Friday, March 2, 2007
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.
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.
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!)
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.
And if you're tempted give Scholar it a try...
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.
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.
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.
Pronto: 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).
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?
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
this is a very un-me-like statement, but i've had an excellent conference. i was going to do the traditional "highs and lows" post (with possibly the highest thing being the excited voice...and the lowest thing being...erm, me) but there really haven't been any lows from a conference perspective. yes, not everything has been stretching or progressive (don't worry, the old Sheffield Hallam smugness is still intact), but the standard of presentations, the atmosphere, the conversations with people during the breaks, the organisation, have been really good*.
so, here are some of the things that stand out for one reason or another:
- the keynotes - particularly the world bank keynote, but the standard of keynotes here has been in a different class to the usual uninspiring, same-old-same-old drivel about planets, zoos, what dead or fictitious people would think about e-learning, etc. and no one wearing a freaky hat or ceremonial costume. which was nice.
- scholar - i know there's a certain level of scepticism (sp?) about this amongst the team at SHU, but from what i saw, and the conversations with Bb staff (who, yes, are bound to be a little bit biased) in my very focussed focus group, and at the stand yesterday, this looks like a v promising development - familiar interface, flexible, and something that might just encourage academics to begin engaging with ways that many of their students' will be living their lives.
- following paul's link to the chipmunks site just now, and absolutely killing myself laughing. brittany, eleanor, jeanette - they're all here, but i'll let you decide for yourself who's who.
- not spending the whole time listening to the usual suspects - there's been quite a diverse group of people presenting here - not everything's been relevant, but the vast majority has been thought provoking in some way, and people seem to be very willing to share.
- the very high standard of presentations from Sheffield Hallam...
- Helen inventing the Boardman Shuffle (do do do do do de de de do do...).
- oh, and not once being dragged into a conversation that involved the words "Blackboard" and "patent" in the same sentence.
The focus of the presentation was some of the impacts of the Presidium support on on-campus support mechanisms, etc, particularly focussing on the Info Services and pedagogical advice, some of the things that the additional Tier 1 support and reporting info are allowing us to do. Seems like 24/7 and/or out of hours support is something that a number of UK institutions are contemplating at the moment. Must dash, need to ask Presidium what kind of commission they offer for new business generation...
Corks! that went rather well, I had about 30 victims in my session, all of whom were thinking about but not actually using Backpack yet. All the usual UK crew were there along with a healthy amount of new faces, and despite hideous ulcerated tonsillitis, I didn't screw up. Anyway I was ace* - told them about the pilot, why, when and how and what our little darlings said in their initial feedback. Good discussion at the end too, though some technical - all good.
I spent some quality time yesterday with our man on the ground Thomas Collette from Agilix (the most lovely man in Nice), among other things, he was tickled by feedback from one of ours who said something along the lines of "I would rather saw my own head off with a blunt knife than listen to the Backpack tutorials.." (here here!), as a result of which they've promised to do some UK voice overs. We are currently considering whether dick van dyke or rough northern lass would be best...
Some of you may be aware that we are having a few (not insignificant) problems with the new version of Bp, he's been prioritising getting it sorted to us, as ever responsive and constructive. More when I get back.
*my aceness is official, 95% of my feedback forms said so, and one even said that I was the "best so far, and by far" So HA! I'm going to milk that for as long as humanly possible, or till liz sorts me out with a brick to the back of the head.
this morning's keynote was by Serge Goldstein (Princeton) who talked about their use of Bb, and the evolution from Course Management System (CMS) through Learning Management System (LMS) to Academic Management System (yes, you've guessed it, AMS). it was an interesting talk, and it made everyone very jealous - they have a faculty:student ratio of 1:4.5...and their professors teach only one course per semester.
one thing that was quite interesting was that they use Bb to deliver tests to languages students before they start, so they can place them in the correct level class when they begin. this also has the benefit, i guess, of getting new students accustomed to the Bb system before they start.
picture to follow later...
ok, caption competition time...we've started you off with a couple of suggestions:
We got glowsticks and masks...
Liz chatted up Michael Chasen (Bb CEO) and we have video evidence of Liz dancing with (and scaring) Mr Chasen. We will save that for later.
