Arrival

I’ve arrived and will write more tomorrow but my day’s notes are thus:

You will know that Schipol is a large airport. I’m fairly sure that I read somewhere that it was the biggest in the world – but I don’t have the means to check right now (let me know won’t you?). The first time Sharon and I came here was in December 2001 and we were passing through at a rate of knots due to a delayed flight from Manchester. We had to run like the wind to catch our flight to Oman – which we just made, but which our luggage didn’t! (which is also part of todays stress – this wasn’t the first KLM horror story).  On our way back (by now it was January 2002) we were more taken with spending our ‘new’ Euros (which had replaced individual European currencies that month), to spend time looking around.

Now I’m back here and I’m worn out. I have 2.5 hours between flights but my connection to Riga is at the very opposite side of the airport to my arrival point. Having found my departure point, I had to walk up and down the corridor (35 gates – mine was No. 31) to keep checking that the gate hadn’t changed (it did – it moved to 35). The information screens seem to be at the centre of the hub, but nowhere to be seen on the spokes themselves. Then, having decided that I would just sit at the gate with a sandwich and a coffee – I had to go right back to the hub because the spoke-end coffee house had no coffee!!

All of this was after what was to me a completely new (well, new inasmuch as it hasn’t happened for about 15 years) procedure.

We are now so used to booking-in online that only being able to do so for my first flight was disconcerting, to be told upon arrival here in Amsterdam (twice – by KLM and AN Other) that ‘we cannot book you onto that flight’ was doubly disconcerting. I was told I had two options: leave the ‘safe area’ and book back in, as if entering from Holland (er – no thank you) or to go to the gate and let the crew book me in. This seemed the least scary of the two options, not leaving much room for manoeuvre. But – now it is clear to me that this is the done thing with Air Baltic.
I have now got a boarding card, having seen that gate 31 has a desk and that exactly one hour before the flight, this desk becomes manned (well, womanned). Well that’s ok – but why don’t e-Bookers know that? And why doesn’t KLM, the initiating flight carrier, know that either? After all – the booked my luggage straight through and it would have been far less stressful to know that booking in at the gate was normal. (more when I’m less tired)

#hhl09

I’m just returning from the Handheld Learning Conference. There are several things I wanted to write about the conference but I can’t for the life in me remember everything I’d previously thought of. I’ve kept several notes here and there, mainly on Penzu, which is a wonderful personal reflective blogging tool.

N.B. – if you just want food chat and not be bothered by this work/conference yawn, please go straight to the end(ish)

I think it’s been a brilliant conference. Well, ‘brilliant’ might be over-egging it a bit, but for me it has been the most useful ‘conference’ I’ve attended for several years. First of all, I have to once again thank those friends who’ve helped to make it as good as it has been. I always enjoy the company of James Clay, Lilian Soon, Ron Mitchell, Nick Jeans and (just Monday) Elaine (for a short time on Tuesday) Di Dawson. This week we were joined in our discussions, deliberations and deliveries by Stuart Smith, ex- http://www.hairdressing.ac.uk/ and http://www.htmob.mobi/ who became a welcome addition to the team.

Long before the conference, we’d set up a fringe service http://hheckl.ning.com/ with the intention of injecting some off-the-wall activities and fun. So, despite initial and ongoing travel problems Lilian, James, Stuart and I delivered a two hour audience participation event based on the Top Gear ‘cool wall’ idea. After a dry start, with only a few people in the audience, this took off and ended up being a great session. We had great feedback from people throughout the event and many felt discomfited by the totally device orientated input. This was intended – we’d hoped for (and got) some interest in discussing the uses available to learners and learning environments. Ideally, we would then have been able to have a second session where there was more room (and better environment) for discussion. I managed to film half an hour of this workshop via my Nokia N95 8gig via QIK: http://qik.com/video/3105379. The first two minutes are soundless but then the video give you an idea of what went on and how it worked.

