and Achieving Strategic Goals Through Data and Analytics.

There were three areas I covered in my talk were:

  • Tackling the student mental health challenge by utilising data to enhance student support mechanisms
  • Transforming learning experience and helping students learn more through personalisation and analytics
  • Utilising practical mechanisms for engaging with staff and students in order to make smarter procurements in tech

I finished off my presentation with some of the wider consideration universities needed to think about in relation to the use of data and analytics.

I got some nice feedback and here are the slides I used.

Of course the challenge I have, is that people who attended would have heard my presentation, but the slides are just images (thank you Pixabay) and no text!

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

On Thursday I was off to our Harwell office where I was delivering an all day session to the apprentices in Jisc on presentation skills.

Part of the session was based on my infamous “duck goes quack presentation I once gave at another staff development session.

A duck goes quack…

These two blog posts were very influential on my presentation style

I also reviewed these links prior to running the session.

I use the following sites for images.

I am always a little surprised by what images of mine are popular, and which that get ignored, that I post to Instagram This week this image proved to be quite popular compared to other photos I post to the service.

 

Having been out a lot of the week, Friday was about catching up and clearing out the inbox. I had a few online meetings as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Not going to ALT-C – Weeknote #27 – 6th September 2019

ALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh. Day one - Tuesday 3rd September.
ALT conference 2019, Edinburgh. Day one – Tuesday 3rd September. CC-BY-NC ALT

So it was back to a full week after a few short weeks and leave. September is traditionally the start of term in England for schools and FE, though HE usually start a little later. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go this year as I needed to be close to home as my youngest started secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. In the end there were very few issues, but I am glad I stayed behind.

I attended some of the ALT-C sessions remotely and participated via the Twitter as well.

Image by drippycat from Pixabay

Ten years ago at ALT-C in Manchester, we had The VLE is Dead session at ALT-C. So I wrote a blog post reminiscing about the debate.

The VLE is still dead… #altc

Spent some time booking travel for the weeks ahead and checking in some cases if I needed to travel. Liking our self-service portal for travel, as it does making life easier.

On Tuesday morning I listened to the ALT-C keynote from Sue Beckingham. She covered a range of stuff. I was reminded of a talk I gave on e-mail and how it is used (and abused). I hadn’t shared it before, so I uploaded it to slideshare.

I spent a lot of time working on a roadmap, which was an interesting, but challenging task, as there are so many unknown unknowns.

Working on a workshop for the Jisc board and it’s challenging to create an engaging interaction session that will add value, and has to be about forty five minutes!

Thursday I was reminded of the excellent Web 2.0 Slam – ‘Performing’ Innovative Practice workshop that I attended at ALT-C in 2007, so I wrote a blog post about it.

A blast from the past #altc

Looking over my blog posts over that date I wasn’t surprised to find some posts had missing images. I recently updated my blog hosting, so initially I thought it might be that, but checking the underlying code I realised what the problem was. The images that were original held on a remote server embedded into the post were no longer available.

Back then I used a service called ShoZu to add images as blog posts, it didn’t upload the images to WordPress, merely adding HTML code and embedding the images hosted on the ShoZu server. With ShoZu now defunct, there were no images. I had copies of the images on Flickr (and on Amazon photos) so I updated the old blog posts and added copies of the images.

It reminds me that embedding externally hosted content can be problematic, what happens when that service dies or is shut down. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it will last forever.

I have written a longer blog post about this on my technology blog.

ShoZu shut down

It was announced that ALT-C 2020 will be in London and the co-chairs are

  • Roger Emery, Head of Learning Technologies, Solent University,
  • Farzana Latif, Digital Learning Manager, University of Sheffield,
  • Matt Lingard, Digital Learning Director, London College of Communication.

It will take place 9-11 September 2020.

My plan is to attend and present a session (or two) at the conference.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The VLE is still dead… #altc

Arnos Vale

Can you believe it has been ten years since we had The VLE is Dead session at ALT-C.

It was Tuesday 8th September 2009 at 13:40 at Manchester University that The VLE is Dead symposium was kicked off by Josie Frasier.

2009 was also the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

I personally remember 2009 as the year I won Learning Technologist of the Year. I was well chuffed to receive this prestigious award.

Most people though remember that year as the year I allegedly said the VLE was dead! We had certainly over the months leading up to the conference trailed the debate with blog posts, tweets and even a trailer.

The debate was huge, with hundreds of people in the room, sitting on the floor, standing by the walls and we also live streamed the debate over the internet (which was quite revolutionary at the time). Overall an amazing experience and an interesting debate that still goes on today.

If you watch the video of the debate and discussion you will see that my view was that the VLE was more of a concept a place where a learner starts their journey and other technologies could be plugged into the institutional VLE to enhance and enrich it.

I still hold that viewpoint that the VLE is a construction of different tools and services.

