I’ll presenting a series of posts over the next week when I look at specific issues explored at mLearn 2007. However, to begin with, here are my overall impressions of the conference!
The range and quality of contributions was superb. Not that they were entirely consistent – in a conference such as this one, there are bound to be varying, and, indeed, conflicting points of view as to the “big issues” as well as the “grand solutions”. But what a gathering such as this achieves, in this respect, is the opportunity to see these varying perspectives presented side by side, to ask questions and engage in conversations, and to distill one’s own opinions.
In this respect, a couple of presentations stood out for me. One was Angela McFarlane’s keynote, the first presentation of the conference, which provided wonderful, in-depth perspectives on m-learning practice, with memorable and entertaining examples such as Erin, who was able to create a process – by herself – for finding out the meaning of the word “immature,” or the two high-school boys asked to “sketch a graph” and attempting to do it on a PDA… using Excel!!!!! (And, of course, failing dismally after 20 minutes, when they could probably have done it on paper in about 2 seconds).
The next was Professor Mike Sharples’ presentation on MyArtSpace, a project utilising mobile devices in informal learning museum or gallery settings. This was the first of several presentations on how mobile devices can significantly improve engagement and outcomes in such visits, and having followed Sharples’ work closely for a number of years, it was terrific to hear him speak about this work in person. This presentation made me much more attuned during subsequent presentations on the use of mobile devices in gallery and museum settings, and I’d very much like to work with some of Canberra’s (excellent) public exhibitions to try out some of the approaches shared during the conference.
There was, however, so much more than the presentations which afforded opportunities to learn. The informal conversations during breaks, social gatherings, and “downtimes” were equally valuable. Sue Waters and I managed to get a personal tour of the iPhone from Gavin Cooney, CEO of Learnosity – finally, from an m-learning perspective! – which we’ll both be presenting as videos in our respective blogs over the coming week. And I was privileged to meet several terrific practitioners, such as Megan Iemma (an Apple Distinguished Educator), who was passionate about the use of iPods to support music teaching, and also shared some terrific cooking tips!
I finally got to meet both Good and Evil Sue, both of whom I’ve only previously known online, and it was reassuring – or should that be, um, disconcerting – to learn that they are every bit as larger-than-life in person as they are online. Good Sue (Waters) and I were often engaged in heated debate over the issues and themes that came up during the conference – everything from instructionist vs constructivist pedagogies in m-learning, to Twittering vs blogging, to the use of bullet points in PowerPoint presentations, and everything in between. Thank you Sue!
Finally, the conference itself was wonderfully organised. Everything ran on time, the one and only technical glitch happened in the dying *minutes* of the conference (with a video), and the conference dinner at the Aquarium will be remembered as the *best* conference dinner I have ever attended. I can’t imagine a more picturesque setting than beside the aquarium’s massive foyer tank, with a view over the Yarra to the fire art installation that flares up from time to time, and the food was delicious (and without any sushi in sight to make us feel guilty in the presence of so many fish). I will also never forget the sight of my colleagues – most of whom I have only ever known in rather more austere settings – getting down and boogying on the dance floor to the sounds of the live jazz band!
I feel privileged to have attended such a brilliant event. Thank you to everyone who made it such a success, and to the wonderful people I met during the conference.