Friday, 29 June 2012

COLF, LSG and other acronyms

Again I seem to have been away too long - I blog in 140 characters or less because of it's convenience and speed but often curse at its restrictive nature. Pull your finger out and blog then huh?

The E side of my life has been quite interesting courtesy of the COLF course I am on. No, that's not a typo and I'm not trapsing through the undergrowth in search of yet another shanked 3 iron; COLF is the Certified Online Learning Facilitator course offered by the Learning and Performance Institute.

I'm piloting it on behalf of my employers and have to say I've been mighty impressed. I don't think it's a difficult course and there's no rocket science involved but it does provide a well-focused 'best practice' guide on how to facilitate the virtual classroom. At the end of the 9 one and a half to two hour online sessions comes a 25-30 minute assessment and hopefully an accreditation from LPI of what a good facilitator and all round good egg I am. (I'm not sure about the good egg bit from LPIs point of view.

The course is run by the delightful Mandy Randall-Gavin (who you'll find on Twitter @MandyRG - I recommend a follow). She brings a blend of happiness and professionalism, and the ability to 'say I don't know I'll find out' (important skill that) that has made the 16-18 hours of the course quite literally fly by. The rest of the particpants has helped too: Catherine, Paul, Jonathan, and Steve have all been allowed to show both their serious and humourous sides in equal measure.

Speaking of online, the Learning Skills Group have had an online conference this year instead of staging the event at Olympia (it's being fixed!). It is something of a paradox to bemoan the use of online sessions to replace the physical conference but I do miss the fact I couldn't go to Olympia for a more human experience. Yes, yes, I know Learning technologies are just that - online, remote, synchronous, of course I get that, and I regularly and happily attend the LSG presentations during the year but the not having the chance to get together is a big loss.

Perhaps it clarifies the biggest 'shortfall' of online, or maybe it highlights the need for online merely to act as a catalyst to more learning - to start the learning ball rolling. I missed the chance to network, to ask a person a question face to face, to watch a lecture and listen to and watch for the reaction of others. Without the need to physically remove myself from the workplace, the workplace took presidence and I missed all but one of the lectures. I refused to miss the one by Steve Wheeler - I really rarely hang on the word of someone but I truly respect what Steve has to say. He said at the beginning of the lecture that if it had been at Olympia he would not have been able to attend, I would have been at an event to watch someone who wasn't there... I think I've talked mysef into a corner... long live the online experience!! but I hope face to face never dies.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Reflections on Learning Technologies/Learning and Skills event

Well, if nothing else the event has woken me from my blog slumber where I dream in micro terms - blogs of 140 characters or less.

I spent the last two days mooching around the exhibitors, partaking of free seminars and wondering what might be happening in the conference above - I'm too poor and indeed poorly connected to get my grubby mitts onto a golden ticket (and associated sparkling gift). Never mind - there's plenty down here for us mere minions to feast upon.... and so....

The first main challenge is to walk past the toy fair - especially when they are floating giant bubbles about - no fair! (No toy fair as is happens in this case)

Straight into a great buzz as normal. And the start of day one of smacking people with the huge "bag o' bumpf", there's skill to swinging that thing around safely - one I'm yet to master after three years of attending - maybe next year?

I heard a funny thing; the phrase - Business Prevention Team for our IT departments, made me laugh *snigger*

I'm still not greatly skilled at that whole 'walk up to a stall and talk to someone' thing. My background is in software development/web design/e-learning design - I've spent my career avoiding actually talking to anyone.

I did see a face I recognised though, Lars Hyland on the EPIC stand, whose blog I've read for a while and I had a nice chat with him. I later revisited Epic to see a demo of GoMo (thanks to Andy Costello) which is very impressive and I'm sure will be even more accessible once Apple bring down the price of publishing to their App store (around the time hell starts to near 0 degs I suspect). Still, mighty impressive tool and one for the wishlist.... "Dear Santa, I've been a good boy this year and would like..." I mean the real Santa, that's not what I call the head of procurement btw.

The hash tag #lt12uk took a massive battering over the two days and barring the RTs there where some nice little insights in there and proof that there is a place for a backchannel at these events - as if there was really any doubt... On a couple of occasions my Tweet reader of choice (No names but it provides a deck for tweets) threw a massive wobbly, turned to jelly, and collapsed on me. I know this experience was also felt by Niall Gavin (@niallgavinuk) because he said so... in a tweet.... with the hash tag #lt12uk... this stuff could catch on you know?!

I feel for the presenters - especially the ones who have the tech fail on them - it's not nice, I don't like to see someone in that position, and I doubt if others wallow in your moments (or minutes) of discomfort either. To quote Matt Turner of Brightwave (and the British Government of the late 1930s, not sure who thought of it first...) 'Keep Calm and Carry On', sound advice.

