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    ALT-C 2010 Day #2

    So it’s day two of ALT-C here in Nottingham. It’s another very busy day with lots on.

    First up I am going to attend the New Bottles, Old Wine? Symposium.

    Educators have started using popular digital technologies, including mobile phones and media players; social networking sites like Facebook; blogging sites such as Twitter, immersive virtual environments, mainly Second Life; and online gaming platforms such as World of Warcraft and connected mainstream console based games. This is a significant development, a distinct departure from the use of technologies that are purely educational or institutional such as e-portfolios or VLEs, where educators and their institutions control the technology and impose the rules. Where popular digital technologies, are used beyond the walled garden of the institution, other rules have already begun to emerge. These technologies are creating more places and modes that people can inhabit, where communities can form and disband, where ideas, images and information can be produced, stored, shared, tagged, discussed, transmitted and consumed and where diverse expectations have developed about language, humour, posture, taste, fashion, etiquette and behaviour. They are like foreign countries, ones where we take our students or ones where we hope to find students, ones where we must learn the rules, where the inhabitants and communities each have their own ideas of what constitutes ‘identity’, ‘consent’, ‘privacy’, ‘harm’ or ‘risk’. There are no easy ‘for’ and ‘against’ formulations; different technologies are used in different ways with different students and in different contexts. The speakers come from social media, gaming, immersive virtual worlds, mobiles and transnational perspectives. This debate draws on a range of strongly held opinions emerging from within a newly formed HEA SIG exploring the ethics of educational interventions, both teaching, evaluation and research, in popular digital technologies. We hope delegates will join the SIG and continue to be involved as discussions and understandings evolve. We hope to identify important and over-arching issues and approaches for educators, in order to support and protect their students, and to enhance their institutional procedures and inform the development of relevant professional frameworks.

    I think this may be the debate of the conference and certainly one to come to.

    After the coffee break I am helping to run a workshop, Guerilla Narratives of Media, with the wonderful Helen Keegan, Frances Bell and Josie Fraser.

    Mobile devices in educational settings are powerful tools for supporting and recording learning, but have had mixed reactions from students. Some students see educational media such as podcasts as an intrusion into their personal use of technology; others who are given standard mobile devices for a project don’t relate to them as ‘personal’ devices. Staff wishing to harness mobile learning technologies in their productive engagement with students can get distracted by the provision of technologies rather than focusing on learning outcomes. This practical workshop will introduce participants to a range of ideas for using personal technologies to enhance the teaching and learning experience through student-generated content production and geo-location services. The emphasis is on pragmatic and resourceful practice by students and staff in using platform-agnostic media and services to support the learning process. Participants will be introduced to new narratives using the mobile phone as a tool for data recording, media production and content sharing, and emerging web services as means of aggregating content from multiple platforms. Geo-location services will be introduced from the perspective of using hyper-local mobile phone applications in education, in order to give participants an idea of how these techniques could be used more widely in a learning context. Taking a ‘guerilla narrative’ approach to rapid learning design, participants will then work in groups to produce learning activities which take advantage of the devices in students’ pockets. Each group will produce 3 ‘snapshot’ ideas – audio, image and video – for using mobile technologies in the classroom. Using their own mobile phones participants will record their snapshots/ learning activities, producing media artefacts which can then be uploaded and shared with the wider community via the session wiki. By the end of the session participants will: have developed a conceptual understanding of a ‘guerilla EdTech’ approach to activity design; be able to upload media from internet mobile devices to web sites, including geo-location services; have acquired a range of sample media artefacts and learning activities for their students.

    I then intend to listen to David White, who is one of the invited speakers.

    Earlier this year my group at the University of Oxford were commissioned to undertake a study of online learning for the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. Our research showed that the vast majority of online distance learning provided at higher education level is in postgraduate ‘professional’ courses which in these Return-On-Investment times offer an attractive income stream from employers and employees alike. Increasing activity in this area could lead us to believe that we are in danger of generating a parallel ‘training 2.0’ HE sector but the reality is far more complex. Using evidence published in the study, this presentation will explore how the emergent culture of the web is encouraging online students to expect a form of engagement that many in the HE sector have been advocating for years. It will discuss how this is challenging the role of the academic and what strategies institutions are taking to meet the demand for discursive, activity based pedagogies. The presentation will also discuss the need for non STEM disciplines to move online to maintain a balanced representation of the character of our university system in the mêlée of course offerings from around the globe.

    Over lunch it’s time to re-visit the posters before attending the keynote from Sugata Mitra.

    Then I have decided to attend the Meeting changing student expectations session.

    After the ALT General Meeting I will be in the presentation of the Jorum L&T Awards (as I was one of the judges).

    Of course in the evening it is the ALT Gala Dinner, which has a lot to match up to the last two years, which were fantastic.

    2 Responses to “ALT-C 2010 Day #2”

    1. Mark Power says:

      Sounds like a very interesting day, James. I look forward to hearing about it later. I think the issue of how institutions meet students who own and control their own — nowadays powerful — technology, ie. Mobile devices. Up to now I feel that institutions and ‘eLearning’ people have very much forced technology on learners…you must use the VLE, you must use wikis & blogs, you must use this discussion board, etc, etc…

      But now the technology — not just the gadgets and services themselves but how they are used — has evolved to such a state and pace that the traditional educational institution has little hope of controlling and certainly not dictating. For me there now needs to be a more focused view on how to engage and deliver learning and other institutional services to a society that views a smartphone about as amazing as a fridge freezer (it’s just…there). So, ethics? Yeah, it’s important but something I’ll leave to the greater minds than I (ie. Most of you ;) but please, let’s not fall into the usual trap of talking around all the wider and deeper issues so much that the actual practicalities and logistics remain poorly thought through, leading to approaches that are simply “more of the same” — which is why I like the gorilla (nod to Josie there) session looks very worthwhile too.

      M

    2. Mark Power says:

      My grammar and sentences are all over the place there, sorry. I was going to blame it on not being fully awake yet. But that would be cheating ;)

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