ALT-C 2010: Personal highlights

A 4am start the morning after the ALT-C Gala Dinner isn’t what i’d have hoped for (on the way to another event), but on the plus side it does mean there’s some time for bleary-eyed train reflection on what has been a fantastic conference…

ALT-C montage

Where to begin? Well, I could start with Donald Clark’s provocative opening keynote, which certainly caused a bit of a stir. It must be disconcerting for a speaker to visit a conference hashtag (or ‘harshtag’) and realise that they haven’t been received quite so warmly as they may have hoped – brings to mind danah boyd’s heartwrenching post about her experiences at Web 2.0 expo, although i’m guessing the ALT-C crowd would empathise with danah, and bar the immediacy of the twitter back-channel (which wasn’t shown on the screen during the ALT-C keynote) the Web 2.0 expo/ALT-C audiences probably had different expectations and experiences of the speaker’s overall thesis. Luckily the other keynotes didn’t suffer the same fate, including our very own Salford Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, who really impressed the audience with his realistic and informed perspective on new technologies, the codification of knowledge and what this might mean for formal university education.

So, what were my personal highlights? Top of list has to be Cristina Costa winning the Learning Technologist of the Year award! Richly deserved, as Cristina is a passionate, motivated (and motivating) practitioner with a revolutionary perspective on learning and teaching who consistently makes a difference both at an individual and institutional level – not just nationally but internationally. Ok so that all sounds rather formal, so I’ll also add: she’s a very dear friend and I love her to bits!

Next on the list has to be Dave White’s invited talk where he reflected on the HEFCE Task Force Learning Report which he has been working on for the past 6 months – Dave absolutely nailed it. An accomplished presenter, Dave has the ability to take a deeply reflective meta-perspective of complex issues and put them across in a way which is inspiring and engaging (no mean feat when you’re dealing with material which could be considered rather dry in its conventional form). The presentation is available to watch here. Congratulations also to Dave and his team for winning the award for LT Team of the Year (which explains why he wasn’t sitting with us on the naughty table at the gala dinner… heh)

On the subject of awards, I’m going to have to also mention the ALT Epigeum award for the Most Effective Use of Video in Education, because I was one of the finalists! Hugely chuffed about this, as my work is so different from the usual stuff – I’ve been looking at the generative constraints of mobile phone film-making as a transformative pedagogic tool/learning through discontinuity: learner-generated content (full-on ‘Edupunk’, for want of a better term) as opposed to learning objects, so to have this recognised by ALT Epigeum was absolutely brilliant. Thanks to Frances Bell for her support on this – and also congratulations to David Read who was the overall winner!

The mobile phone/generative constraints/learning through discontinuity work took up most of my time at the conference, as I presented my work in one (longer) session – then another (as an award finalist) – and then finally in our Guerilla Narratives workshop, the ‘our’ being Frances Bell, Josie Fraser, and James Clay. Josie gave us a whistle-stop tour of geolocation services while Frances demonstrated a couple of her own digital creations (if you haven’t seen the “Sisi Kate Groups and Networks” video, you must, esp. From 5min 40 – ring any bells?). Awesome session, happily chaotic but all participants really entered into the spirit of it and worked in teams to produce snapshots of learning activities and ideas using their mobile phones. We were slightly overwhelmed by the number of attendees, expecting 20/25 but over 70 people turned up, which meant that not every group had chance to present their creations, although they are now available on the session wiki – thanks everybody!

On the subject of large numbers, one of the most impressive proceedings presentations I saw explored the use of Flip camcorders to enhance learning with large cohorts. Elisabeth Dunne, Laura Taylor, and Karen Leslie demonstrated their use of Flip cameras which resulted in a personalised learning experience for 400 students – yes, 400! As an exercise in peer learning, managed by students, this was really inspirational; I’ll definitely be consulting them about their methods, as it’s rare to find such effective large cohort teaching.

Finally, the stand-out session was undoubtedly Sugata Mitra’s keynote where he presented his work which started with the Hole in the Wall experiments (amazing – see here for earlier post in 2007 when he presented at Online Educa Berlin), and has now expanded, both demographically and geographically. This is a striking example of the journey of human discovery, and Sugata’s work is becoming legendary although like all great discoveries the answers lead to more questions… Really exciting work; when I see Sugata present I feel incredibly lucky to be working in TEL – it’s a magical space…

… which leads on to ALT-C itself: as the leading organisation for Learning Technology in the UK, ALT plays a key role in nurturing the community and the annual conference is becoming an unmissable event – not only professionally, but personally. It’s always fantastic to get together with old friends and to meet others f2f for the first time (Twitter: so much to answer for.. ) and I always leave the conference with mixed feelings: elated, and yet sad at having to say goodbye…

Just as I finish typing this my train is pulling into St Pancras – another day, another conference: The Media Festival Arts. But ALT-C, you are my first love…

(Conference pics on Flickr)

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3 thoughts on “ALT-C 2010: Personal highlights

  1. oh WOW – the feeling/admiration is mutual and I’m so, so happy to have you not only as colleagues but also as a friend. I must say that your presentation about user generated video was one of the most impressive ones of the whole event. Not only did you present it with passion, you challenged everyone to re-think video as a learning tool. It was the most incredible use of video I have seen so far. I have another post coming soon about ALT-C and that is definitely one of the issue I want to address. Your projects are genuinely innovative , exciting and motivating, if for nothing else because you go as further as challenging yourself before even challenging your students and that is a great recipe. Thanks for plotting the way to new learning landscapes.
    Alas, someone who uses video in a real dynamic away. Sick and tired of being presented with pavlovian video version. We have done that in the 80s with videos tapes. It’s about time we moved in a real human interactive direction.
    This to complement your post. 😉 bjs (that’s short for beijinhos – you might find it in google – a very PT greeting 😉 )

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention ALT-C 2010: Personal highlights | Heloukee: EdTech and Digital Culture -- Topsy.com

  3. Good post Helen – I like to read the differing views of something I attended. There has been some interesting discussion of the Clark keynote in the last week, not least at his blog, that is moving away from the lecture is good/bad binary. I just posted a comment there but it’s still under moderation.
    For me, one of the good practices modelled at ALT is academics working productively with full-time learning technologists – what I enjoy at Salford with Cristina Costa and Peter Whitton, based on mutual respect.
    It’s good of you to acknowledge my tiny encouragement, just a byproduct of our own good working relationship;) but the real kudos is that you managed to get acknowledgement for can do student use of video.

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