Category Archives: coffee

Physical in-person face to face including aspects of digital and online as well as asynchronous – Weeknote #89 – 13th November 2020

The week started with a run through of an online event I was participating later in the week. I published a blog post called The second wave arrived in which I look at the impact of the second national (English) lockdown on the university sector. On Wonkhe, David Kernohan asked Is it really fair to blame universities for the second wave?

High case numbers in the early autumn have led some to conflate the second wave with students and universities. For David Kernohan, the data doesn’t show that.

This was an interesting article that looked at the data behind the second wave and how some people have been conflating the wave with university attendance and blaming students.

I spent a good part of Monday working on some internal documents for various projects, as well as some presentations for future events.

Tuesday I was on a panel session for the QAA looking at academic integrity. I don’t mind online events, but it can be really hard to read the audience compared to being on a panel at a live in-person face to face event.

On that note there was a discussion on Twitter about the term we use for that compared to online sessions.

I responded about how Jisc used the term in-person in their recent LTR report.

Personally looking back over my recent blog posts I have been using the (slightly clunky) term physical face to face For some it is a real issue and in some cases how it is interpreted by employers and the press. I personally think we might be spending a little too much time over thinking this.

Continue reading Physical in-person face to face including aspects of digital and online as well as asynchronous – Weeknote #89 – 13th November 2020

U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

Cineworld

Made my first visit to a cinema at the weekend, which was nice, I went to see The Empire Strikes Back which was amazing to see on the big screen, I never saw this at the cinema in 1980, so it was nice to see it where it was meant to be seen.

Also over the weekend we saw more articles on what the future of university will be when the new term starts this autumn. A couple caught my eye, including this one from the BBC News: What will university be like for freshers this year?

But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.

The student experience this year will not be like it was last year. I still think one of the challenges will be the potential chance of a second wave of infection and another full lockdown, but the more likely challenge will be a local lockdown. Universities will need to plan for that kind of eventuality, these local lockdowns are likely to be weeks rather than months. Will courses have the flexibility to be able to respond and change as the local situation changes? That kind of planning is challenging enough with the added challenge of planning a curriculum that needs to take the requirements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus through bubbles and social distancing. As discussed before the real challenge is the uncertainty out there.

And if that wasn’t enough to think about, on Monday the debacle about the A Level results continued to rumble on.

Pressure is mounting on ministers to let teacher-assessed grades stand in England to avoid a second wave of exams chaos hitting GCSE results this week.

Continue reading U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

So is the Twitter taking over your life?

Twitter

Is the Twitter dominating your life?

So do you check your stream and post to theTwitter whist you attend events and conferences?

Do you look at the Twitter during meetings?

When you get into work, do you check the Twitter first, before checking your e-mail?

When you are cooking at home do you check the Twitter as things cook?

If you are watching TV, do you look at the Twitter, instead of watching the programme? Do you engage with others about the programme you are watching with a hashtag?

What about when you go to bed, is the last thing you do before you go to sleep is to look at the Twitter?

Is it the first thing you look at when you wake up?

Do you decide on where to have coffee based on the free wifi so you can check the Twitter?

When you bought a new phone, was the fact that it could run a Twitter app one of the main reasons for purchase?

When handing over contact information do you say @user rather give the person your email address?

Maybe a more important question is could you give up the Twitter?

Or do you want to leave a comment saying it not’s called the Twitter it’s just Twitter?

So could you stop using theTwitter? Not for ever perhaps. Maybe just over the holiday period? Or the weekend? Why would you do this? What is the point?

Or is it not about stopping using the Twitter, but thinking about the importance of Twitter in terms of everything else.

Personally for me the Twitter is about the coffee. It’s the conversations you have with colleagues over coffee in the morning, it’s the conversations you have at a coffee break during a meeting or an event, it’s the conversations you have over coffee at a conference between the sessions. It is a conversation without the constraints of geography and in some ways time.

For me though it does not replace all those conversations, it adds to them, it enhances them, but in the main I still have those other conversations. I don’t use theTwitter to avoid those or instead of them.

