Category Archives: twitter

140 characters – Weeknote #37 – 22nd November 2019

140 Conference

Ten years ago this week I was at the O2 in Greenwich for the #140conf organised by Jeff Pulver. Why was it the #140conf, well of course back then the Twitter was restricted to 140 characters, not like the 280 we have today. This was the conference where Stephen Fry was crowned the King of Twitter. That was also the week that Stephen Fry passed a million followers on Twitter. Today he now has nearly 13m followers.

140 Conference

I was on a panel session with Shirley Williams (@shirleyearley), Dave White (@daveowhite), Drew Buddie (@DigitalMaverick) and Professor Sue Black (@Dr_Black) where we talked about education and the Twitter.

From what I remember the talk went down well. Continue reading 140 characters – Weeknote #37 – 22nd November 2019

Not quite a four day week – Weeknote #35 – 8th November 2019

Big Wheel in Cardiff

I was working from home for a lot of the week. I had originally planned to attend Wonkfest, but some administrative technicalities meant I didn’t manage to book a place at the event and I had to glance in remotely.

Following my meeting last week in London at the Office for Students I was interested to see the following press release from them on mental health issues in higher education.

Today the Office for Students has published an Insight brief, Mental health: are all students being properly supported? Our Insight briefs give an overview of current issues and developments in higher education, drawing on the data, knowledge and understanding available to us as the regulator for universities and colleges in England. Mental health is consistently among the top concerns raised by students and the OfS has an important role in identifying systemic gaps in student support or advice. Alongside the Insight brief, we have published an analysis of access and participation data for students with declared mental health conditions.

With the rise in students reporting mental health problems, there is a real challenge in supporting these students. We know that many support service staff are seeing many more mental health emergencies compared to a few years ago. More funding for support services is of course one solution, but there is also the need to consider the well being of students overall and ensuring that those students who are at risk, are supported much earlier. Does the current structure of higher education courses contribute to well being or negatively impact on it?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Continue reading Not quite a four day week – Weeknote #35 – 8th November 2019

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!

Reflecting on the informality of learning – Weeknote #30 – 4th October 2019

The view from St Philip's Bridge in Bristol
The view from St Philip’s Bridge in Bristol

Over the weekend I saw this article on WonkHE called  Learning in the spaces in between,

The final paragraph said:

With institutions re-evaluating their teaching and thinking how best to invest, it’s a great time to consider whether we really understand how students are using informal educational spaces outside of the classroom. The student perspective combined with novel use of occupancy data is bringing us closer to answering that conundrum.

Reminded me of this blog post that I wrote this back in 2017 on designing informal learning spaces that would encourage informal learning.

 Well the key really is to think about what actually facilitates and encourages informal learning.

It’s a combination of factors and can include design of learning spaces and the learning activities undertaken by the learners.

Creating the right contexts and environments for informal learning, will ensure that the concept of learn anywhere and anytime is encouraged and enhanced.

Though I wouldn’t have called it ethnography (and I certainly wouldn’t call it ethnography today) my blog post was based on my experiences in designing and running libraries, as well as developing the use of digital and virtual learning. I would spend a lot of time observing how learners would use our spaces, what they were doing in those spaces and I felt importantly what they weren’t doing as well. I would talk to learners, more importantly I would listen to learners. We would also measure space utilisation and activity in our spaces and all this would inform how we would design and change the space.

Sofa's in the library at Gloucestershire College
Sofa’s in the library at Gloucestershire College

When we originally designed the spaces, an important aspect to me was flexibility, being able to change the space as demands on that space changed, in how people wanted to use it and how many wanted to use it. All our shelving for example was on wheels, could be moved easily and quickly around. So following observation and listening, we would adjust the space accordingly.

That blog post was inspired by another one I had written in 2010 on designing informal learning.

The premise of that article was you couldn’t design informal learning (as that would formalise it) but what you could do is create spaces that would encourage informal learning.

It is more challenging to create learning spaces that encourage informal and social learning. As demands on space continues to grow and demand for more learner-led learning, it is important that institutions consider much more how their spaces can be used for informal learning.

Victoria Street in Bristol
Victoria Street in Bristol

Monday I was into the office in Bristol for various meetings and some training on culture. One of the things I did finalise was my performance objectives for the year ahead. One thing which I ensured was that my objectives were derived from the strategic objectives of the organisation. This way everything I do is contributing to the organisational strategic priorities. This process was something we did on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme and I also illustrated in this sketchnote.

Vision

I also had a discussion about writing an article about Education 4.0, but with a copyright lens. At this time we’ve not really looked into the copyright implications of the changes that could happen in the world of education.

