ALT C Confronts the reality that the loudest are not always the wisest

This year’s conference of the Association for Learning Technology was held at University of Manchester under the title –  Confronting reality’

Keynote confronts reality of pacive lectures

Eric Mazur, Harvard Physicist kicked off the ALT C conference this year with some scientific evidence supporting what we had always believed intuitively – that brains are at their most inactive when pacively sitting in lectures (low wlevel sof activity matched only by watching TV) . He may be a physist but this was hardly rocket science, neither was his proposal to ‘flip the classroom’ by using face to face time for discussion and questioning rather than information transfer. However! Ir was surprising how often during the conference it proved helpful to quote this research as discussion drifted unwittingly towards a valuing more of the ‘stuff’ (information) of learning rather than  the ‘stir’ that learning process where people test and explore the stuff to create real understanding.

OER evangelists talk to each other but never confront the ‘apathists’

I fear  have coined a new word – ‘apethist’ to describe people who are proudly  apathetic on a topic. I met some of these but was swamped with the evangelistic enthusiasm of others who seemed to see Open Ed as the main and only cause to champion. This led to passionate debates, a silly hat session. I’m pleased that ALT is establishing a Special Interest Group on Open Ed as ther really is a need to take this idea forward with a clear sense of proportion. Readers of this blog would expect me to return to the value of the ‘stir’ of learning and it is certainly the Open Education a Practice that need more focus.

Still no rocket science but Network Graphs were worth a look.

Natasha Milic-Frayling from Microsoft led a keynote on the free add-on to Excel called Nodexl ( which allows you to turn data from social network tools into graphs which show patterns of connectivity. As she herself stressed a pattern is not an explanation but it provokes the questions which inform an explanation.  Important work, but I did not work out how you harvest the data from Facebook Twitter etc. If I missed that and the is an obvious solution – I will  welome a posting in comments below.

Confronting the world outside HE
I am very pleased indeed that the conference format has now embraced a range of new formats including Pecha Kucha and so called Hybrid. I was delighted  to work with Pete , Terry Jane and Alan on a session  entitles Technology made me re think learning.   Three diverse pecha kucha sessions illustrated examples of positive disruption  caused by technology and the presentations are on the mini site

Loud voices and real wisdom

Overall all the conference did succeed in confrontin a reality where for some good use of technology is now commonplace, a reality where for some, effective pedagogy is also commonplace and for a smaller group good use of both is part of daily life. I heard clever people with large egos proclaim their great achievements but the wiset words came from those who knew what they knew and admitted what they didn’t.


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