Of course lots of things are said during those face to face conversations, mundane things such as the quality of the coffee, talking about articles and programmes, people we’ve met, people we’ve seen, the quality of the presentations, keynotes and sessions.
There are also people we avoid during those conversations, those that only talk about themselves, those that only promote what they do, those that have opinions about everything: in other words those that don’t listen and talk all the time.

With conversations over coffee, one of the aspects is that you don’t hear all the conversations, and you don’t necessarily hear the beginning or the end. You dip into conversations, you join in, add, converse and leave. Of course if you don’t join in that conversation, rarely will you be missed, people may talk about you, or things you do, but generally you won’t be missed and you probably won’t even be thought about.

Which brings us back to using the Twitter.

If you start using the Twitter instead of real conversations then you may want to think about how you are using the Twitter. At the end of the day the Twitter stream is not important. It doesn’t matter if you miss any of it, you don’t need to check it all the time.

If you feel you need to take a break from the Twitter then you probably do. It doesn’t matter if you don’t, even if someone else does, and then tweets out how they are taking a break from the Twitter.

For me the Twitter is an important tool that I find very useful, there is a great community on there, however I can say the same about casual conversations over coffee. However like any casual conversation it’s not important to hear the whole and every conversation. You dip in and you can dip out. When you go away to events or on leave you will miss conversations at work, but generally you don’t need to hear them, important stuff will get to you if required.

I know that if I don’t engage with the Twitter that most people won’t notice and for me that doesn’t matter.

Oh and I promise not to say the Twitter anymore!

Doing the Inbox Zero – Weeknote #20 – 19th July 2019

Extinction Rebellion in Bristol
Extinction Rebellion in Bristol

Monday I was off to our Bristol office. There was quite a bit of disruption across the city with Extinction Rebellion demonstrating across the centre.

I was into the office to deliver some training on Jira for personal use. Though Jira and Confluence make great tools for projects I have been using it myself over the last few years to manage my work and individual projects.

As the main focus was on productivity, we did discuss manging e-mail and tasks. I use an Inbox Zero approach that I discovered back in 2007 when listening to a podcast.

I recently wrote two blog posts on Inbox Zero on my tech stuff blog, the first I discuss how I deal with e-mail.

Do you do the Inbox Zero?


In the second post I expand on that with more detail and some further thoughts.

Not quite Inbox Zero


I found the Atlassian documentation really easy to follow and provides a good starting point for users of both Jira and Confluence.

Confluence is a wiki platform for creating documentation and some companies even use it for their actual website. Jira is an issue tracking system. You can embed macros in Confluence that can show details about your Jira issues.

I did manage to get out of the office and get a coffee at a new coffee place that has opened this year.

Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop
Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop

This week on my technology stuff blog I published a post about a QR Code which failed to work ten years ago with a specialised QR Code reader on my iPhone 3GS, but worked fine with the in-built QR Code reader in the iPhone 8 camera.

Ten years later, it works….

In the next few weeks I have a fair few meetings in London, so I have been booking travel and hopefully it will be slightly cooler than recently, as travelling in this heat is a real nightmare.

Last week I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.

He published a blog post about the event.

Thinking in the open about Microsoft Teams

I could argue various points, but these are my early thoughts. I’m remaining engaged with Microsoft Teams, I’m looking to see if this can be a “Digital Ecosystem” as we envisaged during the Co-design work. 

I have always seen the VLE as a concept more than an individual product and I do like the term “Digital Ecosystem” as it kind of describes that viewpoint. If you say VLE or LMS then people think of products such as Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle. For me the VLE was something more than an individual product, it was a series of ways of working online using a range of online tools and services that were inter-connected. Teams is one such tool that can be connected into such a VLE concept.

The view from St Phillips Bridge
The view from St Phillips Bridge

Facial recognition was again in the news, this time the The House of Commons Science and Technology committee expressed their concerns on the technology.

MPs call for halt to police’s use of live facial recognition – BBC News

The police and other authorities should suspend use of automatic facial recognition technologies, according to an influential group of MPs. The House of Commons Science and Technology committee added there should be no further trials of the tech until relevant regulations were in place. It raised accuracy and bias concerns.

Also this week everyone was talking about FaceApp with lots of different news outlets reporting on the app and concerns people had about it. There was concerns about the biased algorithim that the app used to make people “hot” was in fact racist. There was worry over privacy and security over the use of images and even if there was Russian collusion! Of course some people thought it was all a bit of fun!

