Final reflections on the ALT-C conference #2

Marion Miller, Manager, JISC Regional Support Centre for Yorkshire and Humber, University of Leeds, summed up the contributions to the theme: Learning technology for the social network generation.

She made an interesting suggestion that the VLE “has had its day”. The focus is moving away from VLEs towards social networks – but we were talking at ALT-C as experimenters – and I doubt that Universities are really ready to junk their VLEs.

Once conclusion from the conference was that staff need to experience these technologies in order to use them effectively for their learners – to take small steps.

Another challenge is that of learners not being ready for Web 2.0 – not willing to reflect publicly in a blog, not comfortable with editing one another’s texts, not even comfortable with technology at all in the case of the growing numbers of mature and work-based students.

Our own wiki-tivities workshop went really well. I made copious notes on other sessions about wikis, to see if their experiences supported our model, and indeed they did. Some examples:

Phil Cheeseman from Roehampton talked about the need to
* provide structure and scaffolding, and
* design activities that provide explicit opportunities for collaboration

Richard Walker and Wayne Britcliffe from York spoke about 6 projects – a major and helpful study. These included the points that:
* students made class presentations about their work on the wiki
* there was a need to acknowledge and summarise online contributions
* it was essential to make explicit the learning outcomes
Some of their case studies are available on the York VLESupport website

Attendees at our workshop had generally favourable opinions. More on the wiki-tivities model elsewhere (see, e.g, our presentation on the ALT-C website) and the abstract of the workshop

Some of the conclusions of our participant groups during the workshop:

* wikis can be used for icebreaker activities
* staff need to experience exemplary use of wikis in order to apply them for learning
* there needs to be a “gentle” introduction to having someone edit your text (perhaps a pairs exercise)
* when designing a wiki-tivity it is easy to “start big” and may help to redesign in a “smaller” way – perhaps a series of wiki-tivities in the same wiki rather than just one
* moderating/facilitation is just as important as in other online collaborative spaces

Comments:

“I like something definite that students can work with.”
“Although I hadn’t come this afternoon intending to go back with anything, I have lots of ideas for the staff development course I run.”
“The best session I’ve been to so far.”

Oh, and Peter Norvig of Google in his keynote told us Google have partnered with Creative Commons to index all opencourseware which might be useful.