Alas when leaving the office later that day, it was pouring rain and I got rather damp walking back to my car. I realised my waterproof coat was in fact no longer waterproof.

Illness in others and terrible rain, meant that meetings were changed, so I was able to change my plans from going into the Bristol office to working from home on Tuesday and avoid the rain.

I saw a video in the Twitter on the fourth industrial revolution which I thought was rather good so I blogged about it.

What is Industry 4.0?

Wednesday saw an interesting anniversary, as ten years ago on the 2nd October, I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.

James Clay presenting at FOTE09
James Clay presenting at FOTE09

Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general. I wrote a nostalgic blog post looking back at the event, my presentation and the impact it had.

The future of learning… ten years later!

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I spent a lot of time on Thursday interviewing prospective student partners for Jisc. We like to know what is important to students regarding their use of technology in education and research. What skills they think they need and how they want to learn. So every year we get a group of students from across HE and FE and work with them in a variety of different ways. Some attend our meetings, others our events, they participate in podcasts, panel sessions and workshops. I have always felt it was important to listen to the student voice to inform my work.

Friday I had various meetings, but managed to make a lot of progress on our Learning Technologist technical career pathway. We will be piloting this with individuals over the next twelve months.

My top tweet this week was this one.

I’m melting…. – Weeknote #21 – 26th July 2019

Valentine Bridge in Bristol
The view from Mead Reach Bridge looking towards Valentine Bridge in Bristol.

This week, we melted, we had a new Prime Minister, we had a new government and I didn’t go to London.

Monday I was back into the office to do what I initially thought was going to be a demonstration of Jira and Confluence, but in the end turned more into a discussion on how people are using the tools across Jisc.

Had to make a phone call on Monday, something which in work I don’t actually do that often. I make lots of audio conferences and skype calls, but I don’t use the phone as much as I have in other roles. I am part of a telephony project at Jisc and as a result I am now using Teams for making and receiving calls. It was a seamless experience, and it was nice making a call using a sound cancelling headset with microphone, rather than holding a handset or mobile phone to my head! I did feel that it was somewhat odd to use my laptop to dial the number rather than a number pad. A few years back I was looking a telephony and I remember thinking back then that there was a real culture shift needed by organisations moving from traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system to a modern telephony system used through Teams. Even now I think there is still need for a culture shift that isn’t easy for some people to just get and then move on.

This week, eleven years ago I wrote a blog post about the CherryPal mini PC which cost $249.

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

It was funded by advertising…

Today you can buy a better specified Raspberry Pi for under £35 and no advertising.

How things change….

Decided that I would become a Thought Leader and luckily for me, and thank you to Lawrie Phipps for the link, there is a course to do this on LinkedIn Learning…

I’ll let you know how I get on.

I wrote a blog post in response to a tweet I had seen earlier this year about using facial and emotion recognition with gauge the degree of student engagement in a lecture.

This week ten years ago I saw this video from Steve Boneham about something called micro-blogging…

Wonder if it ever caught on….

Crowd
Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

Talking about data, read this Guardian article, ‘Anonymised’ data can never be totally anonymous, says study.

“Anonymised” data lies at the core of everything from modern medical research to personalised recommendations and modern AI techniques. Unfortunately, according to a paper, successfully anonymising data is practically impossible for any complex dataset.

The article discusses the how data which has been anonymised data can in a number of methods be deanonymised to identify real people.

This has implications for universities and colleges, who are looking at using deanonymized data for intelligence and informed decision making.

If you think of anonymised data tracking students movement across campus, using wifi, this could be easily deanonymized using attendance data, swipe card data, PC logins, library card data.

Something to think about. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Thursday, I was going to go to London for a meeting with colleagues from the DfE. However due to the heat we decided to have the meeting virtually. Though there are advantages in meeting face to face, the fact we now have the technology to make meetings virtual means that we don’t need to cancel or re-schedule meetings. There are also affordances with virtual meetings, I like using the chat to post relevant links rather than interrupt the flow of the meeting. The fact the links are “live” and saved, means people don’t a) need to copy them down or b) wait until the links are e-mailed to them after the meeting.

microphone
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

I spent some time working on abstracts and proposals for various conferences I am attending in September. Working for an organisation like Jisc, I obviously need to talk about stuff we’re doing at Jisc. I kind of miss the keynotes I was doing ten years ago, when I had a lot more freedom on the topics and subjects I was presenting on. Back then I spent a lot of time talking about the future of learning, which the main thrust was that change is going to happen, but the important part of that journey was people, academics and students. The technology facilitates and provides affordances, but in the end it’s people who will want to change the way they do things and people will need to demonstrate leadership if they want change to happen. For the conferences in September I will mainly be talking about Education 4.0.

