Tag Archives: handheld learning

Handheld Learning Day Three

After two excellent days, we were on day three of the Handheld Learning conference.

I was presenting again (in the afternoon) in the MoLeNET session on how MoLeNET had an impact on Gloucestershire College.

Again way too much choice and some excellent speakers out there. In the end I chose the inclusion session in the main conference hall. Inclusion is something I keep getting confused about and decided that this would be a good way of updating and getting myself back up to speed.

I enjoyed the session and particularly Sal Cooke’s presentation.

In the afternoon I was presenting in the MoLeNET strand about the impact of MoLeNET no Gloucestershire College.

I found Ray Kurzweil’s final keynote stimulating and though quite a few stats and graphs, it was interesting to see how his predictions have come true and what he is now predicting.

I didn’t win any prizes in the final draw.

I really enjoyed Handheld Learning and even if you are not into mobile learning, there is more than enough in the conference to justify going. The conference is much more about learning and unlike many other conferences brings people from a range of sectors together.

Handheld Reflections Day Two

I do enjoy Handheld Learning and 2009 was no exception. Three days of mobile learning stuff, presentations, discussions, networking and people.

Day two, Tuesday, sees a slightly different and more traditional feel to the conference. We have opening keynotes, parallel sessions and free coffee!

With a 9.30 start I arrived an hour early, time to have a look around the exhibition hall and see what is new and exciting. It was very apparent how the credit crunch is impacting on the mobile learning business with what looked like a 30% drop in exhibitors compared to 2008. It was nice though to see the LSN there with their stand as they have through the MoLeNET programme made a major contribution to mobile learning in the FE sector and it would be interesting to see what both the schools and HE sector thought of the work.

Graham Brown Martin as usual opened the event, and unlike other conference organisers takes the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the issues of the day.


He certainly did not hold back and told the audience what he thought and what the government of the day should be doing to support and improve education. I got the impression from Twitter and from the (physical) audience that they agreed with him. It was time for change and that change is now, it’s not just up to us (the audience) anymore; government, departments need to make that change.

Up next was Zenna Atkins who was talking in a personal capacity and not as head of Ofsted. She was quite clear about this and actually I think as a result we had a more personal view of education. She felt she had been failed by the formal education system and despite this had a made a success of her life. She recounted tales about her children and their experiences in the education system. I am sure she knows more about the UK education system then someone like me, but you have to ask this question, if the education system is so wrong in the UK, despite the best efforts of organisations like Ofsted which are there to check the quality of the education system, then maybe we need to rethink the whole education system and the quality checking that takes place. I did feel that alienating your audience who are generally all from the formal education system and indicating that they are the problem was an interesting way to present the issues. You have to ask what is the point of a keynote though? Is it there to echo the feelings of the audience or is it to make them stop, think and reflect on their practice? If a keynote makes you think and even if you disagree with the thoughts, is that not better than one that makes you just nod your head in agreement.

With Malcolm McLaren up next it was certainly going to be an interesting keynote and he isn’t someone who has by his own admission not done much handheld learning. I felt he rambled on a bit (and over his alloted time) and didn’t really make me sit up and think as Zenna had done. I didn’t really see the point of him recounting his wine tasting days as that interesting, even if it was sometimes amusing. He was also failed by the formal education system but found success, notice a pattern here? Malcolm certainly polarised the audience and on Twitter half seemed to see him as a rambling old man and the other half were entranced by his life and stories.

Yvonne Roberts was the third keynote and having alienated the audience with a throwaway remark about dyslexia once more recounted how the formal education system had failed her and here she was speaking as a keynote presenter.

It was about now that I realised very little had been said about handheld learning. Many of the speakers were talking about how the formal education system was rubbish and needed a revolution; did they forget who their audience was and what they were doing? Most of the audience (like me) work in formal education, we are doing innovative stuff to enhance and enrich learning, we are changing systems and structures, we are meeting the needs of learners, we are personalising and differentiating the learning experience, we are using technologies to make things better and not just because it is shiny. There are issues and problems with the formal education system, however those issues are institutional, cultural, societal and governmental. Changes need to be made at all levels, in government, in government departments, officiating quangos such as Ofsted, examining boards, local authorities, funding bodies as well as schools and colleges.

I almost felt sorry for James Paul Gee, who hadn’t been failed by the formal education system and had some interesting things to say.

Maybe Graham’s plan was to make us think and reflect, if that was the case he certainly has succeeded in my case. Of course if we had read the programme we would have read that the session was called “Reflections on Learning” and it did what it said on the tin.

Lunch was ninety minutes long which gave plenty of time for networking, talking and sharing.

As with all conferences which run parallel sessions I had wanted to go to the Conference Session Two – “Creativity & Innovation” however due to timing issues and wanting to hear Ollie Bray I went to the Social Media for Learning. I also was interested in the Gaming stream. I enjoyed Ollie’s session which looked at using social media in schools.


My own Twitter session seemed to go down well and was very full.

Overall a full and enjoyable day with way too much going on. Hoping to catch some of what I missed once videos of those sessions hit the Handheld Learning website.

Handheld Reflections Day One

I do enjoy Handheld Learning and 2009 was no exception. Three days of mobile learning stuff, presentations, discussions, networking and people.

Day one, Monday, is the free day. Anyone can go and they don’t need to pay any conference fee. This is a great idea if you’re interested in going to Handheld Learning and want to try it without spending lots on a conference fee, hotel accommodation etc…

I arrived with only a little time to spare before the HHECKL session started. The session was a variation on the Top Gear Cool Wall, but using gadgets and phones rather than cars.


With four of us presenting, we did initially outnumber the audience. After a slow start once we got going the process did start to work and the discussion was fast and furious.

I was surprised that some delegates weren’t willing to make a judgement on a device they hadn’t used. It wasn’t as though we were asking whether the devices were good for learing, whether they were cool or uncool. We did cover learning, but the focus was the device and the technology – which makes a change.

At the end we had split devices between those we and the audience considered cool and those we considered uncool. We allowed some selected members of the audience to move a device; the most amusing part was when a rather young member of the audience was asked to move a device, moved the Sony VAIO P Series from the Cool to the Uncool section. Asked why, he replied “because James owns it”.

After HHECKL it was time for lunch. As day one is the free day, there is no free lunch. With very few places to actually sit down in the venue, we decided that we would give the sandwiches a miss and pop out for something to eat. Were we in for a lucky time, up Whitecross Street (a few minutes from the Brewery venue) there was a bundle of street vendors selling all kinds of different types of food, a real multi-cultural treat for everyone. With the local pub allowing us to bring in food, we had somewhere to sit, eat (and grab a beer).

One thing that many conferences, and Handheld Learning is not alone in this, is providing social spaces for conference delegates. Though I guess a lot of delegates love attending a packed programme, many who attend want  to talk and discuss issues relating to them and their institutions. Providing a place (with coffee obviously) would allow for more networking and discussion. It’s not that I don’t think the programme is not useful or relevant, sometimes you gain by discussion and talking. Actually that is something that presenters may want to think about when running their presentations and workshops. Bizarrely enough the few tables and chairs available were more often then not taken up with people working and checking e-mail!!! It’s a conference, watch the presentations, network, chat, but if you need to work, go back to work!

The afternoon saw the Pecha Kucha. Simply put you show twenty slides with only twenty seconds for each slide. Sounds simple, but surprising how some people don’t understand this simple concept or don’t know how to use Powerpoint transitions.

One of the good things about the Pecha Kucha is that if one of the presenters is really boring or on a subject you don’t like you only need to wait six minutes for the next one. Though it’s surprising how six minutes can appear like thirty! I hope I didn’t bore the audience with my two Pecha Kuchas, my first was on the Future of Learning, whilst my second (and the last one of the day) was on Twenty Web 2.0 Apps for Learning.
I really enjoyed Tony Vincent’s presentation, his style of presentation and slides are superb. Alas I was going to miss his session the following day as I was presenting at the same time. If you have never done a Pecha Kucha before I would suggest that next year if it is on you give it a try. Choose something you are passionate about. Don’t worry too much about the slides, sometimes pictures work better than words.

Reflecting on both HHECKL and the Pecha Kucha has given me an idea for next year’s conference with a Britain has Handheld Talent type session. Start talking about your project, concept, ideas and see if you can last before you get the big X from one of a panel of judges.

Being involved in both HHECKL and Pecha Kucha was really enjoyable and one of the many highlights for me of the Handheld Learning Conference.

That night after an (okay) meal at a local Italian restaurant it was the Awards Evening. I was up for two awards and alas I was going to go away with nothing… ah well maybe next year! Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

A lot has been written about the awards party my view is that I believe that the awards event is an important event, yes I was up for two awards this year which was a real honour and recognition from the community about the work I do. I also went to last year’s awards ceremony and supported colleagues (even if I wasn’t up for anything last year). I also supported this year’s awards by “buying” a table. There aren’t many awards for mobile learning and it is important to the community that we recognise the innovative work that they are doing. As a result it’s important that we also support these awards.  I agree with Graham Brown Martin, it is sad that we lose this focus when we discuss coffee and the price of drinks.

After a good night out at the awards it was back to the hotel and bed…

More later…

Off to Handheld Learning 2008…

The dust has not even settled from mLearn 2008 and I haven’t even managed to gather my thoughts for the final blog post from the mobile learning conference before I am off to another conference.

Handheld Learning 2008 starts tomorrow in London at The Brewery – I wonder how many times we hear that joke from speakers – and I am presenting in the MoLeNET strand on the Tuesday. Hoping to also present in the Pecha Kucha too.

Lots of friends going to the conference, David Sugden and Lilian will be there, as will Kath and Jon from Glasgow. Steve is taking the bus from Plymouth, whilst Lisa V will be down for one day only – she’s found a gap in her diary. Andy Black will be there also. Lots of people from mLearn will be there too including Mark Kramer, Adele Botha, John Traxler and loads of others whom I only met last week. Well I have met John before lots of times!

One of the challenges for me is that though I know them all, I am not sure if they know each other, must remember to introduce people to each other.

If you are going, do come and say hello.

I shall be using the technologies as per usual, lots of photos on Flickr, video here and there, tweets and jaikus as well.

Key question for me though is do I use my trusty Mac laptop, or pretend that I am a handheld learning guru and use the UX1XN…. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

Off to Handheld Learning 2008...