Some of the other nice people I spoke to were Kineo, DeltaNet, Adobe, thepressure (massage ladies), and Thales - They won't remember me, but I've remembered them, I spoke to a few others but.... ah shucks - that's show business (or an illustration of my chronic Ebbinghaus forgetting curve in action)

Well done and congratulations go to Don Taylor and his team for yet another expertly run event, the logistics of which make my eyes spin, but I guess that's why I don't do this sort of thing.... I'm pretty good at omelettes, a bit of pencil drawing, and some of that e-learning stuff too, I'll leave the other stuff to the big boys (and girls).

Top Tip: Bring your own food - it's £1.20 for a packet of crisps yikes! Thank goodness DeltaNet had pick and mix on their stand - godsend.

Until the next time we meet - parting is such sweet sorrow (or something I used to be able to do to my hair before I became follically-challenged)


PS Below I've summarised the seminars I attended. If you presented - have a look, you might be in there, I might have liked what you did - I might not have of course mwah haha (sinister huh?) (No, I know, not)

Before you get lost in there, or completely flick past it, can I make a quick suggestion to those presenting? Chances are if I've looked at the myriad of impressive topics available in the free seminars I already know what a good company you work for - it will have been one of the deciding factors for me sitting in front of you. Don't waste your valuable 30 minutes telling me how great you are - show me, wow me, impress me with something new and informative - there's no better selling point. You had me at 'Hello', you lost me at 'and we can provide this service for you...'. Mini-rant over...

Oh and use spell-check on your slides - success is only possible if you know how to spell it(!)

Day 1

Philip Purver of TWM told me how to optimise my learning tech. It all seemed very familiar to me and I realised that the content was essentially what had been discussed in a recent Learning Skills Group webinar... interesting to see how much of it I had retained though, and it did start the phrase that echoed throughout the rest of the event. Quote: "Let the user plan their own future - create something with 'pull'".

A quick whizz downstairs to watch the Brightwave boys - Charles Gould and Matt Turner - in action talking virtual classrooms and 'smooth blends'. As always a professional, informative presentation and always nice to see Balotelli acting like a numpty (24/7?). Quote: Sell the hole, not the drill - love it, stealing that one shamelessly for my own use.

Back upstairs to see Dipak Patel of Saba on the use of Social and Mobile learning to make an accessible learning environment. I'll be honest and say there was nothing new there. At least it managed to reiterate and confirm that my personal direction of travel is in line with current thinking.

Down again (via the zapping lady) to a talent management session with e2train's Rob Caul and Jane Gardner (who looked painfully nervous but who presented admirably). Rob demonstrated that it's possible to still deliver even if people put obstacles in your way - in this case a shonky microphone - and got the message across that it's important to retain and motivate staff via performance management and Staff development. Quote: In four years time 50% of our workforce will be from generation Y

My new friends at Thales showed me how L&D plays it's part in transformation programmes. This was an excellent presentation held together well by Dale Kirk who proved that despite a lack of slides (courtesy of dodgy tech) it's what you say that's important. Well done to him - he stayed calm (if a little red) and carried on. Quote: L&D is the glue bridging the gap between people and process.

Day 2

I started to watch a presentation which turned into an advert so I ditched it (I warned you...) and went to see 10 ways to improve the learner experience, again with Brightwave - this time James Cory-Wright. 10 things we probably already do but bought together in a clear, concise way and with the added bonus of some alliteration a la The Sun newspaper or Sesame Street (todays presentation was bought to you by the letter R; R for Reflect, Respect, Re-purpose etc.) Quote: Reach the people

Hot-footed downstairs (zap) to see Tim Hawkes of Unlimited Potential who spoke a lot of sense about all things coaching culture. Quote: A coaching culture is a place where effective conversations take place

Upstairs in the afternoon and the yawn-fest that was the future of e-learning content on mobile devices. Sorry John Swindall from Harbinger (of doom) Knowledge but you came all the way from the USA, bowled in with a stereo-typical joke about the weather, and then proceeded the drone on about HTML5 v Flash. I think there were more than a few sighs of relief when your laptop gave out...probably the damp atmosphere we have over here huh?! Tumbleweed.

Over to the Saffron Interactive's very own Ant and Dec team of Alex Webb and Nick Baum (okay a bit more Mark and Sam) and their presentation on gaming. Very good, topical, informative. Quote: Gamification

And downstairs for a final time (zap) to see TWM's take on creating an effective learning, where have I seen this before?...Oh, yes, yesterday, and at the LSG webinar...come on guys this is re-purposing gone mad - get some more slides (and it was you who couldn't spell success btw)

So ditch that and across to Omar Lahyani of Saba on ROI, he gave me my favourite quote of the day: The End is the Beginning - bang on that nail head.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Funny take on Social Media

This is funny:
Thanks to @andytedd for the lead...

Virtual worlds and identity - Second Life

Having used SL on a few occasions I have to say that it has not grabbed me. I have seen the enthusiasm that others have for it and I think to some extent that has carried me this far but basically I have to conclude that it's not for me.

