A couple of recent eLearning events

Jonโ€™s dream

I recently attended a couple of one-day events on eLearning – here’s a brief report and a few links and photos:

1) The E-learning symposium held by the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (UK Higher Ed) focused on the possibilities for Language Teaching and Learning of the ‘Web 2.0’ technologies – wikis, blogs, and tools such as Facebook, MySpace, Elgg (the platform behind Community@Brighton, the University of Brighton’s social network) and Second Life. Some of the contributions were video-recorded and are available online along with the presenters’ slides, including the keynote by Jon Dron on the different levels and types of control afforded to teacher and learner by different learning environments. Jon looks in particular at the potential of feeds and tagging, and draws a contrast between the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and the ‘stupidity of the mob’, which he illustrates with chocolate raisins. I kid you not.

What made the day especially interesting – apart from the chocolate – was the fact that most of the contributors were not from the areas covered by the Subject Centre – it was useful to engage with other perspectives, and to think through the correspondences with our own disciplines.

2) Sharing interesting practice in eLearning, held at the UoB’s wonderful Creativity Centre a few days later. In the morning there were half-a-dozen brief accounts of some of the ways eLearning is being incorporated into teaching and learning across the university.

Of particular interest for colleagues in the School of LLC is that the Learning Technologies Group has a limited number of small solid-state audio recorders that staff can use to record material, in order to make it available to students via for instance Studentcentral (the UoB’s Blackboard environment), or as podcasts – both are really easy to do, as Joyce and Les demonstrated. Ask Les for a gizmo.

The afternoon was an informal ‘show and tell’ session, in which we all wandered round, seeing and discussing what others were doing. Katie flew around the UoB’s brand-new Second Life island, parachuted down here and there, had a couple of beers, gyrated a bit on the dance floor, and generally hung out; I attempted to demonstrate a number of SL educational developments, with less success as apparently we were operating under bandwidth restrictions, and in the more built-up areas in SL everything was slow and dark. See the web-pages Educational Uses of Second Life and Theatron 3, a project of the English and Dance, Drama and Music Subject Centres – there’s some fascinating things going on, and if you have SL you can teleport in to some of the locations. We did manage to get to Theatron 3’s Theatre of Ancient Pompeii – an impressive build, and there’s several others under development.

The day ended with an overview by who else but Jon Dron, who reckons we’re just about at Education 1.5b, and that it’s not a bad place to be.

The whole day was filmed, and videos, slides and photos should be available before too long on the UoB eLearning Community blog – I’m not sure if this will be open to folks outside the university, I hope it will. In the meantime, here’s some of my photos, which show what a high-powered, academic event it was.

This post has been written with several audiences in mind – colleagues in the UoB School of Language, Literature and Communication, members of the UoB eLearning Community Group, colleagues at the Subject Centre symposium, and fellow-participants from around the world in the Electronic Village Online workshops ‘blogging4educators‘ and ‘Social Media in English Language Teaching‘ – highly recommended to anyone wishing to get to grips with the potential of these media for language teaching and learning. So please excuse if some of the comments seem aimed elsewhere.

Privacy and/or accessibility: I’ve posted this to my Daily Post blog so all the above groups can access it; likewise I’ve put the photos in a gallery of my own – but not on Flickr because I wanted to keep them within these groups as far as possible, and with Flickr your photos are either completely open or ‘members only’ – too much hassle!

Stan, Alison: any specific tags for your events?

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4 Responses to “A couple of recent eLearning events”

  1. Barbara Dieu Says:

    I do not quite understand your criticism of Flickr. I do not think you have explored it enough. Flickr gives you several privacy levels (totally private, family, friends and open to all), as choice of Creative Commons licenses to attach to each picture and photographs can be seen without your having to log in.
    It is much different from the one you mention in that it is above all a social tool which gathers people together around photo themes and allows for comments and dialogue. You can also post directly from it to your blog (open API).
    I invite you to join our Flickr forum to explore the issue ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. michalska Says:

    Barbara,

    Thanks for your observations. I must say it’s precisely because of the open, social nature of Flickr that I have preferred to put these photos elsewhere. The event was a professional seminar; while it’s true that no-one objected to being filmed or photographed, at the same time I am wary of putting the informal pictures I took on such a public forum as Flickr, where anyone in the world could easily stumble across them – I feel I would be exposing people in a way they had not expected when they signed up for the event.

    On the other hand, I did want to make the pictures available to the other “audiences” I wrote the post for, who had not been at the seminar but would have a professional interest in the topic and hopefully appreciate the informality of the photos – my own School of Language colleagues, the people who had attended the earlier symposium (from across the UK HE sector), and our blogging4educators and SMiELT groups. I felt that setting membership criteria and passwords for these groups – and I don’t know who most of them are – would be too much hassle for both them and me.

    So I put the pictures somewhere a bit more out of the way, but where anyone who reads the post here can link through to easily.

    I’m signed up for the Flickr group – but haven’t managed to get along this week. I’ll come in tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Patricia Glogowski Says:

    What caught my attention when I was reading your reflection on this elearning event was this:

    “What made the day especially interesting – apart from the chocolate – was the fact that most of the contributors were not from the areas covered by the Subject Centre – it was useful to engage with other perspectives, and to think through the correspondences with our own disciplines.”

    You didn’t really go into the details here; I would like to hear more about this as I think that very often we only look into our own discipline of teaching (here: esl/efl) and tend to circulate the same arguments or get into the same disagreements. Knowing what others do in other fields could be really refreshing.

    I bookmarked your links and will get to listening to the presentations (in a while). Will update you later if any questions ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. michalska Says:

    Patricia,

    My area is foreign languages, specifically Spanish, and we share the same syndrome. I think that’s why the Subject Centre – for ‘spreading good practice’ – put together the programme you see – a Computer Scientist, a Librarian, an Educationalist, a Learning Technologies specialist. Between them they provided insights that may not have come to the surface in talks by Language Teachers – and every now and then, the germ of an idea you want to look further at for your own teaching.

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