By the end of the night, we were feeling very appreciated.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The next session is just beginning though, so I will leave you with a safe shot of 3 of us arriving on Monday morning.
anyway, this one was called Learning Scenario Design and Implementation in Blackboard. The presenters were from a tiny institution with 2000 students, but some of the things they were discussing were quite interesting. Because of the nature of the courses they offer, their teaching staff are really subject experts, with little prior engagement with pedagogy (or didactics) so it's difficult for them to engage with this, and with technological innovations. So a couple of things they've done to try and help with this process:
- Firstly, they offer 4 scenarios of what using Blackboard could look like in learning and teaching (quite similar to the engagement models we were discussing in AI a few weeks ago) - these go from Basic (which is sort of administration plus - content focussed, with little online interaction - to help ease those staff who are very uncertain about technology into using Bb) through Standard Communications, Enhanced Communications, then onto Online (which is either fully online, or heavy online use/presence). From what I could gather they have had these scenarios in place for less than a year, but are gradually hoping to see more people moving through the scenarios once they become comfortable - at the moment, 80/90% of staff are within the Basic/Standard Comms scenarios. But these help demonstrate quick wins for staff, thereby adding value to their experience, and encouraging them through.
- Secondly, they showed a course/module development template, which was populated with examples of how a learning approach (eg, group focussed) might be presented at different stages of the learning process (eg, Application & Analysis) to make use of Blackboard. It would probably be worth revisiting the taxonomy stuff that we started last year with Melissa and Demetra to see if we could expand the use of that with some case studies of use? (thinking out loud here...sorry...)
Anyway, I'm very concerned, as I've obviously forgotten to take my cynical pills today. 2 sessions that were worthwhile, 1 straight after the other? Nah, can't be happening. Maybe my head is just so full of nutella and pain au chocolat, and it's dulling my senses. Luckily, normality started to return during the next session...I was presenting part of it, so naturally it wasn't anywhere near as good. Ask Alison, she's the brainy one as she so kindly pointed out last night :)
Damn, no photo for this session. Here, have a random picture of Washington instead (well it is a Blackboard Conference, so it's not totally random):
gave a talk about Knowledge Societies and the Global Education Challenge. Yes, quite, that's exactly why I was in two minds about whether to go - not my kind of thing at all. But it was an incredibly engaging talk and he covered a lot of complicated concepts in very accessible ways. A lot of the talk was focussed on the knowledge economy, the value of information, the rapid outdating of information (eg, in a 3 year degree, by your final year the information you learned in the first year will be outdated; we're currently educating people for jobs that don't yet exist, and preparing them to work with tools, technologies that haven't been invented yet; for advanced and technical skills, lifelong learning will be the rule, and the best thing that anyone can learn is how to learn).
It might be the sort of stuff you've heard before, but it really helped me to focus on some of the conversations we've been having in AI recently, about the need for fluency, adaptability, changing patterns of learning, etc (hint: AI Forum future of learning wiki. get it while it's hot!).
There was a bit about measuring and statistics - about the fact that the digital divide has always existed, but it's just the focus that is shifting; and about the fact the people try to measure economies based on what is measurable rather than what is strategic. Anyway, like I say, too much to cover (and I've probably done the poor man some terrible injustice with this rambling post) but the presentation should be available online. So just two more things...
1) Apparently, when the US VicePresident went to Argentina to deliver a speach about the Global Knowledge Infrastructure (in the 1990s, i think), the initial focus of the speech was going to be termed International Information Infrastructure. Until he got on the plane, and someone pointed out that the acronym was III, and it probably wouldn't go down too well in a spanish speaking country...
2) If anyone can find out firstly, what the "Love of 2 oranges" (or "Love between 2 oranges", or something similar) is, there's a prize in it for you (share your solution as a comment); and secondly, if you can guess what it might have had to do with the presentation, there's an even bigger and better prize.
Right, I'm off to finally engage with globalisation and the knowledge economy. More book shopping at the airport on the way home, methinks...
It did strike me that more consultation with library staff could save some agonising, eg the difference between controlled vocabularies and folksonomies ... and their relative merits in the social bookmarking world. There are still people suggesting (albeit in the audience, not so much from the developers or beta testers) that the social bookmarking tagging should be organised and controlled in some way. Teeside feel the lessons they learned were that tagging is not as simple as it first seems and takes time to learn. I'm not sure about this - it's a technology/concept to pick up for sure, but it's not like people will be expected people to learn the Library of Congress subheadings.
There were the often heard concerns over the potential loss of control if students can just tag what they like. Fortunately the developers and testers seemed relaxed about this and felt that it would regulate itself given the purpose of it. My thoughts are that this gives more opportunities for library staff to get involved to stress the importance of developing skills for evaluating information.
There seemed to be some disbelief that this is a technology that Bb are offering to Bb users with the commitment that they will be able to continue using it when they are no longer enrolled in any Bb courses. In a world where everything associated with Bb comes with a price tag on it this seemed too good to be true.
...and look! I'm smaller than Richard Parsons' head!
