I’ve spoken at BETT in many guises. I started off as a teacher, then I went as a school senior leader, then went there during my time with Jisc, then Mozilla… This time around, BETT 2016 will be my first as a consultant. On the first day I’m there I’ll have my City & Guilds hat on as they’re one of my main clients. On the second, I’m representing myself (i.e. Dynamic Skillset).
I love to hate BETT. While I dislike the amount of snake oil I see there, it’s worth attending because of the people. While I’m there I try to bring a dose of healthy edtech skepticism. I also try and show people alternatives to to their current reality.
This year, you can catch me at BETT at the following times:
The first session I’m involved with on Wednesday is a presentation with Bryan Mathers. We’ll be talking about educational credentials such as Open Badges, and how City & Guilds can help with this. We’ll be going both wide and deep.
The Digital Skills Sandwich: credentialing 21st literacies in a fast-paced environment (1:45pm to 2:15pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre
The second session is one I’m chairing. I’m looking forward to asking probing questions of the panellists and getting input from the audience!
Connecting With Young People: Using Social Media and Digital Marketing to Enhance Student Recruitment (4:45pm to 5:30pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre
If you’re attending BETT and want to catch up, lunch, a coffee after my presentation, or dinner are your best options.
I’m only doing one short presentation on Thursday, and spending the rest of my time wandering around. I’ll be presenting on the Exa Networks stand (full programme), after being asked nicely by Alan O’Donohoe. Space is limited and there’ll be 10 minutes for questions afterwards.
How to be an (open) badger (12:00-12:20) Stand B160 – Exa Education
I’m hoping to bump into a few people on Thursday before heading home late afternoon. I’ll be pretty flexible, so if you want to say hello, do tweet me (@dajbelshaw) or email me beforehand to arrange a time (email@example.com).
If you’re interested in where I’ll be over the coming year, then you might want to check out my Lanyrd profile. I still need to update it with some stuff from last year, but event-wise it’s a decent overview of my past/future movements!
I’ve been at the PELeCON conference this week. After her keynote, Keri Facer mentioned in a couple of tweets that the Twitter wall being visible to the audience but not the speaker can be problematic. Everything was positive in Keri’s session, but this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone (see danah boyd example).
So it got me thinking about what I’d like, as a presenter, when doing a keynote. There’s lots of different reasons tweet about a session using the conference hashtag. For example:
To let those who aren’t there know what’s being said
To give a voice to the livestream audience (if applicable)
To provide links to what’s being discussed
For banter/puns/general merrymaking
For agreement, disagreement and questions
…and many more.
Whilst you’re presenting there’s no way you can keep up with the stream in the same way that you (potentially) can when in the audience. But it would be nice to know the gist of what people are saying in the backchannel.
Thinking about it, I casually remarked that some kind of Twitter screen in front of presenters would be useful. And if those tweets that had been retweeted (RT’d) several times could appear bigger, so much the better.
Chris Atherton mentioned this sounded a lot like Wordle and Pat Parslow riffed on the idea talking about the potential for sentiment analysis.
That idea look something like this with traffic light colours for sentiment:
The trouble is, that’s still too much to take in whilst you’re presenting. So, thinking some more, I reckon all that’s needed is the top three most RT’d tweets. Which would look something like this:
The face-to-face nature of conferences is, I believe, of even more importance in an extremely digitally connected world. Whilst it’s often the case that you can get to know people very well online, there’s something about embodied interaction that makes your knowledge of that person three-dimensional. I don’t think one method of interacting is necessarily ‘better’ than the other; a blended approach is best. This, I suppose, is why social media is so popular.
In addition, my opinion on Apple’s new iBooks Author was quoted on the JISC site this week. However, they mistakenly listed me as a ‘practising teacher’.
That little slip made me realise just how much I miss it…
You may have noticed the grey bar at the very top of this blog indicating my next speaking engagement. This is powered by Lanyrd, the ‘social conference directory’ – with full details of the conferences I’m speaking at, attending and tracking available here:
It really doesn’t seem like a year ago that I posted My digital reading workflow but the time had nevertheless come to sort out new workflows in a new environment. When you’re working online all day, every day, things work a little differently.
Regular readers will know how much of an influence Joss Winn’s post Working on the web had on me recently. It certainly motivated me into action regarding ‘clipping’ (and adding my thoughts) to stuff I come across. I’m now using Amplify for that. What I still need to sort out, however, are ways to ensure I own my own data – either via backing-up Delicious and the like or some other method.
I was in the shower yesterday when it struck me how the lowest points of my life have occurred during, or as a result of actions during, the months of November and December. I’m fine really, and it’s not in my best interests to go into details here, but suffice to say that whilst everything is OK on the family and work fronts, I really struggle internally at this time of the year. I’m convinced it’s got something to do with the lack of light – something that Josh Rouse sings of in Come Back (Light Therapy).
