Saturday, 6 October 2012

ALT-C 2012

I attended my first Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) Conference in September, primarily because I was co-presenting a short paper with my former line manager, Claire. Although the Conference was over 3 days, I only attended the day I was presenting, which was Wednesday 12th September.

The things that struck me immediately was that it seemed a bigger conference than i'd attended before (I don't know if it was) and that the format of it was very different to what I was used to. 

The format is what I want to explore because unlike other conferences I've attended with traditional keynote speeches and hour long workshops, this conference is multifaceted regarding the 'workshops'. This is in inverted commas as it needs an explanation. Where you would normally have an hour long conference workshop, ALT-C has a variety of things:

  • PechaKucha sessions of no more than 10 mins and 9 slides
  • Short papers (20 mins)
  • Symposia (60 mins)
  • Workshops (60 mins)
  • Demonstrations (30 mins)
  • Hybrids - combinations of the above (60 mins)

The sessions were in 1 - 1.20 hour blocks, so if you were attending the PechaKuchas or short paper sessions, you got a variety of presentations. This I found liberating because it meant that I was hearing about many different things in a short space of time, keeping me interested and alert.

My presentation was part of an Institutional Mainstreaming theme and in this session there were 4 presentations (inclusive of mine). I got to hear about:
  • Open University's final year projects that use a peer open forum to help students choose their topic
  • mainstreaming e-learning and innovation in higher education teaching
  • and possibly the most inspiring talk I have ever attended, about the use of lecture capture technology to deliver classes for students of the American University in Cairo (whose main campus is in Cairo's main square) during the Arab Spring
I especially like this as it means that even though you are presenting, you are not missing out on hearing about other people's experiences. I felt at the ARLG Conference I went to in June, I was missing out on very interesting sessions, as I was presenting when they were on. The short papers at ALT-C meant I presented for part of the session and then it was someone else's turn. Granted, I had no choice over what I was hearing about in this session but I felt I was learning something, rather than only sharing my experience.

The next 'workshop' I attended was a PechaKucha session. Claire and I went along to this, in support of my colleague Richard, who was presenting. Here (including Richard) there were 5 presentations, which gave a succinct overview of each topic. The PechaKucha sessions didn't have any overarching broad theme like the short papers, (other than their use of e-learninig technologies). They again provided an interesting and diverse range of presentations that kept the delegates engaged.

The last session I attended had the broad theme of Changing Learners. The presentations here were about using digital sorytelling for reflective practice and using social media as an audience response system. Again I got a brief introduction to the subjects. I think that when you are at a conference this is all you need. You can't take in all the information you are receiving, so for me I would rather take away lots of small introductory ideas and then follow up by contacting presenters, than hear something very in depth but then forgetting most if it due to an information overload. I appreciate that other people may want the in depth information and that option is available through the other 'workshops'. This variety is why I think that the multifaceted option of workshops offered at ALT-C is a fantastic idea.