A second HHECKL event took place throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, when conference goers were asked to think about their ideal learning gadget and what it would look like. They were then asked (all totally informally and at coffee/lunch times only) to draw these on A5 sheets of paper and we stuck them on a pillar in the middle of the room. http://twitpic.com/klei4

On Tuesday, I spent the day on the LSN stand, which was there to promote and celebrate MoLeNET. I really think that this was the day that I enjoyed the most! I missed all of the day’s sessions, and some of these were real belters by the sound of it, but I also had the opportunity to speak with so many people, from all over the world, that are interested in (or would like to be interested in) mobile learning.

Wednesday was spent listening to speakers and tweeting some of my feelings. Donald Clark compared (MC’d – whatever you like) the Inclusion Strand, which was well attended. I enjoyed listening to him; he was irreverent enough to be engaging without upsetting too many people. He discussed the 300 pages of ‘Digital Britain’ and was fairly scathing – so that will be an exciting read on my way to Lativa later this month (I have to get a feel for that and 21st Century Skills for the Advanced PDA/e-Guides programme – more in good time).

Neil McClean of Becta was up first. Talked about ‘stuff’ that was a bit too strategic for me – I noted: ‘Being inclusive is celebrating diversity. Why do we celebrate economic status? Really the statement doesn’t mean what it says – it means exclusion by economic status’ and then ‘Learners have lives and live through them’ – all of which really confused me. I wasn’t altogether clear what his message was – it was very worthy – but quite disjointed. Perhaps it’s me.

David Cavallo was next. He’s the Chief learning architect for (at?) MIT OLPC. He spoke about his work in Africa, particularly Rwanda. The only thing I ‘got’ was that the learners were using every opportunity presented to them (even though and especially as only 6% of the entire country has electricity) to learn. Despite this paucity of electricity – most learners were worldly aware (example was that the knew of MTV). They were using the green ‘cheap’ laptops I can’t remember the name of – are they wind-up?

Elizabeth Hayes cam next: Arizona state university. I’m easily switched off by strident(ish) gender issues and saw her opening statements as the opposite of misogyny (which I had to look up – misandry is the opposite!). She warmed to her theme of games, specifically SIMS eventually, but she’d lost me – I was tweeting, searching, working. Whoosh – missed the point entirely.

Sal Cooke. Sal started by talking about what was and what is and how the two compare. She praised MoLeNet projects to the skies and illustrated how the initiatives have proven that mobile and handheld devices are amongst the most inclusive tools available to learners. She said that RFID would be available on all phones by next year and that specialist colleges don’t always recognise that they have doing innovative stuff.  Also see http://www.robobraille.org

Next: Sir Tim Brighouse. I didn’t get him – I zoned out. Completely lost me (which is what words-on-screen tend to do)

Helen Milner was next, from UK online centres. Her slides can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/helenmilner. I thought that her presentation was engaging, had a message and was well researched but I was getting tired and missed most of the figures. I will return to her slides later and check them out – I’m not sure where they came from, so hopefully she will quote the sources too because they are interesting.

FOOD

Conferences can be tiring and this one has been no exception. I visited the MoLeNET session in the afternoon and then went across the road to visit the coffee cart. Conference coffee is notoriously ‘pants’ so it was a relief to meet the guy in the little truck opposite The Brewery. £1.50 for a custom Americano isn’t bad at all really. By custom I mean that it was easy to say ‘can you leave me an inch’ and he knew what I meant. That inch means that the espresso at the heart of a good Americano is not too watered down and I can add just as much milk as I need/fancy. Telling that to Ratazza, Costa, Starbucks is simply NOT that easy.

Lunch on Monday was a take-away eaten in a pub. Which was great as there were about 10 of us, all buying from different mobile vendors up the street opposite our venue and all sat together in a pub that said ‘BYO – food, we supply the beer’. Great! Dinner on Monday was an equally inclusive event (all ostensibly HHECKL events) in the Albi Italian Restaurant next door to the lunchtime pub. James Clay, Lilian Soon, Steve Wheeler, Ron Mitchell, Nick Jeans, Simon Ball (TechDis), Emma Millard (TechDis), Stuart Smith and a lady from HEA who I was never really introduced to, all sat and ate en familie. Great.

