Final reflections on the ALT-C conference #1

I was looking through my notes from the ALT conference and realising that I hadn’t quite finished reflecting on the sessions. It seems unfair that the later sessions should miss out on reporting.

I tried to attend some sessions that were relevant to my areas of expertise and some that were new to me. A session on reusable learning objects made me realise that there are some things I know next to nothing about yet. Understanding RLOs requires quite a high degree of technical knowledge in XML etc. I have just enough knowledge to appreciate what the developers were doing, and the principles behind it, and how they can be used – but I don’t think I’ll be creating RLOs any time soon without further training! One of the sessions covered use of the XML editor (plus) software Xerte, free from Nottingham University.

Generative learning objects were the next new thing – they can be reused to adapt to other uses. One example was a “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” game template which could be used with questions sets from different subject areas.

One of the important messages was to separate design from content so that new content could be easily be put in. I certainly found that the case at NCSL last year when I was editing the XML files in the introduction to learning course to update the content: I didn’t have to alter too much of the Flash.

Finally, I learned about umbrella learning objects (ULOs)

Key features of RLOs:
* can be placed in a different course or VLE
* can be edited by the tutor to update it (not just by a techie)
* can be repurposed, e.g., in a different subject area

My favourite session was an early morning session on Mobile technologies for Learning and Assessment. Gareth Firth from the ALPS CETL and Rob Arntsen from MyKnowledgeMap told us about the use of PDAs for learning and assessment (both summative and formative) in IPE by students during hospital placements.

We got to play with the PDAs, download a video, take a picture and upload it to a website. An internet-ready PDA went immediately on my birthday list – unfortunately the cost of using the mobile internet probably means I won’t use it much! The PDAs in the study were run on an unlimited data contract and text and voice were disabled. Ultimately, text and voice should be billable to the students themselves while data is still paid for by the institution. I AM going to get one though.

Interesting to think of students accessing their assessments everywhere from hospital (are they actually allowed to use mobile devices in all hospitals?) to home to Tesco! (The pharmacists in the study were working on placement in supermarket pharmacies.)

Reasons for using mobile technology include:
* record assessment IN the workplace
* don’t need to re-key anything later, e.g., reflections
* integrates with VLEs, e-portfolios, etc.

I learned more from this than from Dylan Wiliams keynote, also about assessment, because his was about assessment in the classroom. Still very important, but perhaps not as exciting as in Tesco!