Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Event report: ALT-C 2012 - A First Time Delegate

I’d been wanting to attend the ALT-C Conference for the past few years - and this time actually made it - and was presenting a short paper!  I’d heard great things about the conference from previous years and now was the opportunity to experience it for real.  I attended on Tuesday and Thursday.

The University of Manchester
Venue
Hosted by the University of Manchester it was easy to get there from Sheffield and attendees came from a variety of places both across the UK and internationally.  As the conference was hosted mainly in one building it was very easy to switch between sessions and make good use of the break-time for meeting new people (and drinking coffee).

Welcoming Address and Keynote
The welcoming address and keynote opening keynote provided many thoughtful ideas.  Nancy Rothwell implied that students would prefer online content as an addition to face-to-face contact, rather than a total replacement.  Eric Mazur took us all on on a journey about understanding, attention levels and the perils of explaining concepts in didactic lectures.  Apparently students’ brains are more active when asleep then when attending lectures!  The solution to this: time for thought, interactivity active questioning and participation.  Also touched on the idea that being confused is not mutually-exclusive to understanding something better.  Those students that feel confused are often more engaged and have a better understanding of concepts than those that think they know and consider themselves not confused.  Confusing - but makes sense!


Sessions
There were so many sessions to attend  - but I was able to plan in advance using the live timetable on Crowdvine.  I decided not to follow a theme - but pick based on interest - hoping to sample a broad range of themes and issues.

Disruptive Technologies in Higher Education proceedings paper in the Problem Solving Research Session provided a great overview of the current relationship between higher education and technology: Highlighting the difference between sustaining technologies (enhancing existing provision) versus disruptive technologies (replacing and change to a different system).

Directly following this was a paper on Preparing the foundations for video-based practice-placement support: establishing the role from a students’ perspective.  This explored the issues over providing support to students on placement via video conferencing.  Main point to come out was that this is a great way of providing support to students but with potential issues over the amount of emotional support that could be given if a student was struggling or upset if this was the only support available.  What if the student was ‘hiding’ the true extent of problems?  All issues to be considered.

Pecha Kucha are one/two words that I still have trouble saying correctly!  Attending PK Session 2 was a whirlwind - with so many great presentations.  For me, the stand-out one was given by Lindsay Jordan about getting students on an Initial Teacher Training Course excited and engaged with technology.  Initially apprehensive, students were asked to produce video work for assessment.  After quite a lot of struggling the end results were not only amazing but the students, now as teachers, have gone on to inspire their students in the use of technology and video. Lindsay was dressed as a miner all the way through - to exemplify the ethos that it can be hard or embarrassing to do something - but it gets you positive attention and can produce great results.


Screenshot of Study Day Presentation
On Thursday morning Extending opportunities for life-long learning in a digital age was a workshop looking at issues between programmes, institutions and employers in enabling lifelong learning.  For me the main point coming out was how the rigidity of institutions are often a barrier to enabling innovative programmes.  In order to provide a good experience the devil was in the detail of getting systems working, or alternatives setup in order to provide courses and resources for workplaces or individuals outside the ‘usual’ context of college or university.

Experience of Presenting
Presenting my short paper about An experience of adapting to the changing reality of study-day based education was an excellent experience.  The audience were warm and had many questions after the paper - and the facilities which were available to present were great.  The presentations by Teresa Mackinnon and Robert Farmer were also food for thought and covered similar issues. A great atmosphere was created within the session.


Richard Noss giving the closing plenary
Conclusion
On reflection the conference was a great experience!  Not so large it was totally overwhelming, but big enough to meet plenty of new people and new ideas.  The breadth of the sessions and topics covered both highlighted the wide areas and issues that learning technology touches upon but also the collective approaches, discussions and focus that are ongoing.  Looking forward and hoping to going to ALT-C 2013 at Nottingham.


James Little. 


Further Links
Storyify: ALT-C 2012 sfy.co/n93l
Paper I presented available on Crowdvine site: altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28056

ALT Conference Website http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/

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