Category Archives: altc2009

ALT-C 2009 Day #0

It’s day zero of the ALT Conference. Well the conference starts proper tomorrow on Tuesday and I am using today to travel up north like.

It’s a four hour train journey (changing at Bristol Temple Meads) and though Virgin Cross Country trains do have power they have a major flaw in that their construction blocks 3G signals quite effectively. Initially on the Bristol – Manchester route I thought it was down to the geography, but a recent trip on the line using a “normal” train demonstrated to me, yes there are areas with no 3G, but the trains used by Cross Country block the signal, especially when it is a weak signal.

Now I know that this is not a major design flaw (some would say it was a feature) but without on-board wifi, I would prefer to have a decent 3G signal now and again (as I can find when travelling to London).

Anyway back to the conference…

There is some stuff happening tonight, but I am hoping to touch base with a few people and go out for dinner, probably use Twitter to organise this.

I am pretty much prepared for the conference, I have a poster, organising and taking part in a symposium, supporting a workshop and running another workshop. I also have a fair few scheduled meetings during the conference too.

Hoping to enjoy the Gala Conference Dinner which is on Wednesday night.

I expect to be twittering over the conference, and I am also hoping to get a fair few blog entries in over the next few days too. Photographs should appear on Flickr and/or Twitpic. There may also be video too!

I have been preparing for the conference using the Crowdvine site that has been set up for the conference. You may recall that Crowdvine was in my top ten web tools for 2008. This has allowed me to sort my schedule, promote the sessions I am involved in and see who else is coming and what else they are doing. Hopefully this year the delegates will continue to engage with the Crowdvine site once the conference starts proper like tomorrow.

I have also been adding links to the ALT-C Cloudscape “clouds” for my sessions. Not sure at this time of this adds or detracts from the Crowdvine site.

Overall I am looking forward to the conference, it will be a time to share effective practice, learn from others, find out new stuff, network, meet old friends, discover new friends and leave with ideas, inspiration and stuff.

What are you going to pack?

There are always some things I now take with me when I attend ALT-C which I find useful.

6 way gang – instead of fighting people for the power sockets, you can immediately make five friends! Also useful when you are back in your hotel room (halls) and need to charge the laptop, the phone, the iPod, use the hairdryer, etc… Make sure it has been PAT tested!

Coffee – I can’t stand instant coffee, so I take some of those Coffee Bags you can buy or Rombout Coffee filters. Of course if you drink that tea stuff then you can bring your own bags of what you like and are use to. I always pop out and buy fresh milk too!

sothecoffeeisbetter

Chargers – don’t forget your chargers, easy to forget and a nightmare when your phone or laptop runs out of juice. Or you can’t use it for the week.

Velcro fixings – For your poster and bring enough because someone you know will have forgotten to bring theirs.

Camera – to take the odd photo or two, I use mine to take photographs of really good posters so I can review them later at my leisure. Amazing how much detail a 7.2MP image can capture of a poster. I also use it to capture slides in presentations (ie URLS and e-mail addresses), I even use it to photograph flyers so I can carry less.

MiFi or 3G Stick – I am sure that the WiFi at the conference venue will be fine, however whatabout at the hotel, the dinner, the train… I will be bringing my new MiFi which allows me to connect to the internet over 3G, wirelessly through a wifi connection. The MiFi acts as a wireless access point for up to five clients – will probably make four new friends as a result of bringing it to the conference.

Business Cards – always useful to swap, play cards with, pass ones you have received to others who you don’t want to contact you…

Ethernet Cable – I find in Halls that though they may not have wireless they do have ethernet, having an ethernet cable in your bag is useful in this instance.

USB Cables – you never know when you are going to need one.

Spare batteries – for your MP3 recorder, etc…

Spare SD card – in case you lose yours.

Spare USB Stick – for moving files around.

What are you going to pack?

It’s only rock and roll, but we (still) like it

As I have mentioned before, on September 9th, Apple are running a music style event called It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.

appleevent090909

It’s quite normal for Apple to make an announcement at this time of year. In 2007 Apple for example announced the iPod touch. I said before that:

According to the rumour sites, there are good indications that we will see new iPods with cameras.

Will we see the rumoured Apple Tablet?

I think it is a strong possibility, but there are other rumours which state we won’t see it until the first quarter of 2010. I wonder if Apple will announce it, so that developers can develop Apps for it in the same way that they did for the iPhone.

Reading Ollie Bray’s blog he brings to the rumour table, the social side of iTunes.