Both conference lunches were a delight. This venue provides a selection of just larger than Tapas size portions in bowls for you to eat as you stand and talk. All dishes were very tasty and fresh. Well done The Brewery at Barbican.

Lils demanded that the HHECKL crowd eat noodles in Soho on Tuesday night, so that what we did. This time there were just seven of us and the core of five were joined by Rebecca Douch and Geoff Foot from LSN. Mainly great food – but a couple of bloopers too. C & R on Rupert something or other.

So that’s it. I’ve written this between Kings Cross and Doncaster and will now try to get it online – but …. We’ll see

ALT-C 2009

I’ve just cleared the decks after returning from an interesting week at ALT-C. Well, when I say ‘cleared the decks’, I mean that I’ve caught up on as many emails as I can and have phoned as many people as I’d promised or needed to. And, when I say ‘an interesting week’ – I mean it’s been an all-absorbing, full-on, learning, networking and interesting three days, not quite a week.

The last time I attended an ALT conference was back in 2006, in Edinburgh and I blogged throughout that conference: http://dsugden.googlepages.com/alt-c. This time I haven’t, I just didn’t seem to have the energy to blog. Instead – I Twittered (Twitted?) http://twitter.com/dsugden #altc2009 and learned about Twitterfall. I’d left the Edinburgh conference disillusioned and dispirited and purposely avoided the next two in Nottingham and Leeds (although I now wish I’d managed Leeds if only for the conference dinner which was apparently a great success by Thomas Danby College students).  It costs me a lot of money to attend and I can’t afford to come away feeling like that. This year though, Lilian Soon [www.xlearn.co.uk] and I had been accepted for our delivery of a workshop called: Active Learning with mobile and Web 2.0 Technologies: http://altc2009.alt.ac.uk/talks/show/6854.

Since my return, it has been interesting to review my comments from last time and to match them against this year’s reflections (both Twittered and not). I’m not sure that Twitter was around in 2006, it might just have been, but this year has seen an explosion of comment on the #altc2009 Twitterfall. Similarities?

  • People are still talking about blogs – one speaker promoting them to her learners said ” I wouldn’t blog in a thousand years”!!
  • Talk of using the Social Networking giants (Facebook wasn’t around in 2006 either – much) as disappeared
  • There is still a lot of angst about how ‘it’ will affect the institution (and copyright and IPP and – so on) ‘it’ being anything new, unresearched or disruptive (i.e. everything I like)
  • PowerPoints are still badly made. The final keynote – Terry Anderson (whilst interesting) had very wordy slides – no change there then, since 2006. Another guy in a workshop I attended had red text on a black background – poo-er! Teacher Trainers seemed to have the worst PPT slides. Some of the best were just images (2nd keynote Martin Bean – VC OU elect – was a good example of an entertaining, informative talk with imagery and very few words on screen)
  • There is still a poor F.E. showing (% wise not quality wise)

On the first night (for me and Lilian) we went with James Clay and Ron Mitchell (their second night) to el Rincon de Rafa Tapas bar just off Deansgate in Manchester. We had a great time in this comfortable and very Spanish restaurant. I really can’t remember everything we had to eat but whatever it was plentiful and very tasty. I do like the beer here.

The second night was gala dinner night and this was presented in the magnificent Town Hall (Manchester) by a joint team of students from Sheffield and Manchester Colleges. Once again I can’t remember exactly what we had for every course (James saved me a menu, but I forgot to get it from him) but it was delightful; spoiled only by the awards having to be interspersed with the courses – instead of at the end. The petit fours were a bit extravagant!

Once again it was great to re-meet so many friends and colleagues from up and down the country and to reaffirm friendships and relationships. AND – it was great to go up on stage with Ron, James and Lils to pick up a ‘highly commended’ award from ALT on behalf of the MoLeNET team. Well done Elaine, Mick, John and Di.