My top tweet this week was this one.

Student Experience 2030 – Weeknote #09 – 3rd May 2019

Telephone boxes in London

The week started off in London with a day looking at and thinking about next generation learning environments. Before I got there, as I sat on the train I thought and reflected about what we even mean when we say next generation learning environment. Are their generational changes in learning environments, as in big changes from one generation to the next? Or do they merely evolve gradually over time? Could we enable these big shifts? Do we even want big shifts?

In London we discussed a range of challenges and issues in relation to next generation learning environments. What is the future of education? Will teaching be transformed? How can create personalised adaptive learning? How do we re-imagine assessment? How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment? What are the foundations that need to be put into place before you can start building the infrastructure, the design, the staff development required to enable those future challenges?

In order to understand what needs to happen, we framed some questions independently, so see what commonality there was and what differences there were.  This is an useful exercise when deciding that question needs to be answered.

Some of my questions included:

  • What does adaptive learning look like from the view of students and staff?
  • Is personalised learning possible? Is it desirable?
  • How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment?
  • What are the differences between the student experience of 2020 and that of 2030?

coffee

Wednesday  morning, after some coffee,  I was in the office and had an initial discussion was had about possible themes for Digifest 2020, though this event won’t be happening until March 2020, like most big events the planning started almost after the last one finished (if not just a bit before).

The afternoon was off to the University of Bristol for a meeting about the One City Bristol project, elements of which are very much in the realm of the smart city. In my previous role I did do some initial research into the various smart city initiatives across the UK and we published a smart city use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.

In January 2019 Bristol published its first ever One City Plan.

The interdependent challenges of growing an inclusive, sustainable city that both breaks down our social fractures and inequalities and reaches carbon neutrality sit at the heart of the future we must deliver. They are stitched throughout the plan.

In the plan there are six themes, one of which is connectivity.

The lifeblood of Bristol is connectivity. Our connectivity is considered the template for contemporary city living. Whether our people connect in person or in virtual spaces, whether they connect in their physical communities or their global communities, our city infrastructure helps bring them together. Bristol connectivity means multimodal connectivity – we designed our infrastructure around the human condition. Anchored yet free, our people are able to draw on the experience of others in their communities and peer groups, and live independently and spontaneously.

Connectivity is synonymous with productivity and Bristol is the regional epicentre of productivity. The South West Economic Region grew on the back of investment in transport and digital connectivity.

The Bristol-Cardiff high speed, high frequency rail link benefits both cities equally – time and travel no longer impinge productivity as they once did. Talent, ideas, energy and enthusiasm flow between the cities and across the region. High-speed rail links connect Bristol with other cities and when the mass transit system was completed in the 2030s, connections between Bristol, Bath, Bristol airport and North Fringe and East Fringe were complete. Our traffic management has cut congestion times and many of our deliveries are made by driverless freight vehicles.

Throughout the 2020s ultrafast broadband was rolled out without exception to social housing, businesses, in public spaces and through city Wi-Fi services. Tactile and immersive virtual and augmented realities reduce the need to travel and are commonplace at work and at home. They also bring together like-minded communities for shared social activities and entertainment.

Our city has managed bus lanes, cycle lanes, congestion controls and programmes to educate school children about safe travel. More than half the city cycles and active travel is the preferred mode of transport for many commuters. Domestic deliveries often arrive by drone. Nobody has been killed or seriously injured as a result of an avoidable road traffic accident in Bristol for years.

We strategically removed the obstacles and barriers to people connecting. The city moves on renewable energy, our people are free to create their own pathways, connected in person or virtually. Our lifeblood flows locally, regionally and globally.

This certainly is an aspiration that hopefully will come to fruition.

Following a request, based on my experience of working on the Jisc Digital Apprenticeships project, Thursday saw me working on some desk research on the current provision of Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeships across the UK.

One thing that was apparent was how “popular” this degree apprenticeship is.

Chartered manager and digital and technology solutions are the two most implemented standards across each English region, with at least 43 and 33 institutions, respectively, providing them.

 Source

You can find more information about this specific degree apprenticeship on the government’s apprenticeships website.