The abstract for the Death of the VLE Symposium was about the future of e-learning.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

The session was chaired by Josie Fraser and as well as myself, we had three panellists.

There respective viewpoints were described as follows

The first panel member, Graham Attwell, will argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning. Some are little more than glorified e-mail systems. They will argue that VLEs provide a negative experience for learners.

The second member of the panel, Steve Wheeler, believes that the VLE is dead and that the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the solution to the needs of diverse learners. PLEs provide opportunities for learners, offering users the ability to develop their own spaces in which to reflect on their learning.

The third panel member, James Clay, however, believes that the VLE is not yet dead as a concept, but can be the starting point of a journey for many learners. Creating an online environment involving multiple tools that provides for an enhanced experience for learners can involve a VLE as a hub or centre.

The fourth panel member, Nick Sharratt, argues for the concept of the institutional VLE as essentially sound. VLEs provide a stable, reliable, self-contained and safe environment in which all teaching and learning activities can be conducted. It provides the best environment for the variety of learners within institutions.

The symposium began with an opportunity for attendees to voice their opinions on the future of the VLE. Each member of the panel then presented their case. The panel, with contributions from the audience, then debated the key issues that arose from the presentations.

So where did the whole concept of the debate come from?

Well it was an idea that had been around for a while

Martin Weller published a blog post in November 2007 “The VLE/LMS Is Dead”

Well there was a paper published a couple of years earlier by Mark Stiles, called “Death of the VLE – a challenge to a new orthodoxy”.

The VLE has become almost ubiquitous in both higher and further education, with the market becoming increasingly ‘mature’. E-learning is a major plank in both national and institutional strategies. But, is the VLE delivering what is needed in a world where flexibility of learning is para- mount, and the lifelong learner is becoming a reality? There are indications that rather than resulting in innovation, the use of VLEs has become fixed in an orthodoxy based on traditional educational approaches. The emergence of new services and tools on the web, developments in interoperability, and changing demands pose significant issues for institutions’ e-learning strategy and policy. Whether the VLE can remain the core of e-learning activity needs to be considered.

A year later, Lawrie Phipps, Dave Cormier and Mark Stiles published a paper in Educational Developments – The Magazine of the Staff and Educational Development Association Ltd (SEDA) entitled “Reflecting on the virtual learning systems – extinction or evolution?”

What is the role of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in the modern university? How are students using them? And are they as important as we once thought they would be? These are questions that a lot of people are now asking, given the rapid developments that can be characterised as the read/write web or Web 2.0.

So this wasn’t a new idea, it built on the shoulders of those who went before us.

One aspect of the debate was the publication of blog posts before the conference, the use of Twitter and even trailers…

One of my blog posts from August 2009 gave an insight into my viewpoint.

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.

It was certainly hyped up in a way that I hadn’t seen before at ALT conferences, and to be honest not since either.

Today though I see many people using their blogs and the Twitter to promote their sessions at conferences, so maybe we did start something.

I was planning to run a session at this year’s conference, but alas circumstances were against me, so a follow-up session never materialised.

So ten years later is the VLE dead?

It’s still here and still being used and people are still trying to get people to use it.

Will it still be here in another ten years?

Who knows!




Getting ready to pack for #altc

six way gang

Back in the midst of time, well 2009, I wrote this blog post about packing stuff for the ALT Conference. Nearly ten years later, it’s probably time for an update, things and stuff change.

Six-Way Gang – I still think a six way gang is an useful thing, instead of fighting people for the power sockets, you can immediately make five friends! Having such an adapter is also useful in the hotel room when you want to charge everything up for the following day and you have limited plug sockets. When I mentioned the previous article on the Twitter someone told me about the USB charging stations you can now buy. With so many devices reliant on USB charging then these could be useful, but then I have a laptop that needs a proper plug socket. The other thing that someone recommended was an external high powered battery pack for charging devices. If you are coming from outside the UK, then a trick I do (going the other way) is to bring a extension gang and then you only need one UK plug adapter.

Coffee and Snacks – I don’t drink instant coffee and usually that it is what is only available in hotel rooms. I use to take coffee bags or Rombout Coffee filters. Today I take a small cafetière and some ground coffee. I also bring my own mug, I want a mug of coffee and not a cup of coffee. I also have one of those cafetière mugs when space is a premium. Of course if you drink a specific brand of tea, then take some of those, you can’t always rely on Twinings being in the hotel room. Having arrived at the hotel, I usually pop out and get some fresh milk. It’s also useful to take the time to see what independent and local coffee places are near to the venue, which can be used instead of queuing for that awful conference coffee. I also bring a few snacks with me as well, as that solitary small pack of biscuits you usually get.

coffee

Chargers – Don’t forget your chargers, expensive to replace, difficult to borrow, make sure you pack yours. The other thing about power is investing in a higher powered adapter (or borrowing one from a friend). As Apple says here

Using an Apple 12W or 10W USB power adapter charges some Apple devices and accessories faster than a 5W power adapter.

