Wednesday, 9 September 2009

ALT-C Day one - afternoon

Well day one at ALT-C was interesting and for the most part engaging. Wish my eeepc (borrowed from work) had lasted the distance though. I didn’t use it for a couple of sessions so the power was saved for the last session of the day on Twitter in teaching but the battery still died before the end. Difficult to do a practical Twitter session with no technology. There is definitely a lack of plug in points for delegates to charge up their devices and given that this is a conference focusing on and actively encouraging the use of technology and that I wasn’t the only one tweeting about failing batteries that is a great shame. My only other complaint is the lack of suitable rooms for practical workshops. A workshop on twitter really ought to happen in an IT suite so that those delegates who don’t have netbooks, or iphones or whatever can take an active part in the session. Mind you given how many people attended the Twitter session I’m not sure there would have been an IT suite big enough to accommodate us all.

That said I enjoyed the Twitter session and it stimulated lots of questions and discussion, particularly for those in the room who hadn’t really used Twitter much before. Personally I had but it was good to see what others were saying and to start thinking about how we could practically use this tool for teaching and learning.

Before that session I attended a very interesting session looking at the challenges of online learning for some students. The group in question were from a university in Canada, were a diverse group, average age 39 and they had a mixture of face to face and online learning. The course started with online input followed by an intensive 3 week face to face period. Then it was back to online. This was the point at which 15% of the students were lost – the approach was taken to look at why the students who stayed with the course did rather than look at why the others left. I thought this was a positive way to approach things. The students who stayed highlighted 4 areas that helped them get through; presence, review and reflect, social context and skill set and they were also asked what tools could be provided that may have helped them more in their blended learning.

The things that came up were:
Presence – video conferencing, audio, webinars
Review and reflect – video clips, powerpoint
Social context – discussion areas, asynchronous and synchronous tools
Skill set – train faculty on the use of online technology and pedagogy

The first session I attended after lunch (yes I know I’m doing this backwards) was on collaboration in the free world. This unfortunately was disappointing. The room was not great for a workshop environment (lecture theatre style) and although it started off well as a workshop and promised lots – we were going to do collaboration without the technology but using the principles of the technology – it descended into just a discussion so maybe would have been better as a symposium rather than a workshop. We began by using pieces of paper to introduce ourselves as though on Twitter, we then swapped papers and noted down people we wanted to follow – this was a way to engage in a room where there were few people with laptops etc and so got everyone involved. The presenters used the whiteboard to create three areas – expectations, social space and conclusions. The social space was supposed to be our wiki and though they said anyone could get up and write on the board during the session, this didn’t happen, I think mainly because we were all trapped in a lecture style environment and also because we were unsure what to contribute – this was a shame because this could have been a really useful way to demonstrate the collaborative elements of a wiki in a physical way. I think others in the group maybe got more out of the discussion than I did, I hope so. The presenters seemed quite happy with the way things turned out

Will update on the morning session later, it's 80% written

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