Today is the MoLeNET Conference, the second conference MoLeNET has had. Last year the conference was at the Emirates Stadium, this year at the Grange Hotel near St Pauls.
Gloucestershire College will be there in force today. Last year I did a ten minute slot on the Glossy Project. This year, Alan Graham will be presenting in the research strand on what we did in the Shiny project in terms of research. Whilst Rob Whitehouse will be doing the ten minute slot on the use of video assessment and the impact on learning. Rob Allen, who has done some fantastic work on mobile learning in plumbing and heating will be on our stand. And…. myself and Greg Smith, the college Principal, will be delivering one of the keynotes.
Glossy and Shiny have had a real cultural impact in the college and I hope to share how we achieved this in the college.
In case you were wondering, our third MoLeNET project is called Sparkly and is about sharing what we do with two partners, Stroud College and Royal Forest of Dead College Royal Forest of Dean College.
Update: Oops that should be Royal Forest of Dean College, must have dead on the brain!
I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter. This is part two of my reflections on the conference, you can find part one here.
So on the Tuesday night I rendered and uploaded the video recording I had made of the VLE is Dead debate and put it on my blog. It has proved quite popular.
There have been 600 odd views of the video and I have served 40GB of video in just a week! I am impressed it has been that popular.
So back to ALT-C, where my Hood 2.1 Workshop was due to start at 9.00am (another early start). I hadn’t realised when I put my flyer for the event together that MLT was the acronym for the Main Lecture Theatre.
It’s quite big and not that suitable for a workshop, but we worked at it. I covered a fair bit and I have made a video recording which needs a fair bit of editing before I can post it online. In the meantime here is a list of the services we looked at.
One of the problems with ALT-C is the sheer quality of many of the sessions and as a result you will miss them. I video my sessions, so though no reflection of the experience of being there, if you have missed me at least you will be able to get a flavour of what happened.
I really enjoyed Martin Bean’s Keynote which he delivered with passion. Some great slides too, take note and learn.
With lunch I was on poster duty, showing off my Glossy Poster on our MoLeNET project.
I enjoyed the Xerte and SL demonstrations I attended, but the tightness of time meant that a good (and probably heated) discussion on a distributed repository model and the IPR implications wasn’t had. Time to write a blog post on that methinks.
Final session of the day was the Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video Presentations. I was one of the judges so was at this session presenting the videos.
In the evening was the ALT Gala Conference Dinner which was very well cooked by the students from Manchester College and Sheffield College and where I was presented with an award…
Thursday morning saw another 9.00am start and the Distribute This workshop which went really well and was very well attended. Lots of discussion and debate on digital identity.
After that it was the final keynote from Terry Anderson which saw a huge flurry of Twitter activity which alas was not presented to the rest of the auditorium who merely saw the Elluminate chat in which no one was chatting!
After that it was time to go home.
Reflecting on the conference, I know that Seb and the rest of the ALT team put a huge amount of work into the conference and I appreciate all that they do. I do not envy the work they put in and end result is fantastic.
For me the online element of the conference is very important, allowing conversation, chat and to meet new people. This year it felt that finally ALT-C was also online. Crowdvine which worked so well last year, worked ever better this year, Cloudworks, which I was initially hesitant about, has proved itself as a great online place for links, comments and resources. Of course Twitter really came into its own. At ALT-C 2007 no one was using Twitter (well I was) but everyone was using blogs – I remember that’s when I first met Steve Wheeler. Last year at ALT-C 2008 there was only about fifty or forty of us using Twitter, this year according to the stats in Brian Kelly’s blog post, 633 people used the #altc2009 tag, now not all of these were at the conference, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were hundreds of people at the conference using Twitter.
What I found interesting in the discussion was that @jamesclay was a trending term. I believe that this was less used as a descriptor in Twitter postings, but more more in reply to what I was saying, in other words I was stimulating the discussion on Twitter. Difficult to show that, but it’s not as though I was a keynote speaker or anything. Twitter added an extra layer to the conference and despite the spam was a really useful tool.
So what would have I added to the conference?
Well though there was a great social programme, for me there wasn’t enough social spaces, a decent coffee shop type place, somewhere to meet those people you had promised to meet in Crowdvine and so on.
Just going back to the coffee and a note to all conference organisers, please provide an alternative to conference coffee and I would be willing to pay for decent coffee. Also have coffee available throughout the day and not just at coffee breaks. Well I would say that wouldn’t I.
A social cafe area for people to meet and discuss during the conference would be a real advantage, you could see the potential by how people used the exhibition area.
