Wednesday 19 September 2012

ALT-C 2012 Tuesday

I'm on the train home from Edinburgh and I decided to catch up on my blogs and to post about the ALT conference. I can find most of my notes which are sort of random anyhow but not all so this is mainly my recollections and the parts of the conference that I found interesting. There is actually no point giving a detailed account of the keynotes / presentations / sessions as many can be downloaded from the ALT website.
The conference was held at the University of Manchester conference venue which is a good venue I think because it's all in one building (no need to go out in rain), comfortable seating in main theatre and other rooms and good facilities. The dining hall was slightly squashed because of the number of people but still very good and much better than those awful buffets at some conferences when you have to balance your food, drink and papers / laptop while standing in the middle of a crowded hall.
The opening keynote was by Eric Mazur and I got there just after it had started. This was quite opportune as I like sitting at the back out of the way.
There will be a link to the keynote speech from the ALT website.
The main points that I took away were that just by putting a lecture online doesn't make it a better lecture (i know this is obvious but still worth stating). That you need to let your mind wander to make connections - learners need speed bumps for questioning. According to Mazur there is an anti correlation between understanding and stated level of confusion. Confusion is part of the learning process. My worry with this would be that you have to be quite confident to 'embrace confusion' - would it only appeal to academic study and those learners who have the time and the inclination to work themselves through the confusion to reach understanding. It would also require a lot of support to reassure students that confusion is cool.
I then went to an invited speakers session. The first speaker was James Clay from Gloucestershire College. He spoke about the use of tablets And how they were originally primarily used as consumption devices as part of the journey to information. It is difficult for learners to cope with the vast amount of information that is available so this has to be taken into account when considering the type of device. The use of tablets has evolved for use as creation devices and as a means of interaction.
But now we are at the analysis stage - now is the time to consider why we want to use tablets? Is it really important to learning or is it cos its shiney?
Do we need to do any more pilots about using iPads - why do we not learn from the research of others? This applies to lots of other learning technologies. We need to look at both pedagogy and technology (not just pedagogy and not just technology). I agree with this as it is obviously most important to consider the pedagogy and learning but one of the great appeals of learning technology is the technology, the device, the actual wow factor of a item that can do loads of amazing and zany things......Its a great way to engage people of all ages.
James went onto say that tablets will evolve, they won't just replicate or duplicate. Netbooks are an example of how things change quickly. ( i don't think there is anything wrong with netbooks although when there was a show of hands as to who used a netbook lots of people didn't put their hands up - perhaps everyone wants to be cool with a tablet). Its all about choice - for students and teachers and practitioners - the choice between using your own or an institutions device Context is important to learners - no point having a iPad / tablet / eReader if no signal or broadband etc. Finally James asked - But how do you hurry up research? Are we always playing catch up? But this is easier said than done. Its not always possible not to do a pilot. You're more likely to get the go ahead for a big project if you do a pilot - and no matter how many examples you give of other places doing pilots you still have to give it a go yourself. I agree in practice it would be better to move on to the next thing and miss out the finding out and testing for yourself but its not always possible.
He mentioned another point that was also mentioned by other people later in the conference which was that we should belooking to the future and concentrating in the things that are to come not the things that are happening now.
The next speaker Aaron Sloman talking about computational thinking. I enjoy listening to speakers who are very knowledgeable and sure about their views but not in a boastful, confrontational, way. This is presentation was a good example of this and how it is essential in order to understand the world for students and everyone to be able to engage in computational thinking. It was also a good example of a speaker not being phased when the technology doesn't work and who carries on regardless. (although i was slightly disappointed that in a venue with hundreds of technologists it was possible to get his laptop working).
He also talked about squirrels, nuts and patio windows (you had to be there......)
Life is primarily information processing.
If you want to understand learning, then build machines that learn.
Lunch was good - lamb tagine and couscous :)
Then I went to some short papers presentations.
PARiS sharing educational resources - oer@Nottingham University.  They use Xerte, Xpert, YouTube Education and iTunesU.  They use existing and new resources and modules. They have found plenty of content by collecting third party OER. There needs to be some value for the University so they make it part of the Nottingham Advantage Award.  Copyright does present problems and they have to explain to people what and how to use.  Mobile playlists are a useful way of collecting resources by theme as they allow users to subscribe and get greater value out of more resources.
Engaging with OER in Oxford was presented by Marion Manton.  The end of book boxes.  Sesame project.
The challenges are that academics are 'clueless' about copyright and open licensing.  identify easy wins i.e. get them to use 3rd party materials first then their own.

At this point, as you have probably realised, I realised that although I took lots of notes I haven't had a chance to turn them all into a coherent blog post.  Therefore for the blogs for the next two days I'm going to list some bullet points of the presentations, speakers and other happenings that I found the most interesting.

A few other things happened on the Tuesday that are worth noting.

I went along to a meeting of the ALT Scotland Special Interest Group which was very interesting and I'm looking forward to being part of that.

Secondly there was a new members reception which was very nice as it's good to meet new ALT people and tell them how great ALT is and also there was Pimms......

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