One of the key requirements of my role is engaging with the Office for Students and the funding they provide Jisc to support higher education. As a result I attend and participate in various meetings that enables us to demonstrate value for money for the OfS, as well as how Jisc is supporting their strategic aims.

I spent some time this week reviewing the Office for Students Strategy 2018 to 2021 and their business plan for 2019-20 in preparation for a meeting on Friday morning.

One thing that I noticed was the target to Launch and oversee a ‘what works’ centre, Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education.

The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) will use evidence and evaluation to understand and show how higher education contributes to social justice and mobility. TASO will exist as an independent hub for higher education professionals to access leading research, toolkits, evaluation techniques and more, to help widen participation and improve equality across the student lifecycle.

It made me think about how this could be done, how it will probably be done and what the actual impact will be.

I tweeted out about the Jisc Futures R&D quarterly learnings webinar for summer 2019

This is the third in a series of update webinars for Jisc members to discuss the progress of our R&D work and share what we are learning during our projects.

 Each webinar will consist of two presentations on recent lessons learned, followed by an open Q&A session which will offer an opportunity to question or discuss any of our R&D work.

    • Launch of the step up programme – making it easier and less risky to work with edtech start-ups
    • Building digital capability service demo including new features for library and information professionals
    • Q&A on all of our R&D projects

Details of the event and registration are here.

We had a debrief about the Agile Implementation Workshop I helped run last week. One outcome from this workshop was to run a knowledge call or workshop on using Jira for projects and business processes.

I spent part of Friday, clearing the inbox, reviewing my scrum boards and planning work for next week.

Following my post about Alexa last week, I read this blog post Maybe Universities Shouldn’t Be Putting Amazon Echos in Student Dorms from Inside Higer Ed which explores the problems and concerns some have about “listening” devices in students’ rooms.

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

In a tragic twist to the end of the week, someone at Castlepark office broke my Cambridge University Press Academic mug that I got at the UKSG 2011 conference in Harrogate ten years ago.

broken mug

I’ve had that mug ten years, through four jobs, three employers, three cities and numerous mugs of coffee. I liked that mug, but it holds no sentimental value.

So who broke it and why?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Getting ready for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

coffee

Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester this September, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could.

My first ALT conference was in 2003 in Sheffield, this was also one of the first “proper” conferences I had attended, I wasn’t well prepared and came away a little disappointed, but you can read about my ALT-C journey in an earlier big post.

I have attended many conferences here in the UK and abroad, but probably not as many as some people. I have attended as a delegate, a presenter, an invited speaker and have had the pleasure of delivering keynotes at various big conferences.

James Clay presenting at ALT-C 2012

Now when attending a conference I make some preparations that will ensure I have a productive, informative and interesting time.

Attend it all…

Going for just a day may be all that is possible in your current role and organisation, but I would recommend attending all the days of the conference if you can. This is so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. It will also provide the time to do everything you would like to do at the conference. It gives you time to meet and get to know people. You can reflect on the earlier sessions as you attend later ones.

Try to arrive before the conference starts and don’t leave until the end, as in the very end. There is nothing more frustrating and stressful than arriving late for a conference and sneaking into the back of the opening keynote. Wondering what you missed and probably a little flustered having rushed from the station and needing a decent cup of coffee.

Likewise, plan your travel so you don’t need to leave early and miss the final sessions and keynotes. Nothing is more soul destroying when presenting a session at the end of the conference and to find three people attending.

ALT-C 2016

I do recognise that the realities of life or travel options can mean you need to leave early, but planning in advance to attend all of the conference means that usually these can be avoided. You may miss something really useful and relevant. Staying to the end helps complete the experience. This year I am planning to be there to the end, but unfortunately the realities of life means I will probably miss the start.

Don’t bring your work to the conference. You may be away from the office and you may have stuff to do, but a conference is not the most conducive environment for working. You have paid a fee to attend, it makes sense to use that time for the conference and not catching up with stuff. A conference is quite a tiring affair, so even if you decide not to partake in the social side of things and get work done in the evening you may find that this isn’t that productive. I once struggled to finish an urgent report at a conference, it was a horrible experience as I struggled with poor wifi connectivity, phone calls and focused writing. The report seemed to take twice as long and was half the quality of my usual writing.

