Tag Archives: ALTC2011

ALT-C Review Part 3: Fragments

The rest of ALT-C 2011, a collection of fragmentary notes.

3 days of conference and 2 nights of insufficient sleep = hazy recollections.

The ALT Games & Learning Special Interest Group had cake, and are going to recommend a game of the month to go with a monthly reading group.The group is open to all alt members, and we welcomed a few new members who are very new to this research area – all aboard!

Flexible service delivery uses words like ‘enterprise’ a lot. This stuff is really really important. Unfortunately I think few people in the audience were likely in any position to have any impact on their institution at the level presented here. Sorry Alex and other JISC folk – this was just too removed from my role.

Day 2 lunch had some really good food. I liked the lamb, but perhaps some more thought could have gone into provision of some kind of eating implement?

Karen Cator presented an optimistic and hopeful view of technology helping to drive change and improvement in American education. But with a fragmented system over 50 largely independant states, with public, charter and home schooling, with anti-union actions dominating the education debate in the US more say than anything that is actually to do with education, etc. the challenges are certainly substantial.

If John Cook wore glasses would he get mistaken for Vic Reeves?

Sponsor sessions are very worthwhile. They are to be greatly thanked for supporting the event, and provide a good opportunity to catch up with email.

In Yorkshire, they smoke salmon somewhere inland, miles from the coast.

If you think you have trouble getting staff and students to use technology effectively, try Bhutan.

Sometimes when giving a demo, you really just have to ‘present’ the demo – hands-on is nice, but not always practical.

John Naughton showed that you *can* deliver an engaging keynote, even if you are just reading your speech from your iPad. I suspect that this relies on having the right speech style and especially on preparing a good speech. A good closing keynote is a good time for reflection on what has been happening – and to let the audience try to identify the patterns of change likely to emerge moving forward.

Final view of alt-c 2011Sugata Mitra makes some closing remarks. Apologies to Chris Wilson (whoever he is).

Quiet carriage on the way back – at least as noisy as the non-quiet coaches. Other than no phones. Don’t really see the point.

ALT-C Review Part 2: Recommendations

Relevant recommendations I picked up or gave out during the conference:

  • Exhibit from MIT. (wrap anything online into a learning object)
  • Moodle. Moodle. Moodle. (Enough said)
  • Peerwise (let students write the questions)
  • PollEverywhere (forget those bespoke audience response systems)

Irrelevant recommendations I picked up or gave out during the gala dinner:

Petra Haden sings The Who Sell Out is the definitive version of the album. (Pete Townsend is a fan, btw)
Also listen to: Randolph’s Leap, Bear Bones, The Banana Sessions, Kitty the Lion and Burns Unit. (To which I’ll now add Zoey Van Goey).
Mystery Men (The best superhero film ever???)
Star Wars Uncut – The awesome/awful and everything in between crowdsourced remake of the original Star Wars film. In 15 second segments.

ALT-C Review Part 1: Open Country

Open and OER were very big topics this year – coming up across multiple sessions. From what I saw primarily stories around how course teams produced OER and/or shared OER – not so much on how OER was brought into individidual courses or brought into institutional practice.
The Open Country session with Amber Thomas, David White, Helen Beetham and David Kernohan brought together many of the themes and ideas being discussed around OER – while stretching the ‘Open Country’ theme almost to breaking point – the first ALT-C cosplay? Perhaps not the last…

ALTC 2011 Hoedown

Discussion generally focussed on OER as content – though Diana Laurillard’s question effectively reminded us that OER also includes instructional designs, teaching plans, and so on – she placed more emphasis on how content is used to provide ‘education’. I guess her motivation in asking this question is essentially that which has driven work in systems like LAMS which aim to make it easier to plan, manage and share sets of learning activities for specific lessons.
But I think to dismiss content-focussed as effectively libraries rather than schools denies how useful libraries can be in helping develop educational programs. The libraries of images on Wikimedia Commons, videos on YouTube, detail on Wikipedia, etc. have helped me develop numerous sets of lectures and notes over the past while.

On passing the JORUM stand, I added another star to the feature request chart to the many already placed on ‘discoverability’. It seemed to be the clear winner by Tuesday lunch time – obviously I’m not the only tutor who has found searching for useful resources on JORUM to be a frustrating (I would say hostile) experience. And when I search JORUM I only get access to the relatively small amount of content on that particular repository – why isn’t this stuff indexed on the OERCommons? Because we want to force people to waste time wandering from repository to repository?

Building on this, my own (unasked – perhaps for next year) question is whether we could/should be thinking more about how learners, rather than educators, might find useful resources. We aren’t always doing a good job helping the latter group, perhaps if we focus on how the learners themselves would find the resources we might do a better job. If I post my content on a blog or other dedicated site, is that better or worse for promoting reuse? Basically, can we just throw stuff online and trust in Google to let people find it?

This might not sound effective, my own experience shows otherwise. During the last academic session I posted some of my own notes on 3D graphics programming to a dedicated blog I created for the purpose on wordpress.com. These are fairly fragmentary as much of the course is based on textbooks and materials that are in copyright. One set of notes to help students install the software libraries required was also posted to scribd, with a link included to download some related files. Less than a year later, there have been almost 7000 views of the Scribd document and well over 1000 downloads of the files. I don’t think my 50 students could have been responsible for too many of these downloads.

Are students finding these notes using Google? Are instructors pointing the students to the notes? Does it matter? If I had posted the material on JORUM Would I have achieved the same impact (I doubt it!)? If I had posted this material on JORUM as well as the blog would that have increased the impact?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I have my suspicions. None of this is to argue that we shouldn’t have repositories like JORUM are useless, but I it poses fundamental questions over how they should work.

To post stuff online we need somewhere to post it. Online cloud services are not always suitable – file size limits, registration requirements, subscription fees, etc. can pose problems that OER repositories can and do solve. But experience shows that the meta-data capture on systems like JORUM is either not up to job of supporting discoverability or that people are simply incapable of entering useful meta-data. Maybe we should forget that, and just expose the contents to the search engines, because I have little faith that we can do better than Google.