Association for Learning and Teaching Conference (ALT-C 2012)

Phillip Gagen talks about his experiences attending the Association of Learning Technology Conference

Tuesday 11th September – Thursday 13th September 2012

Lawrie Peck and I recently attended the above conference in Manchester, on behalf of the ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ (TEL) team. The conference is a mix of keynote speakers, short paper presentations, workshops and symposiums spread over a three day period.

The official notes from the conference, are to be made available shortly via the TEL area of the Derby website (http://www.derby.ac.uk/lei/tel).

However I’d like to focus my blog on two main sessions that I attended whilst at the ALT Conference:

  1. Pilot mentality – symposium
  2. Serious technology use (Project SCARLET)

Pilot mentality – symposium

A really useful debate focused around the use of pilots and projects within academic institutions. The basis of the symposium was to discuss two statements:

Plane‘Pilots and projects represent value for money and are a valuable tool in evaluating, experimenting and reflecting on the use of new pedagogies and learning technologies. They are a key part of embedding organisational change’.

or

‘Pilots and projects are an inefficient method for mainstream adoption and embedding of new pedagogies and learning technologies. They are of little value to organisations and are often used as part of a cycle of funding rather than organisational change’.

While it was largely agreed that pilots and projects were useful and did represent value for money. It was undecided whether all educational institutions needed to pilot for example the use of ‘Turnitin’ or e-submission. The argument was that since universities have in most cases an element of a research facility, why is the need for everyone to undertake individual pilots / projects? Surely if a small number of universities have researched the use of e-submission then, other universities should accept that research implement e-submission or whatever it maybe and move on to the next item on their roadmap?

One other good point made, was what was the definition between a pilot and a project? Is it safer to undertake a pilot where there is an element of risk and failure? Simply because people accept pilots can fail and if a project fails it’s deemed far more serious?

I personally think the debate touched on points which are reasonable for both sides, however ultimately individual pilots or projects are needed at each institution. This is simply due to the different and complex network infrastructure / pre-existed software applications already implemented at each institution.

Terminology year on year does change, the recent ALT conference allured to the fact pilots are more the rage for Universities to undertake rather than projects. I think it’s an excellent point that if a pilot was to fail it’s not deemed too much of an issue, but if a project failed this is seen as far more serious.

For further information on the paper presented at the ALT conference

http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28055

Serious technology use (Project SCARLET)

Augmented Reality in the Classroom Craig Knapp_006As the ALT page about the session says “The SCARLET project (Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching) addresses one of the main obstacles to the use of special collections in teaching and learning – the fact that students are required to consult archives, manuscripts and rare books within the controlled conditions of reading-rooms, isolated from much of the secondary, supporting materials and a growing mass of related digital assets. This is an unfamiliar experience for students who are accustomed to an information-rich wireless world, and it is therefore seen to be a barrier to their use of special collections.” (ALT, 2012)

The SCARLET ‘app’ now enables students to study early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy, for example, while simultaneous viewing catalogue data, digital images, webpages and online learning resources on their tablet devices and phones. Feedback from the students has been very positive: they see the benefits of being able to view videos produced by their tutor, digitised images and catalogue information while simultaneously handling the real thing.

Augmented Reality has never before been used to enhance the experience of using special collections material for teaching and learning. The SCARLET project could also be “highly influential in demonstrating how institutions could use Augmented Reality to enhance the learning experience across the curriculum” (ALT, 2012).

One issue that needs to be addressed is the fact that not every student has a suitable mobile device (smartphone / iPad). For the SCARLET project the Library invested in a suite of iPads, which are lent out to students during seminars.

For more information on SCARLET please visit the University of Manchester Blog at: http://scarlet.mimas.ac.uk

Or further information on the paper presented at the ALT conference http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28109

Overall

The nineteenth annual ALT conference provided as expected many thought provoking viewpoints across the UK educational arena. I enjoyed the wide range of topics discussed and the potential networks discovered over the three day period.

References

ALT (2012) Serious Technology Use: Dante, Milton and Greek Papyri brought to life using Augmented Reality — 234 — Short (oral) Paper. Available from: http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28109 (accessed 25 September 2012)

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