We can look back at Bayne and our discussions around that. The ability in SL, and I would assume on WoW, to create an avatar that bears zero physical resemblance to yourself suggests to me that there is no merit in such a practice. The advantage of SL giving you a physical presence - making you feel part of the world, where perhaps forums and blogs disembody you, is lost when you can look like something different from your natural form.

For a teacher, if you require trust, or maybe even respect, you need to have the imagethat people have ingrained in them. We can be extreme in this and say someone with a mortar board and black cape, maybe a pair of learned glasses. Ok this is extreme but to take the other extreme are you likely to learn effectively from someone who looks like a punk or animal? (not the one from the muppets but...)

There have been the mandatory technical issues that new tech brings with it, those who struggle to connect mentally with new tech will disengage readily if they are not able to connect in a literal sense.

I haven't dismissed SL without trying it - I didn't think I would like humus until I tried it so I'm always prepared to be proved wrong. Perhaps it's my PC and the lack of a decent processor or graphics card effecting my experience but it's not something I have bought far.

The use of cartoons to engage users

This is work related so it's dry, dry, dry, but thankfully the use of xtranormal movie maker has made it that little bit more engaging.

CIS is a system that we teach (pronounced C.I.S or 'sis')

Course intro

Learning objectives 

Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution

A Report Prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education by Philip G. Altbach, Liz Reisberg, Laura E. Rumbley. (Link to PDF)

Focusing on section 10: Information and Communications Technologies and Distance Education, the report outlines how there has been a growing need globally for higher education that cannot be met without the aid of distance learning.

Overall the report focuses not on the nice shiny tech that we have read about in the previous activities but more on the digital divide that exists between 'us' and 'them', the them being countries where the electricity supply is not robust enough to consider much of the new innovations being laid out before the developed world. It makes fascinating reading and helps to keep your educational feet on the ground. 

more than 20 terms which describe the employment of the new technologies in education, such as:
Internet mediated teaching, technology-enhanced learning, web-based education, online education,
computermediated communication (CMC), telematics environments, e-learning, virtual classrooms,
I-Campus, electronic communication, information and communication technologies (ICT), cyberspace learning environments, computer-driven interactive communication, open and distance learning (ODL), distributed learning, blended courses, electronic course materials, hybrid courses, digital education, mobile learning, and technology enhanced learning.

I should of course add to that list Online and Distance Education!

Distance education [..] more as a "method of delivery than an educational philosophy," while "distance is not a defining characteristic of e-learning"

ICT resources-like e-mail, instant messaging, and online social networking spaces-provide avenues for academic collaboration, joint research, and personal and professional networking.

[..] development and use of OER has picked up significant momentum, making notable inroads onto the agendas of the higher education sectors in less-developed countries.

Unfortunately, in the face of a very real "digital divide" between richer and poorer countries and institutions, the capacity for implementation often appears to be inversely proportional to the perceived need and strong desire for access to these resources.

It has been suggested that this disconnect between hopes around ICT and what they have proven capable of delivering hinges on several false assumptions that were highly pervasive during the initial ICT "craze" of the 1990s. Key among these erroneous beliefs were that

  1. time and space were globally problematic in higher education;
  2. that the desire to broaden access was essentially universal;
  3. that the advantages of the new technologies coming out were self-evident;
  4. that there was no significant difference between accessing information and constructing knowledge in higher education;
  5. that contemporary students of traditional university age were naturally inclined to like and respond well as learners to emerging ICT; and
  6. that the purveyors of the new technologies could not fail to achieve economies of scale and make profits on their innovative products and services.
In Africa, for example, despite considerable growth in enrolment numbers in the last decade, the gross enrolment ratio there hovers around 5 percent, with considerable disparity by country and subregion.

In many countries around the world, the need for continuous learning and ongoing skill upgrades has become increasingly apparent. In countries where nations struggle to cater to the traditional-age cohort of 18-to-24-year-olds, the challenge of providing lifelong learning opportunities for broad swathes of the adult population via traditional delivery modes of delivery is daunting. In many places around the world, distance education can and has already played a growing role in filling this gap.

Teledensity-"a term commonly used to describe the number of telephone lines per some unit of the population", which can also shed light on the degree to which a community or nation has access to computers, the Internet, and e-gadgets-is not uniform around the world and is an important indicator of the immense divide between "haves" and "have-nots" across the globe.

A greater reliance on cooperative arrangements, such as consortia, to leverage resources and share costs inherent in implementing ICTs in higher education, may occur. And more and different kinds of dual-mode universitiesemploying both ICTs and traditional program delivery methods-may emerge.

The future:
There are exciting possibilities for the ways in which m-learning may open up access in some of the world's poorest countries, where Internet access is most limited and unreliable.

"immersive education" offers one window on the next generation of educational technologies, focused on virtual and simulation technologies, 3-D graphics and interactive applications, and gaming approaches. 

Finally, strengthening capacity in regard to technology issues and open and distance learning is an extremely important objective in a global context characterized by profound inequity.