Day 3 at the PELeCON was short, yet nonetheless inspiring.
I really liked Miles Berry‘s presentation and his demonstration of how he used blogs and portfolios to increase the interaction between the students following the course. The fact that he customized Drupal, with an interface that encourages writing and reflecting seems to me an important step in the right direction. At my University, we have adopted Moodle but unfortunately I believe that the way it is structured leaves very little room for interaction and collaboration. It is true that lecturers can indeed use its discussion boards, but the last time I tried to use both its supported blog and wiki, they were a mess and far from providing a user-friendly interface, the whole layout was not good. Same can be said for the portfolio block which somehow has never been enabled. Ah well… Miles did a good thing, he very simple set up his own Drupal interface and that might be worth exploring for some of my future courses.
Speaking about my own teaching, I have left the conference, pretty excited to try out some stuff with my own classes. One thing which I have noticed which some keynote speakers have done in practice was the merging of Twitter in their presentations. Alec Couros auto-tweeted from his slides, Steve Bunce used a tool – Socrative – which I thought was quite wonderful to create real time class-based interactions, including question-answer as well as real time voting by the participants. I thought it quite cool actually. Jane Hart used Twitter in her presentations, asking questions to the audience and projecting the responses on the screen inside her presentation; another cool tool.
Twitter visualizations were on for most of the time in Lecture Theatre 1. I think that although this was quite good, it did prove to be a bit of a distraction at times, when the speaker was talking. However I think it would have been great if such a visualization tool was actually on during the final plenary, as it would have been interesting to check out the thoughts, and the discussion points which were going around.
Liz Bennet gave some interesting insights into the emerging technologies as well as the Transformative Learning Theory, which I had never come across and which I find extremely interesting to dig into, a bit more deeply (no pun intended!).
Leigh Graves Wolf made us play. It was great fun actually and interesting to see how people could create so many interesting pelicans from the bits and pieces of scrap which she gave us. I still though cannot make any head or tail of my own pelican, but it was fun.
She also illustrated an interesting project, which is the one snapshot a day project, where a guy decided to take one snapshot of the creation of a skull, every day for a year and finally see a transformation of his own thoughts and experiences throughout the year. I think this would be a really great project that one can take up with kids, even young primary school children as they delve more deeply into a specific theme.
Beyond that, it was also really interesting that after one follows so many people who are doing such great stuff for learning, one can finally sit back and enjoy their talks face-to-face. Jane Hart was one such example. Jane Hart is very well known for Social Learning in the Workplace, but her Directory of Learning Tools is one of the most visited and used directories in this field. I have to say that it is one of the first links for reference which I provide to my students as soon as I have my first lecture with them. Jane Hart spoke a lot about enterprise learning, and the smart worker, but I believe that much of what she said and described can easily be applied to Higher Education. The importance of creating engagement in learning is opposite to complacency and compliance. Unfortunately what most of our schools seek to achieve is precisely that – conformance to rules; quite sadly I have to add. Governments and other people who hold power, may think twice about the importance of maintaining control through a complacent society – Economy – global economy – very clearly – is indicating that what society needs are people who are creative, who have initiative and who have absolute control over their learning achievements. This came out clearly from, I believe, all the keynotes who were present. It’s a pity that decision makers were not present to hear what these people have to say. But decision-makers so rarely are willing to listen, aren’t they?
Anyway so the conference drew to an end – there was a short plenary discussion during which, and in the course of discussion, I made up my mind, that when I get back, I will buy my soon-to-be three-year old son a camera. I want to see the world through his eyes and be part of his learning experiences. It’s one of the beautiful and fun moments in life worth sharing. A colleague had already sold me on to the idea, but after this conference I am excited to give him this gift for learning. During the prize draw there were a number of cool prizes, amongst which the new iPad, a 3G Kindle and others. I wasn’t one of the luckier ones, but then again, there will be an opportunity next year. I am already booking the dates for next year’s PELeCON – April 10-12, 2013. Thanks to Steve Wheeler and all his team at Plymouth for these three very inspirational days!