I also wonder if it is time that an unconference strand was added to the conference? A series of rooms available for open discussions and demonstrations. With Crowdvine and Twitter it would make it much easier to advertise these sessions and for people to join in with them. F-ALT has shown there is a demand for venues that allow for discussions and debates which don’t quite fit into the abstract submission process. It would also allow for debates on issues which arise out of formal presentations and keynotes that we don’t have time for in the main strands. An unconference format doesn’t mean disorganised or unstructured, but it does require an element of trust that something happens.
Overall I did enjoy the conference and it was certainly one of my highlights of this year. I would recommend that you do go to Nottingham in 2010. I know the timing is awful for those in schools and FE, for many it is the first week of term. However my view is that surely your institution can run smoothly if you’re not there and you can always check your e-mail and make phone calls. If you can, do go.
I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter.
It was really nice to meet up with a lot of different people, some I knew, some I knew only from the web, some I had never met and those that knew me though I didn’t know them.
There was some great presentations, workshops, keynotes and debates and I felt I learnt a lot and was given a lot to think about.
I had a reasonable journey up to Manchester (no connectivity on the train) and having arrived, caught a taxi to the venue. I was relieved to see that my Glossy Poster had safely arrived though for some unknown reason at that time my flyers for my workshops and that symposium had failed to arrive.
I bumped into a few people I knew and then someone came up to me and said hello. I recognised him, but couldn’t name the face… I hate it when that happens, and after turning over their name badge (why do they always flip the wrong way at the wrong moments) I saw it was Richard Elliot from New Zealand. I am doing the keynote at ASCILITE 2009 conference so it was good to meet one of the organisers to chat and discuss the conference.
After the pre-conference buffet and chatting I headed up to the F-ALT event on post digital and managed to catch the last bit and added a little to the discussion.
These fringe events add a lot to the conference, they’re not competing with the conference, but adding a social, informal side to the conference that allows delegates to add a social learning element to the conference. It also allows delegates to discuss and present issues on stuff and technologies which at the time of the abstract submission deadline maybe wasn’t available or didn’t even exist.
Tuesday morning, saw a bright and early start with the conference kicking off proper at 9.00am. After the conference introductions we moved onto the conference keynote from Michael Wesch.
It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press and a few hundred again before the telegraph. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges. New types of conversation, argumentation, and collaboration are realized. Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, YouTube, classrooms, and “the future,” this presentation will demonstrate the profound yet often unnoticed ways in which media “mediate” our conversations, classrooms, and institutions. We will then apply these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we may need to rethink how we teach, what we teach, and who we think we are teaching.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his presentation and presentational approach, however I do wonder and still wonder if all our learners are like his students? Are all our learners using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools and services on a regular basis and importantly are they using them for learning?
I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.
I enjoyed the short papers on staff skills, some of the work that Alan Cann is doing at Leicester is very illuminating and interesting.
Then lunch and I won’t dwell on the conference catering, all I will say how much I enjoyed the coffee from the Museum Cafe across the road from the conference venue.
After sustenance we had the big debate, you know, the one about how the VLE is Dead! The debate was a lot of fun and it would appear that the delegates who attended enjoyed the debate. In a room with space for eighty, we had nearly a hundred and fifty people, many sitting and standing. We also had about two hundred people online following the live stream.
The debate was based on the following proposition.
The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.
I know that most people realised that the debate (and especially the title) was provocative and that the aim was for a fun debate as well as looking at the issues. You are not going to be able to give serious academic consideration to the issues in an eighty minute debate.
I was pleased with the interest shown, not just at the conference, but also online on Twitter and on various blogs. Cloudworks has a list of the blogs that have discussed the issue. The “marketing” for the debate worked well (probably better than expected) with the trailer, the flyer and the numerous blog posts by me, Steve and many others…
As expected, I didn’t get to the next session, but did make Steve Wheeler’s Twitter session. A very popular session with lots of different people attending, some like me who are immersed in Twitter to people who had never used it.
After all that I missed the new ALT Members Reception, and as Gloucestershire College joined ALT this year I should have been attending. Ah well.
In the evening I went to a nice Tapas bar with Ron, Lilian and David.
I shall be “presenting” a poster on Glossy at ALT-C 2009.
