Innovating e-Learning 2010: Final days of the conference sparkle

Winter may have come early this year, but the closing days of the JISC Online Conference sparkled in the gloom.

The content
Anne Miller, an inventor and authority on innovation and creativity, opened up Theme 2 of the conference with advice on ‘How to get your innovations adopted – and change the world’. Delegates continued to explore the tension between innovation and resistance throughout the subsequent sessions which included mobile technologies, OER and ways of sustaining curriculum innovation.

Miller proposed 4 stages through which an innovation passes before acceptance. To succeed, innovators must recognise that challenging ideas will be subject to controlling mechanisms at the first three stages. A variety of engaging tips and tricks were offered to help an idea on to the embedded stage, generating discussions threads of exceptional quality.

Graham Brown-Martin’s session on mobile technologies struck a more challenging note. Educational technologies such as interactive whiteboards and desktop computers, he claimed, have done little to improve the standard of learning. The session polarised responses. Depending on their experiences and predilections, delegates valued the shift towards learner-managed learning taking place on learner-owned devices but also queried the appropriateness and inclusivity of such an approach in formal education:

‘How do mobile devices and apps support the values of tertiary education, which include challenge, criticism and disruption of accepted norms, but which also include equality of opportunity, cultural sensitivity, evidence and method?’ (Helen Beetham)

The conference closed with a keynote by Elliott Masie, head of the MASIE Center, a US think tank on cultural change. Arguing for reorganising rather than demolishing the status quo, Elliott proposed that a change in the locus of control should not mean an abrogation of responsibility on the part of educators, whose role necessarily includes setting and assessing standards.

Technology is a tool with which to achieve change, Masie argued, so we should be careful of falling so much in love with any particular technology that we do not see what its real affordances are. Thom Cochrane from Unitec, New Zealand in describing technology in an earlier session as a catalyst rather than a blueprint for change expressed a similar point – perhaps the consensus view in these wide-ranging debates:

‘The goal is changing and enhancing the learning experience – the technology is a catalyst that can be leveraged by lecturers modeling the pedagogical use of these tools and making informed decisions as to what tools to recommend and explore.’ (Thom Cochrane)

The experience
For the first time, all sessions at Innovating e-Learning 2010 took place in Elluminate to provide a ‘live’ conference experience alongside asynchronous discussions. Delegates enjoyed the variety this offered: ‘Personally I am really enjoying the choice that this online conference is giving me … the choice to watch live or view later … the choice to read the chat, join in or ignore (I like the fact that is it there though because it makes me feel as though I am in the same ‘room’ others) … the choice to carry on the discussion after the session … or not.’ (Helen Hodges RSC Wales)

There was also a sense that the nature of conferencing was being redrawn: ‘What is brilliant (in my mind) about this type of conference is the way in which multi-channel discussions can take place. The pre-reading, the live event and the post live event discussions. In some regards, the live event, instead of being the main draw has been a “conversation starter”. (Mark Russell, University of Hertfordshire)

Innovating e-Learning 2010 remains open for reading for registered delegates until 31st December, after which the recordings of the live sessions and all presentations will be available from the JISC website.

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