Robin Goodfellow's blog originally about the ESRC seminar series of the same name (http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/lidu/) and now about anything I damn well like.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
End of 2010 round-up on the literacy-digital-university front - 1
These two pictures don't say much for my digital camera skills (taken with my HTC phone in fact). But they illustrate some thoughts I've been having about the 'digital university' aspect of LIDU's focus.
They are from two seminars I went to in November - the first was an 'ESRC Educational Futures' seminar called Ethical Challenges at the London Knowledge Lab, and the second was a BAAL seminar on multimodality held at the Open University.
Seminars of this kind are very much a traditional 'university' literacy event and both were conducted in a very traditional university kind of way, with presentations from emminent speakers to an audience, questions, and some small group or 'breakout' sessions. Both of them had digital communication at the heart of what was being discussed, and in the BAAL case Literacy was an explicit concern. Keri Facer's talk at the OU was entitled (in case it's too blurred to read above) 'What Futures for Literacy? Education, Technology and Social Change.
These events made me think about the liklihood of this kind of academic get-together ever being substantially transformed by available new communciations. The pictures show that the technologies change (although, interestingly, whilst - sorry, can't remember who this is - is using an old medium, the flipchart, to support a relatively new practice for academics - breakout groups reporting back; Keri Facer is using a new technology, digital projection, to enhance an old practice, a lecture). However, the essential, personal, located, day-off-for, travelled-to, free-lunchedness of the occasions, seemed so definitive of the events as university literacy events, that I couldn't imagine a time when we wouldn't be doing this, whatever the online environment might offer by way of a cheaper alternative.
I did attend an example of the cheap online alternative a bit later when I signed up for an online seminar on 'Google apps as an eportfolio solution'. This was run by Google apps for education and basically had Gayle Ring from Clemson University and some Google bods extolling the virtues of Google Sites for building student portfolios. The event can't really be compared with the whole-day research seminars mentioned above, but it was rather striking how unengaging it was -- there was no interaction at all amongst the audience (which probably numbered hundreds of people across the US) and the speaker could only be questioned by typing into a chat box, clicking send, and hoping that the Google event conveners would pick your question to be answered.
Online conferences don't have to be like that of course, my colleague Linda Wilks and Martin Weller ran one at the OU last summer on Learning in an Open World in which they used Elluminate to enable smaller group interaction and a greater level of engagement. As a cheaper alternative to a face-to-face day,though, I'm not sure how it rated. I suspect not a lot cheaper when you take into account the time spent setting up and managing it -- although of course there was no travel or free lunches to be paid for!