Tag: Ewan McIntosh

Some reflections on the organization of #BectaX

Introduction

I don’t often post about conferences at which I’m not a presenter or workshop leader. Whilst it’s useful to share the resources I produce for such events, reporting the content or organization of a conference as a mere participant can be, well… a bit boring.

I’m making an exception, though, with #BectaX for three reasons:

  1. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 people invited to attend.
  2. There were massively high hopes regarding the outcomes of the conference.
  3. It was a very ‘open’ event.

Some caveats:

  • My experience is likely to have been shifted towards the positive due to the fact that many of the people I interact with regularly on Twitter.
  • I had to leave an hour early to catch a flight back from Stansted to Newcastle and so missed the feedback session.
  • I’m can be a bit over-analytical (and critical) at times, especially when the opening session was on the subject of my Ed.D. thesis.

The Good

The conference was set up expertly by a team including Ewan McIntosh and Josie Fraser. As you’d expect from such finger-on-the-pulse luminaries, there was as much – if not more – stuff happening in the ether as there was physically in front of us. The ‘speed networking’ event, whilst ultimately a bit frustrating due to the length of time allocated and the resultant din, was a fun way to meet new folks with similar interests.

There was also an attempt to get students involved. In fact, 14 schools were invited to take part via a video link (not live two-way, unfortunately) and Twitter hashtag (#BectaX). There was a cool Flash-powered map that appeared on the screen every so often showing tweets from the schools.

The Bad

It’s difficult organizing a conference. Not that I’ve ever tried to (yet!) but I can imagine that there’s no way you can please everyone. Here’s the things that I thought could have been better:

  1. A clear announcement at the start about the potential self-censorship of tweets. It’s hard to put something damning – or even slightly negative on Twitter – when you know it’s going to be flashed on the screen in a few seconds’ time. As it is Ewan cleared it up nicely, but it could have gone the other way.
  2. A more engaging first session. I found that the presentation on digital literacy conflated several issues, wasn’t very interesting, and was by someone who either doesn’t present very often or doesn’t present well very often (lots of text on-screen and bumbling)
  3. Hands-on activities in the morning session. Something to get your teeth into before lunch and the desire to nap kicks in.
  4. Power sockets available at seats. If you expect people to be tweeting, provide them with some power – especially if we’re going to sit there on-and-off for 3 hours or so.
  5. Find a way to get students more involved – perhaps by them actually being there?

The Ugly

Whilst I’m willing to hear from all parties involved in education, I really do take exception to representatives of companies mentioning their products in every breath. I also had no sympathy for said man from Sony when he complained that there was no mechanism to sell to all UK schools at once. He moaned that Sony would have to “literally go and knock on every school’s door”. Boo hoo.

Conclusion

#BectaX was by far the most unconferencey conference I’ve ever been to. The digital and physical really were blended and it was great to see the debate ranging across international boundaries, never mind leaking out of the hall. Ewan and Josie prompted and probed participants in the discussion sessions and led the event well.

But… will it change anything? The cynic in me noted that it was organized on the last day of the financial year by a government organization that is, by all accounts, under threat after the next election. However, I’d like to think it will mix things up a bit. If nothing else, just getting some of the finest educators and grassroots educational thinkers in the country together in one place can’t help but spark something… :-p

All photos CC BY-NC-SA Mr Ush

“Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore!” (or, How to get started in the Edublogosphere…)

Wizard of Oz

I’ve been contacted by four different postgraduate researchers in the last two weeks. It’s getting to the stage where I’m considering setting up a new website/discussion space! A couple of them just wanted permission to use some of my stuff in their theses, one is already a member of the Edublogosphere, but one asked a very pertinent question:

My stumbling across some of your postings last night was my first trip in the edublogosphere. What else is going on out there?

As you can imagine, I hardly knew where to start! As I like to reply to emails ASAP, I replied thus:

  • Find some blogs to read. My Google Reader shared items might be a good place to start. Also try the big names in the edublogosphere – search for Stephen Downes, Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Ewan McIntosh, and Dave Warlick. 🙂
  • Get yourself a Google account and use Google Reader to subscribe to the RSS feeds of blogs (don’t know how? click here)
  • Start using Twitter. At first you’ll think “What on earth…?”. After a while you’ll find it indispensible.
  • Start blogging yourself. Doesn’t matter what, but start making links with people. It’s the conversation that counts! Try edublogs to get you started. 😀

There’s a Hebrew proverb that I’m sure almost every educator will have heard before: “Do not confine your children to your learning, for they were born in a different time.” The same could be said of the Edublogosphere. I can hardly recommend that people start by using the same tools I did when things have moved on so much in the last 3-4 years! What would YOU recommend?

This Sunday, EdTechRoundup will be discussing just this issue – how to get started in the Edublogosphere – from 7.45pm onwards. Please do join us and give your input. The session will be recorded and go out as a podcast.

If you can’t make it, or just want to get the conversation going before then, please add your comment below! :-p

Reflections on BETT 2008

Further to my previous posts this week, I’ve been at BETT 2008 this week. I don’t like it on other edublogs when people endlessly bang on about conferences/events I haven’t been able to attend, so this will be my last post on it – I promise! 🙂

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