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Telling Stories at ELI2010: the Educause Learning Initiative 2010 conference, Texas
by Jackie Carter

In January I was fortunate to attend the Educause Learning Initiative 2010 annual meeting in Austin, Texas. The conference, with a theme of ‘Learning Environments for a Web 2.0 World’, took place over 3 days in downtown Austin. Key speakers were Larry Johnson (New Media Consortium), John G Palfrey (Harvard Law School), William G Thomas (University of Nebraska) and Jeannette Wing (National Science Foundation ). All keynotes and featured speakers were recorded and can be seen and heard again at the Educause mediasite

Rather than repeat all the main issues that were covered throughout the conference, this article highlights a few key session titles to stimulate interest for those with time and curiosity to listen to the talks. Naturally these are based on the interests I had in attending the conference but for a full listing please visit the conference website.

Operating in straightened financial times was a key theme, as was ’going open’ (i.e. sharing content through open licences such as Creative Commons).  Unsurprisingly, the presentation “Doing More with Much Less: Pursuing an Innovative Teaching and Learning Agenda in a Time of Fiscal Austerity” (Edward Kelty, Barron Koralesky and Cole  Camplese) attracted a large crowd , as did “The World is Open: How WE ALL LEARN! With Web Technology” by the author of The World is Open (Prof Curtis Bonk). In his presentation Curtis highlighted  Jorum as an innovative UK initiative for sharing Open Educational Resources.  In their  presentation entitled “Incidental Openness: Exploring Stories of Education in the Open” Allan Gyorke and Cole Camplese from The Pennsylvania State University showcased how open teaching, design and learning has changed practice at grass roots level and demonstrated how this is having an impact across teaching and learning. It is notable that Brian Lamb, University of British Colombia, present at the conference, speaker and proponent of Open Education, is presenting a keynote at the Open Educational Resources International Showcase in London on 23rd July.

The use of the web as a participatory tool was a hot topic. “Rethinking Writing across the curriculum in the Age of the Participatory Web” (Robert Baird, University of Illinois) was a particularly useful session presenting on ‘writing as process, writing as learning, the crafting of diverse writing activities and …. "writing" through thoughtful combinations of video, sound, word.’ This struck a chord with me since, as I will explain later, I am currently exploring how stories can be told to communicate the wide ranging benefits of data services, and the information assets they contain, for learning and teaching.

The role of the library in the e-learning landscape was well represented. I didn’t attend the session ‘Twitter Symbiosis: A Librarian, a Hashtag and a First-year Seminar’ but the tweets flowed copiously during the presentation and continued after the event.

This was probably the most tweeted event I have been to since Twitter became ‘mainstream’. The twapper keeper facility has been used to archive all tweets (tag used was #eli2010). See (currently contains 3623 postings)

The launch of the 2010 Horizon Report (now in its 7th iteration) and Lightning Round is worth a watch for those interested in what’s coming next in the Learning Technologies field ( Malcolm Brown, Director of Educause Learning Initiative (ELI), gave an overview of the key challenges emerging from this report:  the changing role of the academy; new forms of scholarship challenging old standards; digital media literacy as a new key skills; and fiscal challenges. Larry Johnson then officially unveiled the report followed by two presenters talking about emerging technologies as highlighted in the report under the heading ‘Technologies to Watch’:Time to Adoption: One Year or Less

  • Mobile Computing (14 minutes) and Open Content/Open Education (16.56 minutes) in which the UK OTTER project got a screenshot (17:45) and OpenLearn’s Learning Space (18:06) (which I tweeted excitedly about).
  • Time to Adoption: Two to Three Years: E-books (19:08) and Simple Augmented Reality (21:20). Given that the presenters spent slightly longer on augmented reality than on e-books you can glean where their interest lies in the next phase of technology; admittedly there seems to be a lot happening in this area but how it becomes embedded in the educational landscape remains to be seen.
  • Time to Adoption: Four to Five years: Gesture Based Computing (25.35) and Visual Data Analysis (28 minutes). Having had a long term interest in visualization of data this last one is especially interesting – though I do find it curious that this is on the Four to Five years horizon when it’s been achievable for some time now. The focus does however appear to be more on how the web can be used to unearth patterns in data that has previously been the preserve of statisticians and scientists who had the tools and techniques to do this.

The conference is a highly interactive, inclusive and participative event. I first attended in 2009 and found it all a little overwhelming, but this time round it was a better experience and hugely rewarding; as I tweeted at the time, it was possibly the best conference I had attended. Naturally there is a US focus but there were attendees present from across the globe. The audience comprised faculty (39%), IT staff (27%), library (7%), CIO/Dean/Senior administrator (6%), Corporate (7%) and Other (14%). In many ways it’s similar to the ALT conference in terms of its remit, but it does seem to attract more educators.

One of the really useful outcomes of the conference is the opportunity to try out next technologies in a supportive environment.  There is insufficient space here to detail what these were, but the conference format supports ‘Experience It’ sessions, Lightning round introductions and Learning Circles,all of which work extremely well (see for further details). Some are oversubscribed (the Google Wave one for example) and the organisers are looking at ways of avoiding this for future events. The Poster and Project Briefing Sessions were also incredibly well attended; indeed participants went out of their way to support these.

And so cue why I was there. in 2009 I gave a poster presentation with a colleague Nicola Siminson on 'Supporting the Nation’s Learning and Teaching in the UK: What Works?'. In 2009 I undertook a project which sought to reveal how social science data is being used in teaching and learning to address the issue of low skills levels in quantitative methods undergraduate level in UK social science. The session I presented at ELI2010 looked at the early findings from this work, which I called ‘Learning and Teaching: Telling Stories about and with Data (Research –based)’ . The Learning and Teaching Telling Stories project collates the experience of attempts to upskill students in data and its discipline-related usage, and it provides an illustration of educational practice at both disciplinary and national levels. The case studies or narratives provide details of attempts to make learning and teaching about data a less passive experience through having interviewed teachers who use data in their undergraduate and taught post graduate courses. The work was carried out in consultation with Sara Currier and we hope to be co-presenting this at the ALTC2010 event in September.

The poster elicited a positive reaction and I was invited to give a presentation at the Coalition for Networked Information Spring Meeting in April 2010 (Real Data, Real World, Real Stories) and again at the JISC/CNI event in Edinburgh in July. Building on this work I am hoping to present again at ELI2011 on the use of narrative through digital storytelling to highlight impact on the learning experience for student using national data services and how this helps with skills for employability. In other words I will be continuing to tell stories.

Dr Jackie Carter
Senior Manager: Learning and Teaching and Social Science Data Services
of Manchester

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