And so ALT-C 2011 draws to a close. I followed online last year and the year before, but it’s been my first chance to attend in person, which has been a great experience. I’ve met lots of people who I’ve been following online for some time, and plenty more who are completely new to me. I also seem to have come up with a new job title and a bit of a mission, on which more at some future time. For now, here are my first thoughts on this final day of the conference.

Project results

I was up bright and early again, this time to hear some of the results from three small learning technology projects.

Lyn Greaves (UWL) and Claire Bradley (London Met) told us about their development of open educational resources to support students’ digital literacy and general academic practice.

Cheryl Middleton and Steve Brierley (Sheffield Hallam) presented their experiences in using enquiry-based learning methods instead of conventional lectures to deliver a course to their Information Systems undergraduates. They were inspired by Donald Clark’s keynote at last year’s ALT-C, and it’s great to see lecturers attending the conference and sharing their own practice from the front lines.

Finally, Vicki McGarvey and Anna Armstrong (Nottingham Trent University) shared with us their project to encourage lecturers to share their learning objects with each other.

Great work all three groups!

Making the case

My next session of the morning was run by freelancer Sarah Chesney, who recently carried out research commissioned by PebblePad to find how individuals and small teams were convincing senior management to roll out successfully concluded small-scale projects on a wider basis.

Sarah did a good job of getting us talking together over a couple of example scenarios, and gave us some useful pointers. For example, she pointed us towards the Sloan-C Quality Framework as a useful tool to help structure thinking around the quality of a initiative.

I think my main takeaway from this session will be to always be paying attention to data on costs of particular ways of doing things, especially for the period before and after making a change. Gathering data to convince management is not always at the front of your mind when you’re not sure yourself whether a particular change will work.

The elusive technological future

Invited speaker John Naughton closed the conference with a thought-provoking talk on the impossibility of predicting the pace and direction of technological change. This is another talk that I doubt I can do justice with a summary, so I encourage you to take a look at the online recording when it becomes available on the ALT YouTube channel.

One aspect which caused a bit of a stir, on Twitter at least, was Naughton’s presentation style: just him, a microphone and a script on his iPad. It sounds like a recipe for all that is bad about the lecture as a format, but in fact it was riveting.

There was a certain amount of frustration that he wouldn’t be drawn on what the implications were for education, but my own feeling is that he was quite sensibly avoiding speaking about something when he didn’t feel qualified to do so — the whole gist of his argument was that it is futile to try and predict what technology will do to our society in the future.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found my small slice of ALT-C useful and interesting. I certainly enjoyed it! It’s sparked off a few different trains of thought which may well develop into blog posts in the coming weeks and months, so watch this space!