My approach is to block the time out in the diary, ensure and deadlines are either before (or well after) the conference. Ensure everything is done before I go and I have achieved Inbox Zero. I also avoid taking things on just before the conference. I also ensure everyone knows I will be away and will say “no” to things that I know I won’t be able to complete successfully because I am at the conference. I also put an “out of the office” notification on my e-mail account, so people will realise they won’t get a response from me.

There is a flip side to this as well, when you’re in the office and a colleague is at a conference, let them get the most out of the conference, don’t send them e-mails, requests, etc…. Wait until they are back! Actually wait until they’ve been back for a few days. You will get a much more coherent response from then as well.

Josie Fraser at ALT-C 2017

Plan your days

Do try and review the programme in advance and find stuff you want to attend, make a note of it and write it down (or use the conference app, add to your calendar). There is almost a separate blog post discussing what sessions to choose, so will focus on the planning side of things. Having reviewed the programme I make a note of not just the title of the session, but also which room it is in. If you want to move between parallel sessions, it is useful to check the distance between them, nothing worse when wanting to see two interesting sessions, but missing one of them as you hiked across to the other room.

Some sessions will be very popular, so make sure you arrive on time (or before). I have delivered some sessions where there was standing room only.

Prepare for the sessions

At the very least read the abstract, but take the time to find out more than just the title. I sometimes find titles can be misleading. I also note down the things I want to find out, and what I hope to take away from the session.

If you are going to take notes using a laptop or live tweeting during the session, then ensure you are fully charged, and if you need a power socket then get to the session early.

In the sessions

I like to be engaged with sessions, this can be simply by using a notebook and pen and make notes.

I sometimes use the Twitter and sometimes I don’t. If I use the Twitter then I use it to post questions and thoughts, I try not to tweet what is happening, unless I think it’s something that others (who are not in the session) will find interesting and useful.

You could live-tweet the session, but I feel if you are doing this, you need to do it properly and live-tweet the whole thing, ensuring you link to the biographical details, the session link on the ALT-C website and if available the abstract and the paper.

Whatever you do with the Twitter, use the hashtag #altc so that others can find your tweets even if you have only a few followers. I never apologies if I am at a conference and fill my stream with #altc tweets, if you don’t like it, then unfollow me, or mute me.

If you have questions about the session, write them down, otherwise you may forget them. You probably won’t get picked to ask your question in a popular session, so why not post them on the Twitter or on the relevant session page on the conference website.

workshop

After the session

So that was a good session. What do you remember? What do you want to take away from it?

I sometimes forget to do this, what did I learn from that session? What actions am I going to do next? Who am I going to tell about this session? What do I want to read as a result of attending the session?

Prepare to chat

If you are shy and retiring like me, (seriously I am) it can be challenging to engage people in conversations. I think it’s worth coming up with strategies to do deal with this. In sessions I always try and make the effort to introduce myself to the other people on the table, ask them where they are from and what they have enjoyed about the conference so far. Also come along to the ALT stand in the exhibition area where there will be ALT Trustees and valued members, who are more than willing to talk and chat (and make introductions if necessary).

ALT-C 2009

Also engaging on Twitter before and during the conference can also make connections for good conversations and chats. Don’t forget the hashtag #altc to, so people who don’t follow you, but do follow the hashtag can pick up your tweets, especially useful if you don’t have a huge following on the Twitter.

CB_ALT_WED_38 https://flic.kr/p/XRVcwY CC BY-NC 2.0
CB_ALT_WED_38 https://flic.kr/p/XRVcwY CC BY-NC 2.0

Decent coffee

If you like decent coffee then for most conferences be prepared to be disappointed. Most conference coffee has been made in advance of time and left to stew for a while. It may have been made from instant coffee, or possibly filtered. Whatever way it was made it will taste like mud!

Rather than try and guess where I can get a decent coffee from, I now do a quick search around to find somewhere I can go either before the start of the conference day, during a break or afterwards. These coffee places can also be great locations for ad hoc conversations and chats. You also don’t need to stand in that everlasting queue for coffee.

coffee

At the venue in Manchester there are quite a few good choices close by, there is the wonderful Christie’s Bistro, but the Museum is pretty nice too.