I find that when charging my iPhone using the adapter that came with my iPad Pro and it charges the phone so much faster, which is an useful thing to know for a conference. This means you can do a quick “supercharge” of your iPhone ready for the next keynote. Also useful to know that the 5W power adapter potentially can charge your iPad Pro, but only if you aren’t using it for eight hours or more….

Photography and Video – I use to take a camera to conferences, today I use my phone. If you take a lot of photographs then check you have a lot of storage space on your phone, or at least one way to take the pictures off. I try and remember to empty my camera roll before I go to the conference. However if you like to take a lot of video then I personally would take a separate additional video camera.

Connectivity – I am sure that the WiFi at the conference venue will be fine, however what about at the hotel, the dinner, the train… Technological changes means that connectivity is more important that in the last few years. Yes there is a plethora of places to get free wifi, but there are some security considerations to take into account. I normally use tethering on my iPhone and make sure I have enough bandwidth to do that. Other options could include some kind of MiFi device. I use to have one of those which acted as a wireless access point for up to five clients, which worked great in the time. I think one of the challenges with some venues is that 3G/4G connectivity can be very patchy.

Display cables – If you are presenting, then ensure your laptop can be connected somehow to the projector, you can’t always rely that the VGA adapter you have will be good enough. I now take an HDMI cable with my too. I also take my Lightning to HDMI adapter so in theory I can present from your iPhone or iPad. It also means I can connect to the hotel TV and watch what I want on the big screen.

USB Stick – In a world of cloud storage, you might think why would you need an USB stick. I have been caught out and needed to quickly move my presentation to a presenter machine. Despite the proliferation of the cloud or potential sharing solutions, I find sharing via an USB stick is quick and easy.

SD Card – If using a device with an SD Card I usually carry a couple of spare SD Cards, just in case I lose one, or fill one of the others up.

USB Cables – Due to the differing sizes of USB, normal, micro and mini, I now carry three of them! I also carry a couple of Apple lightning cables too.

Paracetamol – some of those presentations do give you headaches…

What are you going to pack?

Going down the #altc road again

This is an updated version of this blog post from 2016. It now includes details of the 2016 and 2017 conferences.

#altc in Liverpool

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!

Continue reading Going down the #altc road again

Down the #altc road

altconfpodcast

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!

Continue reading Down the #altc road

Looking forward ALT-C 2016

Audience

With the announcement of the keynotes for ALT-C 2016, which I am looking forward to and sound exciting. It is interesting to reflect on the keynotes that have been before at previous conferences. There are a fair few of these keynotes available on the YouTube and there are many which had a real impact on me. I remember Martin Bean in 2009 and his stories that had the audience laughing out loud, still a powerful message despite finding out years later that the stories of the past were in fact made up.

What do you mean, someone made them up…

jonathanworth

I really enjoyed Jonathan Worth’s moving and though provoking keynote last year and who could forget Catherine Cronin’s Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in Education in 2014. I am sure that you can share your thoughts on memorable keynotes from previous conferences and the impact they had.

Though I have never delivered a keynote at ALT-C, I did do an invited talk in 2012 about tablets. I recently wrote a blog post about the half-life of keynotes which gained some traction and discussion elsewhere on the blogosphere (do we still use that term?).

The half-life of a keynote

Martin Weller wrote a really interesting response on the new or reused keynote presentation. He starts his post describing what he is doing this year.

This year I decided I would create new talks for every keynote, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about. I think the initial reaction is that creating new talks is better. But now I’m through my new talk phase, I’m less convinced.

Commenting on Martin’s post was Alan Levine, who mentioned how a post by Kathy Sierra helped him shift perspective on presentations.

Stephen Downes then came in with the audience experience.

I come into a presentation not thinking that the audience is lacking something which I can provide, I come in thinking that the audience already has the essential skills or abilities, which I can help them realize. This means every presentation is different, because every audience is different.

So what are your thoughts? So if you deliver at conferences, have you delivered the same presentation at different events and why did you do it?

Merging the Distance

Yesterdays sunrise in Iceland near Bifrost University

One of the interesting talks I listened to at the BETT show was from Bifröst University who had merged their distance online courses with their campus based courses.

From a learner’s perspective they received the “same” experience regardless if they accessed the course online or on campus.

The learner feedback was very positive as it allowed them to pick and choose how they accessed the learning on the course depending on their personal circumstances and context. You can imagine how one week due to snow or holiday they accessed the course online, the following week they were in a face to face session on campus.

In this blog post I am going to look at and discuss some of the technical issues that Bifröst University had to consider and out into place before moving forward on merging online and campus based courses.

