Tuesday, July 10, 2007

EMERGE conference

For the last couple of days I’ve been in Manchester/Salford attending the EMERGE conference.

On Monday evening approx 100 individuals from all over the country gathered at the Golden Tulip Hotel, next to Old Trafford football ground, for initial drinks and dinner. Once I’d sorted out the problems with my accommodation booking. I met various colleagues I’d bumped into before and several new ones. Meeting new people was encouraged by an activity after dinner which required people to move tables and speak to people from projects they didn’t know anything about – this and drinks in the bar was useful to find out about the range of people and ideas represented at the conference.

Tuesday morning started with a coach from the hotel to the Lowry Centre where the conference was being held – this was only a few hundred yards by the pedestrian route but a couple of miles by road! The venue was impressive and welcoming.

Delegates were welcomed by George Roberts who is the director of the EMERGE project, who gave an overview of progress so far. He emphasised the importance of the UIDM model in forthcoming bids, and the use of appreciative enquiry in the project progress and evaluation.

He suggested that the various communities within EMERGE – adopt a team member. Josie Fraser then coordinated a community showcase when all the various projects had a couple of minutes to briefly describe their proposals, recruit collaborators and publicise their round tables and other activities for later in the day. The list of these showed the widespread range of activity ranging from improving academic writing through social scaffolding through learning design to Second Life, World of Warcraft and other MUVEs. A couple of the showcase projects which were particularly significant for the Mobile T’s I was representing included:

Bradford – use of audio in student feedback, self assessment and reflection.

Leeds – medical education + education + drama – personal & professional identity outside VLEs eg myspace & Facebook with digital storytelling into portfolios

Bloomsbury Group – Appropriate technologies for collaborative learning.

Salford – multi author blogging for data generation for later use in learning resources

New HEI in Suffolk (to be Uni in a few weeks) using web 2.0 & VLE to support nurses recording their learning (later conversations about podcasting skills videos)

After the initial showcase a welcome cup of coffee gave opportunities for further networking, and to follow up some of the things mentioned so far.

After coffee 7 simultaneous “round tables!” were available (along with UIDM workshops & an unconference, which I didn’t manage to get to). The first I attended was with the Bradford team discussing a range of aspects of the use of audio to support learning. A lot of this work related to the ALPS project & it was suggested the Leeds Met e admin project may also be relevant. There was lots of discussion about thow the technologies can be used to change the top down teacher led model of education to one which empowers students and recognises that they are experts & how their self assessment and reflection can be enabled. There seemed to be lots of good opportunities for collaboration between a range of different communities with this project.

After a good lunch and more networking, I attended another round table session led by the Bloomsbury consortium (SOAS, RVC, Institute of Education & others). About Appropriate and Practical Technology (APT) which aims to look at real world issues around assessing needs, and selecting appropriate technologies (including paper & pen) for particular learning needs (links to Transliteracy – a new term to me which seemed to be appropriate). This table seemed to the people who were grounded in the real world rather than those who were off playing with Second Life and similar wizzy technologies. Again their seemed to be good opportunities for collaboration & they proposed to gather examples of good (and bad) practice from different institutions and disciplines to prevent re-inventing the wheel and share practical real world solutions to learning needs.

The day closed with a short plenary about the evaluation of the project by Rhonda and some closing remarks by George who as the project director tried to give a helicopter view of the disparate work going on & suggesting the deadline for bid submissions would be extended to October which would affect the timing of the (possibly virtual) town meeting and a project development (not bid writing) day and a platform user group day.


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