Here’s a sneak preview…
The Glossy project undertook a large-scale development and implementation of mobile learning across Gloucestershire College utilising the mobile devices that learners already own.The project put in place an infrastructure at Gloucestershire College that allows learners using devices that they already own and college devices to access learning activities and content. The project created a student wireless network that can be accessed by learners’ own devices to access a range of content and learning activities through the college VLE.The aim of the project was to enable learners to access learning at a time and place to suit them in order to improve retention and achievement. The project provided mobile devices to learners in selected groups; including excluded learners and learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The project allowed the college to provide suitable hardware and software based in the college libraries that allows both staff and learners to develop, create and convert content for use on a range of mobile devices.The poster will show the key issues, challenges and opportunities that mobile learning offers institutions. It will show the key stages that are required to allow institutions to utilise the mobile devices that learners already own. The difficulties of working with diverse learner devices will be outlined on the poster because understanding them is vital to any discussion of sustainability.
The poster, through a range of examples, will show how important it is to address the differing attitudes of staff, IT support needs and staff development.
The Glossy Project did much more than start Gloucestershire College down the road of mobile learning, it had an impact on the whole culture of the organisation in the use of not just mobile technologies, but also other learning technologies, audio, video, podcasting, wireless and use of the VLE to enhance and enrich the learning experience.
The project had an impact on 14,000 learners during the lifetime of the project, ran from November 2007 to July 2008. It continues to have a benefit even though the project has finished, as the infrastructure enables mobile learning to continue.
Luke Fletcher from Gloucestershire College talks candidly about how he used the PSP with camera with his learners.
Luke was in the office for a chat, when a colleague (off camera) asked him how he found using the PSPs, luckily for I had a camera to hand, so I just picked it up and hit record and caught this wonderful natural narrative from Luke about using the PSP.
Slitherine Software are a games based company but with a slant.
Well, it’s very simple – we make history-based games. That’s our core, and I think while there are other companies who make a variety of products, we have a very clear idea of what we want to do. That’s what’s important for us – our licenses and the types of games we create.
It has to be cultural and entertaining – history is culture, and we don’t want people to notice that they’re actually learning something while they’re playing, that’s the goal. Because retail hates edutainment and culture, they just don’t like it. As soon as you say “culture” they tell you they won’t sell it.
The goal for us has always been to get people to learn by stealth, and movies like Gladiator or Saving Private Ryan – they’re entertainment, but they’re also giving some educational learning content too.
Though making a lot of PC software, they also see the PSP as having real potential as an edutainment device (though like most people I can’t stand the term edutainment).
But I think the PSP is more of a suitable platform right now, and I think at the moment it’s the console has the most potential to target new consumers.
From a learning perspective I do believe that the PSP has a lot to offer learners, and certainly my experiences with our MoLeNET Glossy project last year back this up, the PSP was the most used and popular mobile device we used, over other devices such as the iPod touch and the Asus EeePC.
Will be interesting to see if the PSP starts to have more educationally orientated content, the Nintendo DS certainly at the moment seems to have more non-gaming titles in its catalogue, though PSP sales outsell DS according to Minoli.
I’ve seen sales charts for some territories now and a top ten PSP game sells more than a top ten Nintendo DS game.
What do you think, is the PSP the future of mobile learning?
Gloucestershire College is undertaking the Glossy project as part of MoLeNET and as part of that I am evaluating and reviewing mobile devices that we may use as part of our project as well as seeing how they work so when we create (and convert) content for use on a mobile device we can ensure that it works on the majority of devices that our learners actually use.
Well I now have an iPod touch, and though I have touched one before, to actually use one for quite a bit of time, is a different kettle of fish. I am very impressed still with the device. Apple have done an excellent job.
The touch interface is very impressive and compared to the typical Table PC or Archos touch interface, the iPod touch interface is more fluid and responsive, and though I don’t like the fingerprints all over the device, the use of the finger is very intuitive.
It is these fingerprints which will probably mean that the device is not suitable for use in a classroom environment with the institution providing the devices. Learners will more thank likely look after their own iPod touch, but a class set would soon get very grimy and would need to be cleaned on a regular basis. That’s not to say this would not happen to other mobile devices, I only need to look at my phone and my iPod to see fingerprints all over them, but there is a difference when you are using your finger to poke and swipe to actually use the device.
Having said all that I can certainly see learners been able to use this interface quickly and easily, more so if webpages (ie web content) is designed for the interface.
The screen quality is excellent and images and video look excellent.
Syncing took a bit of time, it’s just an 8GB device, but I did put over five hundred photographs on the device as well as 4Gb of music and podcasts. This is something to consider when first using the device, it will take time to initially charge and synchronize.
The browser is probably the best I have seen on any mobile device, the way you can intelligently zoom in and out makes browsing webpages really nice and you don’t feel you are losing out with the small screen (well it’s a lot smaller than my 20″ iMac).
Overall I do like the iPod touch. it is one of the best mobile devices I have ever used and I have used a lot.
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