Monday, October 16, 2006

VLEs: Pedagogy & Implementation Online Conference 1

One of the best things (no, possibly the best thing) about my current position is that I've the flexibility to decide what would be the best way to work. This week is a case in point - from today (Monday) until Thursday I'm a delegate at VLEs: pedagogy & implementation which is hosted by DirectLearn. There are lots of interesting presentations - this morning's keynote is by M Dougiamas ("Moodle - a toolbox for creating learning communities") and there are what look to be a number of other useful topics in the programme.
The first thing that strikes me is the system the conference is using - it's hosted on a WebCrossing server - normally a discussion board-based environment and there's no upfront synchronous aspect to the conference. There is a live Java-based chatroom somewhere (I came across it while doing the pre-course reading last week, and of course now I want it... it's gone!) but it appears that most of the interaction is via discussion board after reading or watching a pre-prepared presentation. This seems a shame - it's not too difficult to do this, I'm resisting the urge to post the URL of one of our Breeze meeting rooms and inviting everyone in to share ideas and resources there, as what's offered seems a very Web 1.0 way of doing a conference. The introduction says that there are no live presentations due to technology and that the asynchronous nature "leads to a better experience..." - I would counter that just as a combination of face to face and online learning is essential for a good blended learning experience, a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous interaction would be essential for a good online conference experience, wouldn't it? Otherwise it's like attending a physical conference somewhere and sending messages to presenters and other delegates only by scribbling notes on index cards. A case in point - Val Brooks (Moodler from Stockton CLC) has just "live messaged" me and asked "what do we do now?". I'm sure it'll get better, but so far it's reminiscent of a Naace seminar on blended learning I attended which used Plone (very nice for making web sites, not much use for blended learning on its own) as the environment - and then didn't model blending things at all...
Anyway, Martin's presentation covers many things which his MoodleMoot presentation covered, with one or two notable additions (or at least the things which I've picked up on...)

  • Role-playing and scenario situations - this was something that Drew Buddie (here he is playing a role) and I surmised would be a wonderful facility for Moodle as part of some of the work we did for our Nesta FutureLab Design Challenge entry. Essentially this would involve people being assigned roles in online scenarios - or even interacting anonymously in sensitive situations, such as when discussing something in PSHE.
  • The introduction the Repository API makes things a little clearer about how I could see all sorts of learning objects being stored on (in our case) a County-wide basis - and some interesting ideas about how schools might work together on this (or how they might not)

Well, that's about it so far... as I look at the conference front page now, there are approaching 25 people logged on to the site, most of them are probably far more expert than me in this area, but so far it feels like everyone's milling around in the lobby unsure of what to do. Hmm. More later... maybe.

Edit: 6.30pm - well, it all got going once people started posting messages (yes, I probably should have just waded in, but I kind of felt that if I asked Martin D a question it could turn into an internal Moodle-fest, which wasn't really the point. There were some interesting posts, but maybe I was expecting too much. The MoodleMoot model (if that's what it is) of live presentation accompanied by synchronous chatroom discussion (an excellent way of getting relevant questioning going) followed by asynchronous reflection later on in forums is a very efficient and interactive way of working... this is... different, but not ultimately bad. Tomorrow is the same day (or at least assigned to the same subjects), we'll be moving in the direction of Personalised Learning Environments et al on Wednesday and Thursday.


  1. My views exactly! I am one of the people milling around in the lobby unsure where to go next. I would have preferred a realtime Skypecast as a starting point. I did go through some of the presentations beforeahnd, and found them variable. I was frustrated by one person's use of an MS application that didn't run properly in Mozilla.

    Sadly, my biggest disappointment (and I'm tempted to whisper here, because I feel I might cause huge offence, and because I might have missed something and be making an ass of myself) was Martin Dougiamas's text-based exposition. Too much reading, not enough listening, watching, observing. Very Web 1.0

  2. yes, it might be very old-school-Web but it does kind of fit with the overall feel of the conference - I'm sure WebCrossing can do more but it looks like an old version is being used.
    Although it was very basic, I found it easier to digest because of that - a more dynamic approach would have been better in a more dynamic conference.
    I'm really tempted to run a small-scale UK Moodling conference using our Moodle and Breeze servers!