Again the rumor mills suggest a number of new features of iTunes 9 of which I think the most likely are the introduction of social networking tools or someone else’s social networking tools (eg: Facebook). This will allow you to share your playlists with your friends. If you think about it this makes a lot of sense – Apple knows that the future of the web is social.

I would agree that this is a strong possibility, think about how iPhoto ’09 now has Flickr and Facebook intergration, how easy it is to upload videos from the iPhone 3GS or iMovie to YouTube. It makes sense to add a social element to iTunes.

Some say that we may see the Beatles, possibly.

Whatever happens it will be interesting and fun to see what happens at the event. The Apple event takes place at 6pm BST on the 9th September, which is the same night as the ALT-C Gala Dinner, I suspect that many with iPhones at that dinner will be closely looking at their iPhones to see what new things are announced.

Glossy Poster at ALT-C 2009

I shall be “presenting” a poster on Glossy at ALT-C 2009.

Here’s a sneak preview…

glossyposter450

Abstract

The Glossy project undertook a large-scale development and implementation of mobile learning across Gloucestershire College utilising the mobile devices that learners already own.The project put in place an infrastructure at Gloucestershire College that allows learners using devices that they already own and college devices to access learning activities and content. The project created a student wireless network that can be accessed by learners’ own devices to access a range of content and learning activities through the college VLE.The aim of the project was to enable learners to access learning at a time and place to suit them in order to improve retention and achievement. The project provided mobile devices to learners in selected groups; including excluded learners and learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The project allowed the college to provide suitable hardware and software based in the college libraries that allows both staff and learners to develop, create and convert content for use on a range of mobile devices.The poster will show the key issues, challenges and opportunities that mobile learning offers institutions. It will show the key stages that are required to allow institutions to utilise the mobile devices that learners already own. The difficulties of working with diverse learner devices will be outlined on the poster because understanding them is vital to any discussion of sustainability.

The poster, through a range of examples, will show how important it is to address the differing attitudes of staff, IT support needs and staff development.

The Glossy Project did much more than start Gloucestershire College down the road of mobile learning, it had an impact on the whole culture of the organisation in the use of not just mobile technologies, but also other learning technologies, audio, video, podcasting, wireless and use of the VLE to enhance and enrich the learning experience.

The project had an impact on 14,000 learners during the lifetime of the project, ran from November 2007 to July 2008. It continues to have a benefit even though the project has finished, as the infrastructure enables mobile learning to continue.

Apple iPod Event

On September 9th, Apple are running a music style event called It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.

appleevent090909

It’s quite normal for Apple to make an announcement at this time of year. In 2007 Apple for example announced the iPod touch.

So what will be announced?

According to the rumour sites, there are good indications that we will see new iPods with cameras.

Will we see the rumoured Apple Tablet?

I think it is a strong possibility, but there are other rumours which state we won’t see it until the first quarter of 2010. I wonder if Apple will announce it, so that developers can develop Apps for it in the same way that they did for the iPhone.

Personally I think the proposed Mac Tablet has a lot of potential for learners and learning, especially if it has a battery which lasts all day.

The Apple event takes place at 6pm BST on the 9th September, which is the same night as the ALT-C Gala Dinner, I suspect that many with iPhones at that dinner will be closely looking at their iPhones to see what new things are announced.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #027: It’s conference time…

altc2008

James discusses what he will be doing at the ALT Conference in Manchester from the 7th-10th September 2009.

This is the twenty seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s conference time…

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s conference time…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Shownotes

Hood 2.1 – it’s still a Web 2.0 World out there

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.

forest

Background

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.

Intended outcomes

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.

Photo source.

The VLE is Dead – Symposium Abstract

Death of the VLE Symposium at ALT-C 2009.

graveyard

Background

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.

Ideas to be explored

The first panel member, Steve Wheeler, 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, Graham Attwell, 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 session will be chaired by Josie Fraser.

Structure of session

The symposium will begin with an opportunity for attendees to voice their opinions on the future of the VLE. Each member of the panel will then present their case. The panel, with contributions from the audience, will then debate the key issues that have arisen.

Intended outcomes

By the end of the debate, participants will be able to have a greater understanding of the evolution and possible extinction of the VLE and the impact on learners.

A summary of the key points of the discussion will be syndicated on several blogs and other online spaces, and delegates will be encouraged to tweet and live blog the discussion as it happens in real time.

Photo source.

It’s not dead… yet…

Why we can’t bury the VLE just yet…

cpr

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.

For example Steve Wheeler in Learning with ‘e’s says in a recent blog post on the death of the VLE that:

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.

In another of his blog posts, Steve argues that

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…

Why 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.

Steve in his recent blog post concludes:

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.

Is the VLE dead?

Not yet.

Photo source.