The Learning Without Frontiers Conference (London) in January is the only event I’m planning to attend between January and March, given the imminent arrival of Belshaw Junior #2. Even after that, given the huge disappointment of Online Educa Berlin (and general conference fatigue) I may cut things back to just those at which I’m presenting/facilitating/organising.
You can read my write up of my time in Berlin this week on my conference blog. The short version? Frustrating and expensive, but with some elements I enjoyed. It’s the system, not the people, that’s the problem. I’ve got an allegory in mind that I need to work on that I think highlights some of the ridiculousness.
Pondering the temporary, fragile nature of things
Almost everyone has had, at some point, the experience of an airline losing their luggage. And if you haven’t, your time will come! What it did for me this week, coupled with having to rely on hotel lobby wifi for connectivity and reading Three Cups of Tea, is force me to realise how much of my continued successful existence is built upon systems. These systems are oiled with money in a way that poses little problem for those inside the system playing the game, but huge barriers to entry for those outside the system.
A bit disappointed with myself
Although sometimes not completely consciously, I’ve allowed myself to be dragged into the subtle swamp of self-aggrandisement this week. I’ve concentrated on the journey instead of the destination and the surface of the water without realising it was a puddle. It’s time to re-energise, re-think and re-focus.
As I attend an increasing number of conferences, I’m becoming more and more aware of differences in approach taken by educational technology-related companies. Broadly-speaking, they can be represented on a continuum from ‘conspiring’ to ‘inspiring’ (place each on the left or the right depending on your political preferences).
To my mind, there’s three ways in which an edtech company can be inspiring:
Develop a product or way of learning that changes the parameters of the debate
Model effective practices with a demonstrable commitment to pedagogy
Solve a genuine learning problem
The first type can usually only be done by someone as large as Google, someone with the money, time and resources to either invent or mainstream something that changes conversations about learning and teaching.
I’ve already written about how I believe BrainPOP! to be an example of the second type; their product, whilst great, isn’t as important as their approach to how they do business.
The third type, solving a genuine learning problem (not a pseudo-problem or manufactured crisis) is important. Let me attempt to explain the subtle difference between conspiring and inspiring:
If you’re providing a way to make examinations faster and cheaper without adding any value to the process, then you’re conspiring.
If your business model is predicated upon an ‘average teacher’ or lecturer who is hostile to technology, then you’re conspiring.
If you uncritically apply the latest fad, buzzword or way of describing your product to what you’re offering, then you’re conspiring.
Involving yourself and your company in the above means conspiring to rob students of authentic and valuable educational experiences. You’re conspiring, at the end of the day, to enrich yourself and your colleagues at the expense of learners.
How, then, can edtech companies, inspire?
By making more intuitive something (educationally-valuable) that was previously difficult, awkward or tricky.
By helping engage learners through pedagogically-sound processes and not just shiny toys and impressive graphics.
By treating teachers as professionals who care about educational experiences without castigating them for not necessarily jumping on the latest bandwagon.
The Inspiring/Conspiring continuum, then, is my new method of judging edtech companies. I’ve seen some of both at the conference I’m currently attending, and I’ll be avoiding BETT 2011 (based on past experience) due to too much of a focus at the wrong end of the continuum.
As I explained to Gavin Cooney, CEO of Learnosity, after BETT 2008 I was fairly convinced that their offering, a method of recording students for language learning, was in the ‘conspiring’ camp. I couldn’t see how they were adding value. Now that I’ve actually seen what they do, I’m more convinced to place them in the other camp. It can be subtle, as it’s often one of emphasis, but anything that allows learners of a compulsory foreign language to enjoy what they’re doing, pseudocontext to be avoided through real-world learning, and teachers to have access to intuitive technology, is OK by me. 🙂
Before entering the realm with JISC infoNet, I really didn’t understand why there were so many conferences in Further and Higher Education . Now I understand:
The whole academic system is predicated upon papers, which need to be presented somewhere.
Lots of (usually JISC-funded) projects have to disseminate their outputs.
Some subject disciplines/specialisms can be narrow. People need to meet to discuss things.
There’s many conferences that may be useful to your research interests and specialism(s) but you may not hear about them until it’s too late. That’s particularly true if, like me, you’re given a brief in a topic to which you’re fairly new.
Up to now, I’ve been following influential people on Twitter, reading blogs and generally scouting around for a place I can find information about relevant conferences.
It’s far from ideal.
I was delighted, therefore, when James Clay alerted me to a website that is focused on solving exactly the above problem. Lanyrd describes itself as ‘the social conference directory’ and works very well.
The idea is simple:
You sign in using Twitter’s OAuth mechanism (so you can revoke access at any time)
It finds out which conferences your friends are attending (you can indicate that other people are attending or speaking, you see…)
You add yourself to conferences you’re attending or speaking at. There’s also the option to ‘track’ a conference.
The (conference) world becomes a better place.
The thing about it is that, like Academia.edu, it’s a great idea that needs to gain traction through use. So please do have a look at it!