ALT-C 2009 Day Two Roundup

Pedagogic Innovation

I didn’t really see much pedagogic innovation (boy, that phrase is difficult to type on an eeepc 1000 keyboard on a rocking train), but there were a few nice things.

QR codes. I can’t see our lecturers using them in lectures to relay information to students, but the idea of a library book/journal/etc search spitting out a QR code is interesting. Student can then snap it with their mobile, walk to the shelf with all the info they need and more converted into text form on their phone. No need to scibble down location onto a scrap of paper.

Visitor/Resident principle. Kinda like Prensky’s Native/Immigrant idea, but trying to get around the negative connotations of being a digital ‘immigrant’, trying to separate it from being a generational thing. There still seems, to me, to be connotations that being a resident is better than being a visitor, but that’s my own bias, seeing myself as a resident. This distinction however isn’t about competency, but about the use one makes of online systems. You could be as ‘power-user’ fully knowledgeable aboutt using online systems etc, and dip in and out where necessary to ‘get the job done’ without maintaining an online persona, without ‘leaving something of yourself behind’ in the sense that a resident does.

But what’s the point? It isn’t about identifying yourself and feeling smug if you fall into the bracket you wanted to be in, and them pitying those that fall into the other. The point is to identify and categorise your students, your target audience, and make sure thst they way in which you present your learning doesn’t exclude them. If they’re all residents, that would allow you to embrace, perhaps, a different teaching style. if you have a half/half audience, that doesn’t necessarily exclude you from a new style, as long as there is sufficient differentiation to benefit all, and you ensure your implemntation doesn’t exclude anyone. If you’re looking for me to tell you how, tough luck.

The paper (271) on flexible working (nothing to do with gymnasts) seemed more like a sales pitch for the beyond9to5 ‘platform’, I wasn’t too impressed with the paper. Though I should make sure I am on record saying I fully support the principle and ideals of flexible working. If we want to embrace the new technologies to teach in new more flexible ways, what’s stopping us working in new flexible ways? Nothing.

Being the fourth paper of the session, I may have been in fatigue-land. Something about drawing pictures, pencil on paper, in order to design stuff. Truly rocket science!

Redesigning Teaching

No Frankenstein-monsters being created by grafting technology and teacher together, although making a campus fully covered by wireless (802.11) and bluetooth sounds like it’ll mutate staff and students (or just insta-cook them!).

But seriously, the little mobile apps zapped out to every phone in the room was pretty cool. Yes we had to be in discovery mode with security off. Yes, we’re naively trusting of the man that told us we could trust him. I seriouslly hope a campus full of students has more sense! If not, they deserve everything they’re going to get from their less scrupulous colleagues.

Tony Lowe’s drag’n’drop apps were also really cool. Needing everyone in the room to have a laptop to participate, I think we’re not there yet for class work. For work at home, awesome. Great tie in to last year’s keynote from ummm.. that guy tottering around on a ladder regurgitating his TED talk, yeah, Hans Rosling.


Martin Bean’s keynote. How to make a keynote fun, take the p out of Americans. No, seriously… yes! Best. Keynote. Ever. (ALT-C 2009 anyway)

I was concerned at Martin’s background working for the great enemy of societ. Yes, I mean Microsoft. An ex-Microsoft guy moving to the OU? Surely a sign that the OU is about to reach singularity, and not in a good way. But once you listen to Martin speak, either he’s a very good Trojan-horse, or his enthusiasm and ideals managed to escape Microsoft unscathed. Freedom of information, or resources, of education. Very inspiring. Best thing I can say is, go watch it for yourself! (I may even remember to come back here and provide a link).

Infrastructure Technologies

Hyperlinked information. And we’re not talking about twenty pages of content neatly linked back and forth. We’re talking aboutsufficient hyperlinking between different bits of information that lets a user choose their own path, rather than have a path chosen for them. Is it really beneficial? Probably not for everyone, possibly for only some. Is it worth going for this approach when designing e-courseware? I find it very difficult to advocate such a seemingly disorganised approach. When it comes to designing e-courseware, should we even be doing so? Or letting students freely search and discover their ownwas materials as suggested elsewhere! educational use

Lecture capture systems, on a large scale, sound grand and appealing. I don’t think there was really anything in that paper that really challenged though, and no reason should. It seems to be working well for them, and I wish we had similar funds to be able to invest in this. What I would take from this, is the approach theyto have two groups, one on raw implementation from the technical perspective, and one one the educational use, to make sure that educational use was being considered at every stage in the wider context without being consumed/distracted by the technical implementation. Of course this does assume that those implementing a project have a clear vision from the educational use group, a vision that isn’t going to change and undo all the worrk of the implementors.

So, finally, Huddle. This was just a sponsor session, trying to flog their product. As such I wasn’t put off it, which I guess is a small victory for them. I wasn’t however wowed by it. Especially in context of so many other sessions where the concept of a single University-owned product is seen as out-dated with a move to a more open approach letting students choose what they want to use.

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