Friday, March 2, 2007

European Independent Bb User Group

The University of Southern Denmark is setting up EIBUG Consortium to be an independent European community for bb users.

Detailed information here or contact Rasmus blok

BBE07 here are your best bits..

Well I'm afraid I've been less than enamoured by the presentations this conference. Poor choices and bad luck on my part or indicative of poor content? Maybe a bit of both. The keynotes however, were excellent, insightful and thought provoking, Bruno's command of graphs in PowerPoint was spectacular - if a little enthusiastic, it was fascinating to hear about learning from an economical perspective, it gave me food for thought. I'd happily listen to it all again.
Serge Goldstein from Princeton was fab, he showed us how the other half lived (free massages for all on campus apparently).

For me the real highlight was being able to touch base with Thomas C of Agilix, learn more about plans and future direction for Backpack - my presentation was a high point in that all present took something constructive away from it. Also spending time with Peter Shipley getting a product round-up of all things Learning Objects , Expo is shaping up nicely (at last) - Mr Wimba also collared me (after initially hassling HR of Strathclyde about Horizon products at SHU). She concluded that I am more famous than her as no-body hassled me about them.

Best bits
Key notes - economics doesn't have to be dull!
Me being best in show (I think this is just about milked now.. I'll let it go now)
Opportunity to immerse in all things Blackboard once again, content might have been poor, but the surrounding bits (and no - I don't mean the drink) made up for it in spades.

Worst bits

Lack of apparent quality presentations and stands (same old same old)
Consistent tonsillitis - still I couldn't drink enough to get a hangover, so that was good!
Web CT contingent kind of dragging the quality down
Laptop not providing me with the connectivity I needed, no wifi on site, work laptop plus hotel connection incompatible (quell (sp) suprise!)

More on Bb Scholar

Now I don't want to get boring about this BbScholar business, but there really weren't many other sessions for a librarian to get her teeth into. And also it does seem like a very exciting development (ooops, I've said it ... I think I'm going ...). For a start its look and feel is very up to date with Ajax technology which makes it very Web 2.0 and user friendly (and we're told is an indication of the way Bb is going).

This session was run by the developer so it does need a good thrashing by users to unravel the reality, but so far I'm pretty convinced. Again, most people in the audience (surprisingly to me) hadn't embraced social bookmarking yet which I think is an advantage for Bb Scholar.
The idea of Scholar is that it is available anytime, anywhere and can be organised how you choose. Your bookmarks can be integrated with others in your course/subject area, and is a long term repository of knowledge that will stay with you even if you no longer are enrolled within Blackboard as a student.
This tool certainly does seem to have some added value for learners and course developers alike. I haven't had a great deal of time to really consider it, but I wonder if Scholar could actually become the resources environment for users of Bb? With the extra tag fields of discipline and course it has the potential of being very personal as well as allowing resources to be pushed to particular students (eg reading lists, book reviews, relevant websites.). "Students can become the centre of their resource network."

And if you're tempted give Scholar it a try...

Last session of the day

Applying e-pedagogy in the Blended learning environment
Well this one was at least interesting - and revived me at the end of the day. Linda Murray and Dr Phil Alberts from Brunel University questioned the relationship between pedagogy for face to face learning and online learning, and could the same pedagogy be applied to both? They worked through the learning theories asking where would we get e-pedagogy from? Social constructivism, constructivism, metacognition, cognitivism, or neo behaviourism.
and could an e-pedagogy be applied more appropriately to one of them - they concluded that there are more similarities than differences. Not exactly brain surgery and no "wow" factors.

Zut alors!

I've been duped.. the session outline says its "Blackboard: Pedagogical stimulus or creativity reductor?", except the slides clearly say web CT.. and the presenter has just confessed its got nothing to do with Blackboard. oh dear.. the door is shut and I'm too polite to leave as there are only about 5 of us here. .

After a painful 50 minutes of little sense, a kindly man summed up what this poor deluded woman was trying to say in a question at the end - basically that it's alright to run Web CT alongside Moodle in an institution, as using only one can inhibit creativity in course planning. Highlight of the session: something about bugs revolting students in the year 2000. I have no idea what she really meant, but got 2 minutes entertainment trying to work it out.oh, and I learned that the Sorbonne has a strong reputation for languages. Disappointed to say the least.

Wimba Pronto

This presentation focussed on the latest horse from the Horizon Wimba stable Pronto, with its future siblings Pronto Plus and Pronto Network.

Pushing Pronto as "Communicate in an instant". Humanising the e-learning experience - a platform for communication.

Students looking for ways to incorporate popular communication methods in their experience; Educators looking for easier to use function reducing time and effort; VLE losing stickiness; students looking to external web 2.0 spaces
Institutions want students bringing back to the vle... (er..); Enabling enhanced online collaboration.

Simplifying communication School centric instant communication tool
Features: IM VoIP, Group Voice/IM. Tightly linked to the VLE. Classmates are listed, contact group headings are linked directly to VLE. Teachers and Ta's are displayed differently.

- Always on, no need to log into Blackboard, though links back into the VLE for reference, i.e. students can collaborate around their courses.
Two tabs: Course tab - un-editable, populated by the courses and orgs and Contacts tab - fully personalisable. Simple profiles available: including, avatars, personal info, links to external social software environments. Includes voip to communicate in groups.

Pronto Plus (under development)
Introduces: Application sharing; File sharing, - designed for educational institutions with control and granularity that you might want. Sys admin can turn on and off for courses.
video - live classroom 5.0 - full multipoint product - eg 5 people each with cameras, couldn't validate the pedagogy, but apparently students like it.. Smells like technology for technologies sake..
queuing- instructors or students could queue in to a single group or chat. Meeting with student right now, you are third in line.. help desk approach. Standing inline online. Anonymity. - I liked this
course up dates and campus broadcasts, snow day, building closure, book store sale - broadcast in the pronto interface. Real time dissemination of information

Pronto Network - under development
Extending communication. Directory to allow different institutions talk to each other. Connecting institutions.

Whatever we may think about an IM tool for SHU, I did like this, though the biggest turn off for me is the lack of archiving, and even if we were looking for a tool like this one, I wouldn't touch it until it pushed that button. (though Mr wimba did assure me that it's on the way). Pronto basic is free, Plus and network will have charges attached (no doubt hefty).

My Conference Experience

Well now I'm back and I have access to suitable technology, I thought I would post a quick summary about my conference experience. It was an interesting experience, but I was somewhat disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn't see the innovations in use of Bb that I was really expecting to see.

The breakout sessions that I attended were all in the "Extending Learning" section and I was really hoping to get some new ideas for innovative uses of Bb. I was surprised by the basic approach by most of the sessions I attended, or by the mismatch between the 'advertised' session and what was actually presented. One session had nothing about Blackboard (or WebCT) in it at all, it was actually about paper based materials! Although it was interesting in it's own right.

The keynotes were worth seeing though, and that really does make a nice change! The presentation by the e-strategies advisor from the World Bank, Bruno Lanvin, was excellent and it was interesting to hear about the digital divide in global terms. Bruno talked a lot of the digital divide existing as a content divide rather than necessarily a technological divide.

We all got good feedback after our sessions, but Helen did really well and had a packed room. She got some great feedback, see the evidence!

It was an enjoyable conference and the sessions were all interesting, it's just not been the amazing innovative conference that I was expecting. Maybe that says more about the standard of practice at SHU than it does about the conference?