Michael was very excited to be here. He kept telling us how excited he was to be here. Even if you missed the word excited, you could tell he was very excited to be here, and talking to us. And d'you know what? I was excited for him! Seriously, there was some infectious excitement in the room.
He was very, very excited to talk about some of the success stories...including one from someone called Louise Thorpe, from Sheffield Hallam (or possibly Sheffield Halem?). Jessica Finnefrock (who was also there, and possibly almost as excited to be here as Michael Chasen was) namechecked Richard Parsons (pictured) but he didn't get much attention, and she was nowhere near as excited about that particular aspect of it. You could just tell.
They both (Michael and Jessica, that is, not Jessica and Richard) talked about the product roadmap, priorities for development, etc, which you might have heard elsewhere before. These included, but not limited to:
- quality and stability key to development, combining the best of both products
- enhancing the Discussion Board (including bringing back some old features - they accepted they had screwed up by removing these in the first place - as well as adding new ones, such as e-mail digests of Discussion Boards I think)
- enhancing the Gradebook - particularly to help management for large class sizes, the ability to lock/freeze views
- alerts/subscription model for areas in Content System - eg, "so-and-so has added new content to x area"
- enhancing the social connection/networking stuff that can be facilitated through Bb
Jessica said they had to be reminded frequently that non-Bb staff aren't quite as excited about using and developing the product as Bb-staff are (bless) and that a key win for them was to get Bb to help academics do the less interesting aspects of their job, freeing up more time for the fun stuff. Another key thing was that making the transititions from one version of the product to the next generation shouldn't involve huge migration issues.
And then there was some talk about the product roadmap being built on 4 x 2.0s - Blackboard 2.0; Web 2.0; e-learning 2.0; and education 2.0.
And i'm going to be really really late for this morning's keynote if i don't leg it now...
Monday, February 26, 2007
Annnyway, I could ramble on about gin (liz's free gin challenge), views (its jolly nice here), food (yum), work (?) but I've hijacked a machine in the speaker ready room and I'm getting pressure to get off and let people do some real work. I'm off to hound my Mr Backpack now, wish me luck..
well, to be fair, that's because none of the other participants turned up, so it was just me and 2 people from Bb. not exactly the most dynamic focus group...but on the bright side, they did tell me i knew more about social bookmarking and its potential applications than anyone else in the room! oh, hang on a minute...
well, i won't take up any room by recounting what i said...i'm going to go and check out scholar at the stand tomorrow, it sounds v cool, so will post more then...
1 hour to go until the Michael Chasen experience...
no, it's not the start of a bad joke, but a description of the focus group i went to this morning. here's a brief overview of the main points that were discussed:
- don't disappear any existing functionality from the gradebook! but if new features are introduced, let individual users choose their own default views/features to use rather than having a cluttered gradebook for all
- there's a need for users to be able to access different views of the gradebook (eg, formative vs. summative results) and for individuals to be able to select their default view
- a couple of the institutions present mentioned the need on their campuses (campi?) for anonymous views of the gradebook - i'm not sure whether that's something we'd need/want or not?
- their should be a 'basic' version of the gradebook for those instructors who just want to add and view grades - with the option to switch on advanced features at the site level (the example used here was weighting, which scares the bejesus out of people who don't want to use it...i'm paraphrasing here, obviously)
- it would be really good if students could have the option to export their grades and feedback, either to the content system or in another format that would enable them to integrate it with their portfolios, etc
- students should also be able to distinguish between formative and summative grades in the gradebook
- finally, their should be a robust audit history/tracking of changes - so that it would be possible to view the gradebook at different points in time in case changes were made accidentally, or if grades were changed for a legitimate reason
ok, clearly that's a shorthand version of what was discussed - comments, questions, or punchlines for the joke welcome...
English tourist in mediocre-photo-opportunity-hotel-balcony-death-plunge shock!
"Ah, lovely sunny day, concrete building with no windows - this will be the conference centre, no doubt?"
"Eck-skew-zay mwah, oooo se trewve le BbWorldEurope, sieve ooo play?"
"Are you absolutely sure we're in the right place? I'd have expected more of a clue..."
nb: je suis tres desole que le qualite des photos n'est pas professional (???). But Alison "my photos will be much better than yours, aspden, after all i'm the creative one" Purvis neglected to bring her camera-to-computer connecty stuff. i, on the other hand, while being photographically challenged (not to mention phobic) at least have the technology.
it's all tres francais at the moment - Gerard Depardieu keeps appearing (on the telly, not at the hotel) promoting his new film and last night you could just hear the distant sirens of an Inspector Clouseau police wagon. just off for le petit dejeuner, before trying to figure out where the hell the conference centre is in time for the 10 o'clock gradebook focus group. why, lord, why...