A few weeks ago I was slightly jet lagged but delighted to be stepping out on a crisp December morning to walk from my hotel to the Durham Users Conference. The weather was cold and frost lay thick on the ground but the welcome at the Durham University Business School could not have been warmer.
The theme of this two day conference was Connectivism. A core element of Connectivism is the use of a network, its nodes and connections as a metaphor for learning. Additional principles include that nurturing and maintaining connections across the network is crucial to facilitate continual learning. Also, knowing something currently may not be as important as knowing where within one’s network one can get the information.
Keynote speaker Dr. Sian Bayne from the University of Edinburgh opened up the conference with a talk entitled, “Learning Online: the Smooth and the Strange.” She introduced the concept of Striated versus Smooth space and how this may apply to the eLearning experience. This was a new concept for me and I found her talk fascinating because of its breadth and depth. The presenters who followed her did a wonderful job weaving in the conference theme and the new concepts of smooth and striated as they explored the context of connectivism within eLearning and shared many examples from their research and campus life.
Nicole Cargill-Kipar from Heriot-Watt University gave an interesting and humorous talk called “Fresher’s Week 2012/13: Welcome to the Dark Ages?” She explored what incoming freshmen will expect from their learning experience, need from a technology perspective, and how they may engage with fellow learners when they arrive on campus for the first time 5 years from now. The data for her presentation came from research by MTV, Nickelodeon, Microsoft, JISC, and ECAR. She calls this group of connected students “Generation-C” and you can search for her bookmarks on this topic at del.icio.us using the tag ‘generation-c.’
Some insights from her talk:
- These students have absorbed technology into their lives so seamlessly that the term “eLearning” is meaningless.
- These students are on average, active in 3 social networks
- They are technology-embracing and have internet access on 2-3 electronic devices.
- They spend 34 hours online each week.
The conference organizers made sure that there were numerous opportunities to connect with fellow conference goers and I tried to make the most of these opportunities. Over tea and chocolate biscuits I learned a lot about the creative things people are doing in eLearning. One thing was clear to me – this community is very excited about leveraging Blackboard Building Blocks and Blackboard PowerLinks to enhance their VLE. At every turn I heard from folks interested in having a Blackboard Developers Day. Don’t worry – I’m working on it. Keep your ears open for a Developers Day in conjunction with the May 2008 BbWorld Manchester conference!
Congratulations to the conference team for putting on a first class conference. Thanks also to the many engaging speakers whose thought-provoking, and entertaining sessions made it well worth the trip! As soon as the conference presentations are available I’ll publish a link to them.
In the meantime, I’m already looking forward to the 9th annual Durham Blackboard Users Conference December 18-19, 2008. See you there!