Thursday, 8 October 2015

ALTC 2015 - University of Manchester

On the 8th September 2015 I headed to the University of Manchester to attend the 3 days of conference and fun at ALT-C (The Association of Learning Technologists Conference).

It brings together Learning Technologists, academics and all those interested in the use of technology to support and enhance learning and teaching. This post sums some of my most memorable parts.

I had made a point of meeting up with friends and old work colleagues Hayley and James. We have all moved on to new institutions but keep in touch sharing experiences and ideas, ALT-C provides the perfect opportunity to do this face to face.

The conference always starts with the challenge of which sessions to go. This year I had read through eh programme and had an idea of what might be good but as the 3 days go on the list always changes. The only think that was a definite fixture in the 3 days was the treasure hunt on day 2. I first met Hayley doing a treasure hunt at the University of Leeds using AR and knew that there was no way we would miss out on doing another one. Another feature of the conference this year was the ALT_C game which ran across the 3 days and introduced the attendees to the idea of gamification. There was stickers awarded for arriving at a session first, talking to suppliers and completing a wide range of activities. The delegates were split into 4 coloured teams to compete to take on the EvilBot. The game finished with the winning team taking on Evilbot on the last day of the conference.

As with previous conferences there was a big social media presence, it is always good to see what is going on in parallel sessions and bookmark shared papers for reading later. 

The conference started with a keynote from Steve Wheeler about the changes in technology and how we use it. He also brought 2 of his students to talk about their experiences. I think it is always important to hear student feedback direct from them but also to engage them in the conversation. Faceless surveys gather data but they often miss the human element and as many are anonymised it is hard to follow up specific comments or suggestions.

As I moved through sessions on Day 1 I learnt about how different staff have used technologies in their university and the research they have done into the impact of them. Firstly was Chris Gillies talking about the comparisons, barriers and enablers of BYOD and institutionally supplied devices.  This work is really useful as we think about how we support staff and students to use devices within Leeds Beckett. The first day ended with the gala dinner. As part of the ALT-C game we had ‘craft’ activities on the tables to make hats and decorate them. My table took to this task with great enthusiasm.  

The keynote delivered by Jonathan Worth on day 2 was enlightening and thought provoking, well worth a watch if you spare the time. Day 2 highlight was charging around and completing the treasure hunt. It was good to learn about a new website by using and engaging it. The site called ActionBound was really easy to use and with the demonstration of setting up looked like something work investigating further to add interest to induction activities and maybe add some fun to staff development sessions.  I also went to sessions about the value of lecture capture, it was a great session to be in to talk and discuss the value of lecture capture and why it is useful.

The final day saw the ALT-C game end and the Evilbot defeated (it ended with a piƱata style robot). The game was good and brought a thread to the whole event.

This is just a very brief summary of the some of the things I saw and heard. There is a huge amount of information available from the event and I will be going back to them in the future to support and guide my thinking about the use of technologies in learning and teaching. Here is the link for all the resources.