CAL 09 Brighton March 2009

Great conference in the Hilton Metropole, Brighton, ably hosted by Chairman Avril Loveless in Education and Sport. is conference website.

Wonderful to hear Diana Laurillard, Josie Taylor, Roger Saljo, Dave Cliffe, Grainne Conole and so many more VIPs in the elearning world.

A few byte-size bits of info from the conference:

Dave Cliffe talked of cloud computing or massive data utility centres (warehouses packed with many thousands of blade servers) which will become the next utility, with computing being paid for by time use at minimal marginal cost. Also ubiquitous amorphous computation based on networks of minute memory spots externalising “brain” linkages between them.

Dave also suggested that if a person could wear a video cam to record everything they saw from birth to 70 years, the total video storage required for a “lifetime” of images would be 27.5 terabytes, which in ten years time could cost approx. £1000. What’s extraordinary to me is that we can calculate this, make it measurable. Not of course that anyone would particularly fancy recording everything they saw! Imagine the retrieval system to find the right image….though it might help partners to get the details of where they first met right.

His tour de force keynote also mentioned some amazing intelligent prosthetics, cognitively enhancing drugs, quantum computing and plastic electronics – conjuring up a 3D copier which can produce physical objects rather than paper images – dramatic impact on manufacturing.

only a little reassuring that there are some processes which it is cheaper to employ people rather than computers to do – are we the new slave labour for the web?

Dave’s final message was about systems learning – we are getting to the stage where computers can deal with meta-systems or systems of systems – which is getting beyond our ability to understand. He believed the inability of so many to think numerately and to understand systems thinking was a potential major risk for humanity. Yet another advocate of systems thinking and numeracy – HEAR, HEAR!

Laura Czernewicz and her colleague Cheryl from University of Cape Town clarified the trend in S Africa to get elearning via mobiles rather than laptops, with some students spending on the highest range mobiles as this infrastructure cheaper and more reliable than investing in laptops.

Many symposia from CETLs around the UK on subjects such as Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) – it may be just possible that some of this work could enable real teachers to generate useful learning objects with very limited technical knowledge – right up my street.

Other key debates around the conference included the range of definitions (and understanding?) of the term pedagogy – for some this is learning theory and for others just beliefs of teachers about what works in teaching – a distinction I have written about elsewhere. Also varying perspectives of personalised learning and the extent to which Web 2.0 should or shouldn’t be adopted by HE/FE/schools as part of formal education. This is a hot issue as many feel that Web 2.0 should remain the preserve of people’s social lives rather than their formal educational lives, even though social networking clearly encompasses much personal learning. Glamorgan project exemplified this by a headline “Get out of MySpace!”.

I won’t give a further rundown here of my 27 pages of notes on the conference!! Suffice to say it was a great opportunity for Asher and I from BeL research group in BBS to talk to many colleagues about staff adoption of technology-enhanced learning around our poster site and questionnaires – much to sift through and analyse now.