Friday I was back in the office in Bristol working on my preparation  for my end of year review. This year has been interesting as I changed roles in March so did not complete my previous objectives and inherited a number of new objectives.

I was reminded of the problems heat can cause this week with this photograph from seven years ago in 2012, my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge….

my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge....

My top tweet this week was this one.

 

Inexcusable – Weeknote #19 – 12th July 2019

St Nicholas Market stall
St Nicholas Market stall

Monday I was off to Lumen House, location of the Jisc offices in Harwell. This was for me, my first meeting of the Jisc Group Senior Leadership Team. In my new role I am now part of GSLT. We are going to be discussing strategy.

During a break I did read this article from BBC News.

Reminded me of last week’s weeknote, in which I said about the Guardian article on the same subject, Police face calls to end use of facial recognition software.

…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.

Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable. Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”.  We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.

Temple Way in Bristol
Temple Way in Bristol

Tuesday I was back in our Bristol office and had a few meetings across the day on various subjects from our student partner programme to the Twitter.

The meeting about the Twitter was interesting as it reminded me of the many blog posts I have written about using Twitter. My overall perspective after using the Twitter for over twelve years now is that I still don’t know how to use the Twitter and saying “the Twitter” really annoys people.

Wednesday with no meetings in the diary, I decided to work from home. The office when busy can be noisy and distracting. Sometimes that is a positive thing, and sometimes distractions allow you to interact and engage with people, sometimes though you just need to crack on and get the writing done.

One of the main things I have been working on this week is mapping the Learning and Research TCP to the SIFA Framework. This will allow us to have consistency across all the TCPs in Jisc. However one area which the SIFA is lacking in is the research side, so further work will need to be done in that space.

Despite having left the project six months ago, I still get the odd e-mail about the Intelligent Campus project, having been linked to the project for so long I am not surprised. It’s an area which still interests me and I do like to keep on top of what is happening in this space not just in the HE sector, but also wider as with Smart City developments.

The University of Bristol tweeted out this week

They have been awarded £100million by Research England to research and develop cutting-edge tech, which will benefit society and change the world, at the new Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be in Bristol’s new Temple Quarter development.

Lots of discussion about the recent announcement that Alexa will start offering NHS Health Advice.

People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.

Certainly the use of voice assistants has been growing in recent years, but also concerns about privacy, and this will only add fuel to that fire.

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

It certainly sounded an interesting event and from what I hear Teams is gaining traction with the sector.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Blended Learning – Weeknote #16 – 21st June 2019

London

It was Monday, so as well as having a few online meetings, responding to e-mails, I was also writing stuff too. There was an interesting discussion on the Twitter about the term blended learning. Started off by this tweet from Peter Bryant.

I do agree with the sentiment of Peter’s tweet that the assumption blended is somehow better than other kinds of learning is flawed.

Reflecting on this more I thought about it, I realised that we’ve always had “blended” learning.

I posted my response to his tweet.

There are many ways to deliver learning (is that even a thing, can you even deliver learning) and ways for people to learn. My experience is that people like to learn in different ways and in different contexts depending on what they are learning, how they are learning, with whom they are learning, the topic, the subject and even the outcome of that learning and how it will be assessed. Don’t fall into the trap of learning styles, thinking that each individual has an individual way of learning, as the way in which people learn varies all the time and what works one day, may not work for them the following day. Sometimes your don’t even have a choice about certain aspects, as in I have to attend that compulsory lecture regardless of how I actually feel about it and the subject.

I think technological advances have allowed people a much wider choice of ways to learn. I expanded this in another tweet.

Since writing that tweet, I realise that the control aspect is both enhanced and diminished by the advances in technology.

We want to “measure” learning by using tools such as the VLE, whilst students can subvert that control by using tools such as WhatsApp or historically Facebook groups (are Facebook groups still a thing these days?).

So what do you think? Is blended learning new or has it always been here?

Tuesday I was back in London, it was warm and sunny and we had blue skies, alas as the day went on it started to rain. I was in London for an event by London Higher on research they had undertaken on commuting students, and the impact of commuting on student outcomes and wellbeing.

I made a sketch note of the event.

These sketch notes are mainly for my benefit, as they collate and coalesce my thoughts from the event.

The event took place at the BT Tower and I did initially think we would be at the top of the tower, alas it wasn’t meant to be, the event took place in a room on the ground floor. I was close, but not close enough.

