Last week I attended the JISC ‘Innovating Learning’ online conference – here’s a blog post I wrote for ‘Letters from the Edge’ – the conference blog:

This is a post, as with my ‘live’ blog posts, written as an ‘on the spot reflection’ rather than an agonised-over academic piece!

Over the past few years, I may have sworn at virtual classrooms in my previous role. Once, however you stop focusing on the technology it’s great to see the amount of content that can be shared – without having to leave the house/office…. Ironically, my new job has almost immediately required Elluminate (see our first event as a Storify), and we want to expand on this..

I moved from Winchester to Durham 3 months ago, and I seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time on the train – or in the air – and so participating in this kind of conference is giving me a chance to engage my brain whilst giving my tired body a chance to relax into an oversized bean-bag in front of an open fire (as Java  causing issues in the office)!

I’ve had the privilege of being a ‘superuser’ for the last couple of JISC online conferences (2011, 2010, 2009). This year I’m a paying customer, and I really think the £50 investment (& the time, let’s not forget the time!) has still been worth it. As with all conferences I’ve thought about what I’m going to attend, as new-job mode means different priorities:  I’m still working with ODHE on the JISC Digital Literacies project, but I’m not teaching this year. In future I will be helping develop online learning potentially for St John’s College, The Methodist Church and The Anglican Church – so much more emphasis on mature/lifelong learners.

A lot of my job seems to involve creating ‘buzz’ for events, and pulling in external participants to widen the conversation, and so I’ve got very used to producing content quickly, using mostly a mix of Twitter/Storify, and blogging – for the conference I have produced:

I made a decision a couple of years ago, that when I do these “live-blogs” (and I’ve done them for several webinars), I would do these as notes for me, and if others find it useful, then that’s a bonus – and that has framed how I take notes. Notes are also still rough & ready, but would reflect something ‘in the moment’ (the historian in me is coming out!). As with all conference talks I don’t aim to capture 100% of it, but seek to capture things that may be useful in my role or challenge my thinking – digital data can be so ephemeral and I want to be able to come back to my notes (I always lose paper notes!)… and if I wait until it’s “perfect” then I just end up not writing them at all!

Thinking about James’ blog post on ‘making notes’, I still scribble notes in meetings sometimes, but usually then find myself transferring them into a more ordered system online. For this conference, however, I am just using my laptop (MacBook) – I used to have a Word file open as well as Collaborate & make notes in that, but I now write them straight into a new WordPress post which I keep open in another tab – as I seek out links mentioned in the event, hyperlink them – so I can return to useful suggestions later. I don’t expect to capture everything – but engaging with the content allows me to capture useful content … and that’s OK!  I take screenshots of particular slides I’m interested in (in the same way that I’m likely to take photos of slides in a physical conference) – Mac’s record them with the date/time they were taken, so I can see what order I took them in – as these usually need to be inserted into particular points in the post later once I’ve “trimmed the edges”.

It’s been interesting comparing the live/recorded experience – the live experience can be a little frantic as I seek to partake in the live discussion as well as listen and capture, but the recorded experience can leave a little frustration as I think – oh, I wanted to say something – but there’s always the forum for that… although I like the opportunity of spreading the messages a little wider than the conference delegates… though it’s mostly the conference delegates who are interested in looking back at them…

Anyway, lots to learn every time I engage in this kind of event, especially when thinking about how learning can occur in online spaces (does it always require a VLE?), the benefits of drawing in content from across the web/from a range of people’s viewpoints, the need to allow time/the right physical space to be able to engage, and of course all the new content itself that will help me as I start to develop more blended/online courses.  I look forward to the last few hours of the conference…

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