educational technology

ThoughtFest 09

Last week I was fortunate to be one of the attendees at the fantastic Thought Fest 2009 conference, held at the University of Salford’s Think Lab. Organised by organized by Pontydysgu with the support of the JISC Evolve network and the European Mature-IP project, the event attracted top class learning technology researchers and practitioners from across Europe. Potential attendees pitched for place prior to the event, submitting their ideas for outline sessions – Dave White from Oxford University & I formed a digital literacy tag team and were lucky enough to snaffle two of the highly prized places.

About 30 delegates (most of whom are on Twitter) attended the two day event designed to bring together researchers in Technology Enhanced Learning in an open forum to debate the current issues surrounding educational technologies. Within a semi-structured (and pretty mobile) framework that was negotiated by delegates, we particularly focused on theory into practice: how and where research impacts on practice and where practice drives research.

The whole event was excellent, but I’ll share some of my highlights.

Our (the red) team came a respectable third in the diabolically evil ViolaQuest, which was masterminded by Nicola Whitton and Rosie Jones, a couple of the UK’s leading Alternative Reality Game (ARG) researchers and designers. The game involved unraveling mainly geographic and environmental clues. They also managed to include the Emerge bearded lady meme:

Josie beard
Photo credit: Rozberry redteam

There were some great show and discuss sessions, including Maria Perifanou on using Wikiquests in language Learning, Pat Parslow on Digital ID & Kathrin Kaufhold on the Awesome project.

I missed out on Jen Hughes’s digital cartoon workshop, taking part instead in the podcasting workshop led by Andreas Auwärter. Dave & I picked the travelogue assignment, and produced a gonzo journalism piece on The Salford Lift Experience, inspired in part by out experience of the Maxwell Building lifts. Unfortunately, half of this masterpiece was lost to the random gods of audio, so the world will never hear Dave’s very informative description of the up and down buttons, nor believe there was a student who felt the lift experience in Salford had drastically improved over the last two years, various other lift based interviews or the toilet on the stairwell incident. For those of you who can be bothered, the last part is here:

Listen to The Salford Lift Experience

There were some excellent recordings produced on the day, notably a advert for online identity management cleaning services, which I’ll link to as soon as they go up.

The award for most awesome presentation has to go however to the SAPO campus team, who will be rolling out the worlds first institution wide supported PLE this September. You can see their presentation slides here. Basically, The University of Aveiro are moving away from the managed learning system model and providing a supported Personal Learning Environment (PLE) service linking in University functionality with member selected and supported web 2.0 distributed activity. Why is this amazing? The global edtech community have been talking about how institutions can engage with learner-centered PLEs for a while now, but Aveiro and the SAPO team are putting it into practice. Campus wide. In September. You can find out more and ask questions over at the Though Fest site.

Sapo campus

17 December 2006: The Edublog Awards, online

Edublogaward_1This was the third year of the international awards, and the second that I ran. I was delighted to see a massive increase in nominations, and a greater diversity in the countries and languages of nominees and finalists.

The Eddies are a community-based awards programme designed to recognise and promote excellence in the educational use of blogging and related software. This was my introduction to this years programme:

As the reality and potential of distributed learning and distributed learner identities and communities are increasingly acknowledged, articulated and understood, education moves further towards facilitating truly learner-centred and leaner driven environments.

A lot has changed in the world of educational technology since this time last year. The continuing rise and mainstreaming of easy to use network-as-platform applications, and increasing access to affordable online speed and space, have seen the continued expansion of users of all ages creating and communicating online.

Learners and educators still however face difficult issues around network restrictions, around data protection and ownership, and around commercial protectionism. This year has also seen a marked increase in hostility towards social networking sites in the US, demonstrating a widespread lack of appreciation of the informal and formal educational value of user-centred applications.

The Edublog awards are more relevant than ever in this climate – a space for us to refocus the debate surrounding young peoples use of technology as irresponsible, dangerous or illegal, and look at the positive, powerful and transformative work which continues to be demonstrated.

This year there were ten categories:

Best audio and/or visual blog
Best group blog
Best individual blog
Most influential post, resource or presentation
Best library/librarian blog
Best newcomer
Best research paper on social software within learning and teaching
Best teacher blog
Best undergraduate blog
Best wiki use

Huge congratulations to all the nominees, finalists and winners of the 2006 awards.
You can see all the winners over at the Awards blog. & Massive thanks to the EdtechTalk team – Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier who hosted the awards show for the second year running.