Tag Archives: donna lanclos

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

Marmite – ALT-C 2015 Day 1

It’s the first day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Everything kicks off, after the introductions and welcome, at 10:50 with the first keynote from Steve Wheeler, the marmite of keynote speakers.

Steve Wheeler

The abstract doesn’t give very much away about what Steve is going to talk about so we will have to wait and see what it will all be about. Looking forward to a heated discussion on the Twitter.

After the usual coffee break, popping over to the Museum Café for a decent coffee methinks, it’s a series of parallel sessions. One of the challenges of ALT-C is finding the right session to go to. This isn’t an issue of signage and location, but finding a session, that will inspire, challenge and make you think. There is nothing wrong with going to a session that you know you will enjoy, but sometimes you need to find a session that will challenge your approaches and make you rethinking about how you work.

Often I go to a session that is been delivered by someone I know, whom I have heard before, and I will know deliver an interesting and thought provoking session, but often it just reinforces my thinking and thoughts. This doesn’t mean I won’t go, but you take it for what it is.

I was going to attend Using CMALT as a vehicle for team-building and professional development [990] as I am working with my colleagues at Jisc in helping them (and me) to complete their CMALT. This is less a session that will challenge and inspire, but more of a session to help and support my practice. Alas I found out yesterday it has been cancelled, so time to choose something else.
I quite like the sound of To BYOD or not to BYOD: Factors affecting tutor acceptance of faculty and student mobile devices in their classroom practice [856] as I am currently reflecting on the different models around learners bringing their own devices.

There are generally two reasons behind BYOD, the first is a financial saving, if learners are bringing their own devices then the institution won’t need institutional devices, this reduces capital outlay when refreshing equipment and reduced support costs. The second reason is to create a paradigm shift in the way that learning takes place by taking advantage of the devices learners are bringing to college or university.

In terms of the first reason, the potential savings that can be made need to be offset with the improvements in infrastructure that need to take place to ensure a seamless experience for learners.

The second reason also requires investment, but more investment in ideas how to design a curriculum that takes advantage of BYOD, how to deliver sessions when learners are using their own devices and also designing their assessments.

Similarly I also quite like the thought of attending Sharing stories around the microphone: digital storytelling as a collaborative learning experience [1013] as digital story telling is something I am aware of, but actually know very little about.

Over lunch I will be on the Jisc stand, available to discuss digital capabilities with interested parties.

ALT-C 2009

I am trying to choose between a few sessions, most of which will aid my thoughts in the project I am currently managing for Jisc. This session, Learning technology from the middle out: Breaking down functional tensions and resistances between stakeholders to lead institutional change [913] sounds like it might well be of interest in how they overcame the barriers that institutions face when building digital capability.

Don’t tell Lawrie, but I am also interested in attending Badging the Open [940] as I do feel I need to know more about the practical aspects related to open badges and the impact they can (or may not) have.

At 3:05pm I am going to attend Lawie’s and Donna’s session, Are learning technologies fit for purpose [881]. This is going to be a fun sessions, one that I am sure I am going to enjoy.

This presentation and paper will open up the debate, reporting on discussions and engagement after the original debate and eliciting more viewpoints to further the discussion and encourage delegates to think critically about their existing use of technology. It will also propose a continuum of practice with technology, seeking to not identify a right or wrong answer, but instead provide a series of questions, checks and balances that institutions should consider in their deployment of technology.

At 4:45pm it’s a pity that Bex Ferriday’s session, Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow [803] has been cancelled as Bex’s sessions are bright, loud and fun. So a slightly more serious option will be Harmonious Developments in Learning Technologies; how to align IT and LT cultures. [1009]. This session reminds me of my presentation on the dark side I delivered at FOTE 14 in London.

After a long day it doesn’t stop and I will be off to the Palace Hotel for the Gala Dinner.

So what does your day at ALT-C look like?

We are all of these…

Avon Gorge

Over on “Don’t Waste Your Time” David Hopkins posts a nice cartoon of how to support staff in using emerging technologies and his interpretation of the roles within the cartoon.

Supporting emerging technologies

‘Laggards’. Those who follow on once a technology has proven itself.

Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support its use.

Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.

Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.

Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

This is a nice model and people who are responsible for embedding the use of learning technologies will very likely recognise these stereotypes.

David asks with whom you identify with?

My observation is that we are all of them. Which one we are depends on which technology we are using.

For a long time I was a laggard (sceptic) with regard to Second Life and virtual worlds, really couldn’t see the value and how it could be used in an effective (and efficient) manner to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It took a while and I remember seeing a fantastic presentation from Bex Ferriday on how Second Life was been used to create art displays that couldn’t exist in the real world. However despite that really nice exemplar, I still remained very much a conservative sceptic with regard to Second Life.

On the other hand, having used mobile technologies for years before the iPhone and the iPad (going back to the 1990s), I would describe myself as an innovator with regard to mobile learning. Very much the enthusiast and early adopter.

I would describe the model above more of an continuum than discrete roles that we fit into, and that where we sit on that continuum depends on where we are and how we use the technology. When you start to talk like that you suddenly realise that the Visitor and Residents model from David White and the work undertaken by him and Donna Lanclos resonates much more.

You could describe the enthusiast and early adopters as resident’esque behaviour and the behaviour of sceptics and the conservator majority as that of visitors.

One of the aspects of the V & R model I like is that as well as the horizontal continuum you also have a vertical continuum where technology is used between a professional and personal capacity.

Many years ago I was delivering training to a group of sixth form staff, one practitioner was quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology to support teaching, learning and assessment, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life. These individuals can be sceptics in a professional capacity, but early adopters in their personal use of technology.

Models like the one above which shows learning technologists as bridging the chasm assume that there is a chasm that needs to be bridged and that people aren’t willing to cross it. It assumes that people’s view of technology is consistent across all technologies. It can be a starting point, but if you then move to the mapping exercise of the V & R model then it helps practitioners (and managers) realise that they are early adopters and sceptics and everything in between and that all of them can help each other to cross the many different technological chasms out there.

Of course one of the real challenges is to do this is from an holistic organisational perspective and get everyone to start to embed and increase their use of learning technologies where appropriate to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment.