Wednesday 2 October 2013

Association for Learning Technology Conference 2013 - Tuesday 10th Sept #altc2013

ALT-C 2013 Tuesday 

The Association for Learning Technology conference took place in Nottingham at the East Midlands Conference Centre 10th - 12th September. It was an excellent conference, as it always is, and I would recommend it to anyone involved in education and invaluable to those involved in educational technologies.
This blog post is not a comprehensive account of the conference sessions as these can be found online via the ALT website and via the ALT YouTube channel, but is a brief summary of events and of my experience of the conference.
As usual, I never have time to prepare for my attendance at the conference as I'm always working right up to the day before and this is problematic. I would like to study in advance the sessions that I'm going to attend and contact the people I would like to meet but instead it's straight into the hurly burly.
Firstly the venue - I very much like the venue - easy to get to by car, car park right outside, conference sessions all in one building, no trekking across a campus to other buildings. Facilities good, main theatre suitable, breakout rooms ok, tea and biscuits available, places to sit, places to chat in corridors, modern decor and easy to find toilets. Wifi coverage good although I expect most people use eduroam rather than the conference wifi. Food good - lunches queue up and get served but tables to sit at thankfully none of that wandering around the exhibition space trying to balance a plate and drink etc.
The conference chairs, Malcolm Ryan and Hadyn Blackey were excellent from start to finish providing a knowledgeable and entertaining interface and appeal to all the delegates. It was a perfect balance between looking back at 20 years of ALT conferences and providing relevance to current developments.
The opening keynotes consisted of a number of speakers. There was a video from Matthew Hancock MP who talked about FELTAG and then MOOCs and the impact that MOOCs can have as they mature. He questioned what changes are needed in order to use technology for the improvement of education.
Next up was Alan Ford, Pro-Vice Chancellor Teaching and Learning University of Nottingham. He talked about blended learning, not distance learning and the importance of supporting face to face teaching with learning technologies.
Then Rachel Whenstone talked about partnerships and how educators can build cultures of partnerships with students.  Rachel is Vice-President (Higher Education) of the National Union of Students and explained that students should have opportunities to shape their learning and be empowered to determine what the learning environment looks like. Students want a change from feedback to a two way conversation about the process of change. Universities need to offer a new way for students to engage not a consumerist model, new practice not just rhetoric. It was a very interesting keynote and it was great to have the student voice and perspective but I felt she was berating us for not doing anything as far as collaborating with students is concerned. In fact lots of us are working really hard at improving the student experience and involved in lots of initiatives, projects and day to day activities to engage and empower students. I agreed with everything she said but we're already travelling down that road with good intentions.
Next I went to a session about iPads in distance learning and using a bespoke app.  The people involved were working in a peace keeping role in warzones and often did not have access to wifi.  The session was focused on digital literacy skills.
The next session was the FELTAG Open Consultation meeting which involved feedback on the FELTAG workstreams.  FELTAG is the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group which was set up by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to find out how the FE sector could embrace different learning technologies. It aims to focus on the practicalities of working with students and employers.  There was an opportunity for people in the audience to make suggestions about the areas that the work should focus on - these included capturing innovation, examples of best practice, guided learning hours, funding (SFA), transforming and digitising the enrolment system. 
There is a review of the session and the conference which can be downloaded from
The evening involved the reception for new ALT members which was well attended and is very valuable.  I think that there was more new attendees at the conference than previous years and hopefully they were also new ALT members.  It is important to provide a networking opportunity for new people as well as current members and to ensure that the conference is a positive experience for all delegates.

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