Sunday, October 05, 2008

A short conference, some inspired teachers

Last Wednesday was the Celebrating / Sharing Success E-Learning Conference. For me it was a day bookended by a meeting with a Headteacher in a primary school, and a brief after-school INSET session in a secondary school. In between, 60 or so people met at the Teaching & Learning Centre in Aylesbury for a couple of hours to hear about 16 of their number share what they had been doing with all sorts of E-Learning. Being Buckinghamshire, this was very much a Moodle-centric event, with a couple of presentations about use of the Adobe Connect service which is available to all schools on the BucksGfL.

Doug prepares while a video plays
The delegates were recruited and invited by the whole of the ICT team, but for me a big focus of the day was ensuring that we were able to broadcast the event, via a Connect meeting room, through a couple of webcams and judiciously applied Blu-Tak (to hold the webcams firmly in place). For this element of the day the primary point of reference is the successful TeachMeet broadcasts, which use FlashMeeting and attract a widely distributed range of attendees, most of whom would be in the real life TeachMeet if they could. The last TeachMeet was at the Scottish Learning Festival, and the recording of the session is available here. TeachMeet is a public event, however the Bucks one was (for various reasons) not a public one - mainly because we knew that people's presentations would include student activity, and there are many potential headaches about broadcasting that on the interweb. However, if you want to view it and use twitter, then send me a direct message and I'll give you the URL (you'll even be able to play the penguin hitting game, which is nowhere near as violent as it sounds. Sort of.). If you want to know what Twitter is, or what it can be, then I'd start by reading Martin Weller of the OU's Love Song to Twitter (the presentation's unofficial title) on his blog.
"Celebrating success" recording
On reflection, I was (and I think the whole team were) really pleased on how the event went. In the days after I received lots of positive emails (and one text) from teachers who had attended, saying how useful it was:
"It was great fun and very interesting. There were so many ideas and I came away wanting to try so many..."
"It was very informative and having the chance to talk to other people that do the same thing as me was brilliant."
"...thanks for a very enlightening conference today. It makes me want to get much more involved with Moodle."
"...I found it really valuable and interesting..."
The presenters were a mixture of teachers and commercial companies, and what was enlightening for me was that most of the commercial presenters struggled to fit into the brief time slot - some completely ignored the focus of the conference and just talked about their product. I thought I had a plan for this, and at the start told the room that if they thought someone was doing a sales pitch and not talking about classroom practice then they should raise their hand - and if we got more than a half a dozen hands then I'd ask the presenter to immediately talk about classroom practice or stop (please). However, this only started to happen once - when one of my team raised her hand (thanks Pat!). I think most people in that situation understandably don't have the confidence to question what they're being told from the front, so it didn't really happen. However, I think it might be something which would work at a TeachMeet (more about that later). One of the commercial presenters said that they found it really hard to not do a sales pitch while talking, which tells you a lot.
An excellent (brief) presentation from Channel 4's Clipbank
To my mind only a few of the commercial presentations addressed the nature of the conference in a way that was appropriate for a commercial product - including a simple-but-effective presentation from Channel 4's ClipBank on how to incorporate clips into teaching-focused activities on a VLE. Doug Dickinson's presentation on Honeycomb was useful tool, since we'll be using HoneyComb as the main tool for our primary ePortfolio this academic year. For at least one vendor whose laptop wouldn't output to the projector, there was no Plan B, which I'd imagine was an interesting proposition for those teachers who presumably have a plan B when they use technology in the classroom each day.
As you'd imagine, those who attended would probably get a lot from a TeachMeet, so this is probably a good place to mention that the wiki page for the BETT 2009 TeachMeet is now available. If you are going to BETT, why not go on the Friday and round the day off with some of the best (free) CPD you're likely to get? If you'd like to go, or like to help, then you can sign up (instructions are on the page), or take a look at the previous BETT TeachMeet.

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