So how are you preparing for the ALT Conference.

Making preparations for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

I do think it is worthwhile taking the time to prepare for attending a conference, such as the ALT Conference in Liverpool in September

My first ALT conference was in 2003 in Sheffield, this was also one of the first “proper” conferences I had attended. After that conference I have attended many conferences here in the UK and abroad, but probably not as many as some people. I have attended as a delegate, a presenter, an invited speaker and have had the pleasure of delivering keynotes at various big conferences.

Now when attending a conference I make some preparations that will ensure I have a productive, informative and interesting time.

Attend it all…

Going for just a day may be all that is possible, but I would recommend attending all the days of the conference, so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. It will also provide the time to do everything you would like to do at the conference.

ALT-C 2009

Try to arrive before the conference starts and don’t leave until the end. There is nothing more frustrating and stressful than arriving late for a conference and sneaking into the back of the opening keynote. Wondering what you missed and probably a little flustered having rushed from the station and needing a decent cup of coffee.

Likewise, plan your travel so you don’t need to leave early and miss the final sessions and keynotes. Nothing is more soul destroying when presenting a session at the end of the conference and to find three people attending. I do recognise that the realities of life can mean you need to leave early, but planning in advance to attend all of the conference means that usually these can be avoided. You may miss something really useful and relevant.

Dave White

Don’t bring work to the conference.

You may be away from the office and you may have stuff to do, but a conference is not the most conducive environment for working. You have paid a fee to attend, it makes sense to use that time for the conference and not catching up with stuff. A conference is quite a tiring affair, so even if you decide not to partake in the social side of things and get work done in the evening you may find that this isn’t that productive. I once struggled to finish an urgent report at a conference, it was a horrible experience as I struggled with poor wifi connectivity, phone calls and focused writing. The report seemed to take twice as long and was half the quality of my usual writing. My approach is to block the time out in the diary, ensure and deadlines are either before (or well after) the conference. Ensure everything is done before I go and avoid taking things on just before the conference. I also ensure everyone knows I will be away and will say “no” to things that I know I won’t be able to complete successfully because I am at the conference. I also put an “out of the office” notification on my e-mail account, so people will realise they won’t get a response from me.

There is a flip side to this, when you’re in the office and a colleague is at a conference, let them get the most out of the conference, don’t send them e-mails, requests, etc…. Wait until they are back!

Helen Beetham

Plan your day

Do review the programme and find stuff you want to attend, make a note of it and write it down (or use the conference app, add to your calendar). There is almost a separate blog post discussing what sessions to choose, so will focus on the planning side of things. Having reviewed the programme I make a note of not just the title of the session, but also which room it is in. If you want to move between parallel sessions, it is useful to check the distance between them, nothing worse when wanting to see two interesting sessions, but missing one of them as you hiked across to the other room.

Some sessions will be very popular, so make sure you arrive on time (or before). I have delivered some sessions where there was standing room only.

Prepare for sessions

I like to be engaged with sessions, this can be simply by using a notebook and pen and make notes. These days I generally do one of two things these days, I either tweet about the session, not just posting images and quotes, but also ask questions on the twitter which have come out of the session. I try and remember to always add the hashtag #altc. More recently I have been sketchnoting the session, which to be honest is more for me than for others, but I do publish my notes on Flickr (and on Twitter). See this post by me on sketchnoting.

If you have questions, write them down, otherwise you may forget them. You probably won’t get picked to ask your question in a popular session, so why not post them on the Twitter or on the relevant session page on the conference website.

If you are presenting then have a look at my presentation tips in this previous blog post.

Prepare to chat

If you are shy and retiring like me, it can be challenging to engage people in conversations. I think it’s worth coming up with strategies to do deal with this. In sessions I always try and make the effort to introduce myself to the other people on the table, ask them where they are from and what they have enjoyed about the conference so far. Also come along to the ALT stand in the exhibition area where there will be ALT Trustees and valued members, who are more than willing to talk and chat (and make introductions if necessary).

Also engaging on Twitter before and during the conference can also make connections for good conversations and chats.