In between meetings I went to a new coffee place and enjoyed a flat white as I caught up with my correspondence.

In the afternoon I was off to the RVC for a meeting with an old friend to discuss learning and teaching in higher education and her thoughts about what Jisc can do in this space.

The end of the week saw me once more off to London, this time for a meeting with officials from the DfE. It was really nice and sunny compared to Tuesday.

Oh had more coffee as well…

My top tweet this week was this one.

Understanding the value – Weeknote #11 – 17th May 2019

Hertfordshire

So the week started with a 9am meeting, which was cancelled 15 minutes before it started… This seems to be happening a lot more in this new role than in my previous role. I appreciate that illness and other problems can result in the cancellation of a meeting at the last minute, but I find that a lot of the meetings I am scheduled to attend are cancelled for no obvious reason. Many times I have travelled, booked rooms, turned down other meetings or even events, then I find out that the meeting has been cancelled! I have started to notice patterns and I have started to de-piroritise certain meetings. What this means is that I have accepted them (sometimes tentatively) in my diary, however I will put in new meetings or events that clash when required.

Spent some time planning a series of knowledge calls for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway. These will involve looking at digital ecosystems, presentation skills and Jira training.

Our infrastructure people were running a drop in session for any Office 365 problems. I was having issues with adding Twitter to a new team in Teams. We want to use the Twitter App as we want to have tweets with a specific hashtag posted to the Teams stream. However it wasn’t working very well. When you added the Twitter app to the team it resulted in a connection error. My initial thought was that certain apps were being blocked, but that wasn’t the case. We solved this problem, thanks to the drop in SharePoint/0365 surgery. The issue appeared to be a corrupt team (well it was me, Lawrie and Andy McG so no surprises there then). The solution alas was to delete the team and start a new one. This was not too much of a hardship as it was a new team we created anyhow. So now we have a nice shiny new team to which we can add apps.

Thursday I was off to Hatfield, with the University of Hertfordshire Value Study starting on Friday at 9am there was no practical way of getting there in time travelling up in the morning, so I went up the day before. This job does require a fair bit of travelling, I have been to Scotland, Ireland, across England, Wales and event Brittany in France. I generally (now) go to London about once a week. There was one week where was there for six days in a two week period, so travelled up and down a lot on the railway. I am lucky in that we have a great team for booking travel and accommodation, which makes life a lot easier. In a previous job, there was no such luxury.

Friday was all about the first day of the University of Hertfordshire Value Study. A 9am start and a 5pm finish, meant that the day was long and quite tiring (especially combined with a 150 mile drive home afterwards) but rewarding. We covered a range of topics, with a focus on the Janet network and the supporting services. I delivered a session about the Intelligent Campus describing how our R&D work supports the sector through community events, guides and blog posts and a mailing list.

These have been used for Hertfordshire in their smart campus plans.

My top tweet that week was this one.

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written only 17 blog posts, in 2017 it was 21 blog posts, in 2016 it was 43 blog posts, in 2015 I wrote 24 blog posts. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!

Do signs work?

The tenth most popular blog post in 2018 was asking So do signs work? This article from 2013 described some of the challenges and issues with using signage to change behaviours. So do signs work? Well yes they do, but often they don’t.

The post at number nine was my podcast workflow, published in 2011, this article outlines how and what equipment I use to record the e-Learning Stuff Podcast. This is only one way in which to record a remote panel based podcast, and I am sure there are numerous other ways in which to do this. I have also changed how I have recorded over the two years I have been publishing the podcast due to changes in equipment and software. It’s probably time to update it, though I am not doing as much podcasting as I use to.

Dropping three places to eighth was 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The post at number seven, climbing one place, was Comic Life – iPad App of the Week. Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

Sixth most popular was a post from 2018, called “I don’t know how to use the VLE!” This blog post described a model of VLE embedding and development. This post was an update to the model I had published in 2010.

In at number five, is also a post from 2018, Why does no one care about my digital strategy? This post described some of the background to the leadership briefing I wrote with Lawrie Phipps on the digital lens.

digital lens

Holding at fourth, is Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am still a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.

Dropping one place back to third, was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week, still don’t know why this one is so popular!

FrameMagic - iPhone App of the Week

Back in 2015 I asked I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? in relation to the Area Review process and this post was the second most popular post in 2018, last year it was in sixth place, so it’s getting more popular.

Once again, for the sixth year running, the number one post for 2018 was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel.

The Padagogy Wheel

I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”. It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

So there we have it, the top ten posts 2018.

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.