Learning Futures Festival (LFF) 2010 on Sunday the 10th

Yesterday (10th Jan) was the fourth day of the Beyond Distance’s Learning Futures Festival.

Delegates joined the conference via a mixture of modes: in Second Life, on-line on Ellumiante and via the conference website.

The keynote speech and other presentations were delivered from different geographical locations reflecting the truly international flavour of the LFF 2010. Dr Stephen Downes who delivered the keynote came online from his hotel room in Las Vegas (at 5am!).

About forty participants joined the keynote session from around the world: from Sao Paulo (Brazil); Victoria, British Columbia; Denmark, Connecticut, Egypt, South Africa, and of course many parts of England where snow was in some cases gradually melting! (Leicester, Bath, Kent, Welingborough, London). This was a satisfactory number of participants for a session on a Sunday, especially including the international delegates.

The keynote was very engaging and interactive, in a very relaxed atmosphere on Elluminate. Stephen joined Elluminate’s live seminar room half an hour before the session, and participants had a chance to introduce themselves to Stephen and to each other before the keynote started.

In his keynote, Stephen argued that recent developments in educational technology have centred round the concept of personal learning environments (PLEs). He considered PLEs as a replacement for virtual learning environments (VLEs). PLEs focus on the individual learners while VLEs focus on the class or the institution. He stressed the need to examine the pedagogy in personal learning. The key questions for teachers were: how are we to understand learning outcomes, shared understandings, or social construction of meaning and understandings?

Stephen argued that a shift form VLE to PLE is not only a shift in technology but also a shift in how we view learning itself. A PLE is a software environment where we can manage our connections online. A recording of his keynote will be available at the conference website.

In the afternoon participants listened to Rod Angood’s presentation entitled’ Baths, Drains and Web 2.0: Why Waste a Perfectly Good Crisis’. His presentation was on building a resilient and cost effective internet service for university students. Questions for Rod included: cost of proving internet access through an optical line, institutional issues of providing 24/7 service, resilient access to internet, and management-related barriers that need to be overcome.

Then, Lucy de Mello from Brazil presented her work on Educommunication. As her session was scheduled for Sunday morning time in Brazil, Luci had recorded her session prior to the conference, but she had enjoyed the earlier live sessions so much so that she wanted to speak live to a live audience! Delegates listened to Luci talking about the use of dialogue in distance education in Brazil. Luci’s work is drawn from several theoretical traditions: cultural studies, mediation theory and communication theory, in addition to recent models from distance education.

Participants had great fun learning in Second Life events in both the morning and afternoon. In the morning, newbies to Second Life had great fun refining their walking skills (very useful when it snows!); they learned how to see themselves face to face; learned how to attach and detach objects, including recovering lost hair – I wish I could do that in real life too!!. In the late afternoon, participants gathered around the Second Life campfire and discussed their Google-Opoly tasks.

In addition to taking part in live sessions on Elluminate and in Second Life, participants were also busy doing asynchronous activities on the conference website. Googlo-Opoly needs a special mention, as you can see from feedback from the participants:

“Really enjoying the game and can see that it’s helping with tools, but also with more imaginative ways of writing blogs, and with design of e-tivities…”

” “Brilliant use of technology/google etc as a learning tool thanks for all your hard work”

” “Thanks for that, it was fun and challenging”

” “Back from pub lunch to tackle more of my Google-Opoly adventure. Will try to catch up on PLE session at some point too #lff10″ – (from Twitter)”

“ “….Then at 6pm I signed in to Eluminate to do the orientation briefing. Unfortunately I missed most of this as I was cooking dinner at the time and had two screaming children. However I understood that I’d receive an email and a link to a Google Map and would be able to do the session later that night / the following day….”

Someone else had two kids and had to cook in between Google-Opoly, Another delegate had a cold and was happy to be sent to sunnier places on the Google map. Someone else had a sick child at home and was pleased to be able to take part nevertheless.

So … the Learning Futures Festival continues until the 14th of January. Return to this space for more blog entries…

Palitha Edirisingha
11 Jan 2010

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