Decent coffee

If you like decent coffee then for most conferences be prepared to be disappointed. Most conference coffee has been made in advance of time and left to stew for a while. It may have been made from instant coffee, or possibly filtered. Whatever way it was made it will taste like mud! Rather than try and guess where I can get a decent coffee from, I now do a quick search around to find somewhere I can go either before the start of the conference day, during a break or afterwards. These coffee places can also be great locations for ad hoc conversations and chats. You also don’t need to stand in that everlasting queue for coffee.

coffee

I can say I am looking forward to trying the coffee at this local roastery.

So how are you preparing for the ALT Conference.

No, I am rubbish at Twitter

Train

Last Wednesday it was pouring with rain and I was travelling to work. I don’t usually do this (even if you think I do do this) I posted a couple of old school Twitter status updates.

and then this one reflecting on the fact I didn’t catch a bus…

So I have to say I did smile when later that day I read Kerry Pinny’s post on why she thinks she is rubbish at Twitter and she said

I follow a number of people who tweet regularly sometimes about the most mundane topics like drinking coffee or the weather.

Her post did make me think and reflect on how I and others use Twitter.

Going over my tweets from those early heady days of the Twitter when I started back in 2007 my use was very much “rubbish” and lightweight. There were no hashtags and I appeared to tweet lots about coffee. I know why I did that back then there was very little idea on how the Twitter could be used. So in order to make the most of it I disciplined myself to try and tweet at least once or twice a day. I did that with other service such as uploading photographs to Flickr and recording Audioboos. Usually I would be working, have a break, make some coffee, sit back down and think to myself I must use that Twitter. What am I doing , oh yes having a coffee.

Back in 2009 there were many more people using Twitter. What was happening was that lots of people were publishing blog posts on how to use Twitter in a professional context and there was a right and wrong way to use Twitter so I wrote this blog post: Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t.

One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it.

I still stand by most of what I wrote back then. Don’t tell people how they should use Twitter, let them know how you use Twitter and why.

As time went by I found Twitter useful in conferences, remember Twitter walls for those who didn’t do Twitter? As I started to deliver workshops and keynotes I found Twitter really useful for making and maintaining contacts and networks.

Twitter became an important source of news and links.

I now use Twitter for lots of reasons. I don’t just use it for my professional life I also use it for other stuff, sometimes serious, occasionally funny and usually tedious and rubbish stuff.

Yes I post links to my stuff, other people’s stuff and stuff in the news. Yes I post about conferences and contribute to tweetchats, I even ran one once.

I also post photos of my coffee and my lunch. I post photos of trains and boats.

I post mundane comments about the weather and the fact that I haven’t locked front door.

An important part of Twitter for me are the conversations.

I remember once someone saying they didn’t use the Twitter because it was just people posting what they had for their breakfast. I never saw that, so decided that every Sunday or so I would post what j had for my breakfast with the hashtag #thisiswhattwitterwascreatedfor and why not.

What I found interesting about that hashtag and tweets was how many people engaged with it, and why not?

I am for all and intents and purposes rubbish at this Twitter and the 4500 people who follow me must also be rubbish at Twitter. The 50 odd people who start to follow me each month must also be rubbish at Twitter.

The main conclusion I came to was we are all rubbish on Twitter.

If you find Twitter useful for something then use it. If you find the tweets of others useful then follow them.

Useful can mean interesting, fun, silly, inspiring, informative, whatever you want it to be.

Go do Twitter and be rubbish at it.

Is the Twitter still about the coffee? No it’s about the shoes these days….

Shoes

Way back in the early days of the Twitter I wrote and presented quite a bit about how I used the Twitter, what I thought the Twitter really represented and in one depressing post how the Twitter would wither and eventually die…

One presentation which really reflected my thinking back then was the one I delivered at Handheld Learning 2009, which equated the use of the Twitter with drinking coffee. Both reinforcing my views on the value of the Twitter, but also perpetuating the myth that I only tweet about coffee on the Twitter.

What this presentation really spoke about was how that teams that work together in the same building usually get together informally to chat, usually when making or drinking coffee. Those informal conversations that cover a range of topics, some related to work and projects, others about everyday life issues and problems. There are similar conversations during breaks at conferences, events and staff development activities.

Continue reading Is the Twitter still about the coffee? No it’s about the shoes these days….

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…

Audience

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.

meerkat

  • 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