Bifröst University in their presentation made some key points on the technical requirements. They needed to have in place a robust IT infrastructure in place to host and distribute the various types of content and video for the courses. They also needed to ensure there was solid scalable WiFi available to all users, taking into account the changing landscape of devices that learners would be using. As well as campus connectivity there is the issue of external internet access and bandwidth, as far as Bifröst University are concerned, they see really essential for learners to have access to high speed internet.

The other main consideration, that Bifröst University mentioned, was the need to have a robust Learning Management System (or VLE) and interesting for this to be backed up by good communication software and group productivity tools.

This is a very similar concept that I have spoken at length about in various bog posts and conference sessions, notably the VLE is Dead debate back in 2009 at the ALT Conference. What I said was that the VLE was an important portal for learners, but that didn’t stop organisations from adding in external tools. These tools could be Google+, Twitter, Google Docs, Office 365, or other communication and productivity tools. The tools that the learners use would then be accessed or linked to from the VLE.

Bifröst University also embraced the concept of BYOD and making sure both learners and teachers understood the limitations of this, but also ensure they re was a willingness to cater for the variety of devices that learners would be using.

One aspect that Bifröst University put a lot of emphasis on was on the importance of training and the large amount of training that would be needed. They certainly understood that even with a so called digital generation there was a need to provide training for learners before the start of the course, and this training would need to be repeated throughout the year. Training sessions were also run for staff at the start of the year, with additional micro sessions run throughout the duration of the course. Bifröst University also made sure they had good support materials for all key systems backed up by a range of guides and handouts.

In a future blog post I will look at the curriculum design implications of merging online and campus based courses.

Photo Credit: Iceland by Jakub on Flickr

A Closed Group

Discussion

Back in 2009 at ALT-C we had the VLE is Dead debate. My view back then hasn’t changed much in the last four years. To save you watching the video, the heart of my viewpoint was that the VLE was the core of a student’s online presence and that other tools and services would plug into that.

I was recently discussing with a group of Psychology students how they used and felt about the VLE. Their response was quite positive, they found the VLE useful and it helped them with their learning. What they also said was that they were pleased it was available. When I asked them about discussions and chat functionality, they were quick to respond that no they didn’t do this on the VLE, but were much more likely to use their “homemade” group on Facebook for those kinds of discussions. When I reminded them that learners had asked for Facebook to be blocked in the library, they replied that this didn’t matter as they preferred to use Facebook on their smartphones.

You get a picture of how they were using different online environments and tools to support their learning. They were making choices about which tools they preferred and those that they didn’t. The students could have created a group on our Mahara site, but they preferred to use a familiar tool such as Facebook.

The question we might want to ask is how do we “assess” these discussions or even access them? Another question might be, do we need to?

If students are using a Facebook group for discussions, should we be trying to impose restrictions on their choices and make them discuss course related stuff on the VLE rather than in a closed group on a different service? Or should we focus on the importance of discussing over the importance of the platform?

In face to face discussions, these do take place in a classroom or seminar, however the vast majority happen elsewhere, whether that be in the refectory, the coffee shop, the library, at home, in the workplace or while travelling. Can we be surprised that online discussions also take place outside the “official” discussion forums?

What do you mean, someone made them up…

Anyone who has attended one of my keynote or conference presentations recently will know I have made use of a series of quotes that I first encountered at an ALT-C Keynote by Martin Bean in 2009.

I have used the quotes to remind the audience that scepticism and concerns about the introduction of new technologies or new ways of thinking are not new and that it is “normal” to be concerned about change.

Now I’ve always had my doubts on the validity or authenticity of the quotes as my brief internet research showed that lots of people used the quotes, but there was very little real “evidence” on their authenticity. However in terms of the message I was getting across the essence of the message was much more important than the content of the message. Audiences related to the essence of the message and the scepticism that they had encountered. In more recent messages I have used actual quotes and newspaper headlines about the “dangers” of technology to reinforce the essence of the message.

Recently I used the quotes in a presentation at an ebooks event at UWE. I posted the slides online and I’ve had a couple of comments plus a really useful link that once and for all casts doubts on the quotes and pretty much says that someone in the 1970s made them up!

This set of statements was printed in the Fall 1978 issue of “The MATYC Journal”, a publication that focused on mathematics education. The quotes were assigned the dates: 1703, 1815, 1907, 1929, 1941, and 1950. But they may actually have been created in 1978. Copies of these quotes have been widely distributed and posted on many websites. They also have been published in multiple books and periodicals.

Ah well…. I knew it was too good to be true.

Though of course if you have listened to my presentations you will realise that the quotes were a theatrical device to make the audience to stop and think about change and people’s reactions to change. This is still valid, the quotes merely add a bit of dramatic licence!

So willI use the quotes again?

Probably not, but then I could do and point out that they were “made up” and use that point to make people think.