2008 Conferences Retro
I spoke at a number of high profile e-learning conferences over the year, and took part in some stimulating discussions and excellent workshops. Half of the joy of attending such events is the possibility of networking with like minded individuals, intelligent people with great ideas, and the chance to engage with them in sharing ideas and collaborating together beyond the event. Here are my top ten learning technology conferences of 2008 (look, I know it's eleven really, but whose blog is this anyway?):
10 = I was invited to keynote the Polish Virtual Universities conference in June and was flown out to Warsaw for a few days. It's a beautiful city, but there are parts of Warsaw, including the accommodation I stayed in, which left a little to be desired. The conference was all in Polish, except for the three keynotes, so I didn't get much from the event. Albert Sangra's presentation (Open University of Catalonia, Spain) was excellent, and we have since become great friends.
10 = I was also invited to keynote the one-day event held in Southampton University in January. The conference, focusing on e-learning for language teaching, was also keynoted by Jon Dron (Athabasca University) and I enjoyed his presentation and learnt a lot.
9 - As with last year, the ICL conference held in Villach, Austria was again an interesting one. Met old friends and made some new ones, and participated in several workshops and paper presentations. I gave a 3 hour pre-conference Web 2.0 workshop which almost 50 people attended. Conversation was lively and long lived. Web 2.0 is obviously still a hot topic amongst the education community. And the social event - a day trip to Venice - was an incredible experience. The 2009 ICL event will again be held in Villach on 23-25 September.
8 - My home conference, the 3rd Plymouth e-Learning Conference, held in April, was only a one day event, but was one not to miss. An excellent keynote by Mark Stiles was followed by many high quality papers from delegates from 20 UK universities, and a stirling demonstration of the Wii hack from our own team of Learning Technologists. And the Devon cream tea was also well received by all! Next year's Plymouth e-Learning Conference is a two day event, and is already shaping up to be bigger and better than 2008's, with as of today, more than 100 delegates already registered from 15 countries.
7 - The EduMedia conference, in the peaceful and majestic Alpine surroundings of St Virgil, Salzburg was a wonderful experience. I met some new friends and made some useful contacts, many of which will be pursued over the coming months. Even found time to make a short trip across the border to Germany for an excellent meal with friends. Next year's event Edumedia 2009 takes place in Salzburg between 2-3 June.
6 - In November, I left the damp and drizzly weather of the UK for a few days in Barecelona for the Open EduTech summit, hosted by the Open University of Catalonia. Not really a conference, more a meeting of minds, I was one of an invited group of 40 e-learning and open learning specialists who were brought together to discuss the future of open learning. A very stimulating event, tapas and drinks with new friends and old, and some great walks around the gothic quarter of Barcelona and up Las Ramblas were highlights of this event.
4 = At 4th equal - Online Educa Berlin is always a great experience. Always held in the crisp and cold pre-Christmas German capital, and is always massive. The presence of the edublogger community was stimulating, and our many informal meetings outside the confines of the main conference were memorable and fruitful. OEB 2009 will be held in December 2-4.
4 = In equal 4th place was the IFIP conference - ICT and Learning for the Net Generation - which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July (pictured above). In the extreme heat and humidity more than 120 delegates from around the globe came together to discuss a variety of digital learning contexts and e-learning methods. Social trips out and about were enjoyed by all, and the silubrious surroundings of the Saujana Hotel were unrivalled - one highlight was a moonlit dinner at the hotel poolside. An unscheduled stopover at a beach hotel in Sri Lanka on the way home capped the experience for me.
2 = The EDEN 2008 conference was held at the Belem Cultural Centre in beautiful Lisbon in June. I toured the city on the first day and was impressed by its beauty and majesty. The conference was also stimulating and enjoyable, and several of us introduced live blogging as a mainstream activity at EDEN for the first time. EDEN 2009 will be held in Gdansk, Poland for the first time, on 10-13 June. EDEN is an excellent conference for networking amongst distance education and e-learning professionals. It is fairly non-commercial (no vendors or exhibition to speak of), eclectic and fast moving.
2 = ALT-C 2008 which took place at the University of Leeds in September has my vote for joint second place. Although the accommodation was basic, the venue was great, and there were some memorable papers and workshops, including an inspirational keynote speech by Hans Rosling. Most memorable event was the Web 2.0 Slam workshop where James Clay, Joss Winn and I created a comic YouTube video about gender and the digital divide. Best outcome of the event was the inception of the Fringe (F-ALT) organised by some of the edublogger community. Long may it continue at all future events! ALT-C 2009 will be held in Manchester, 8-10 September.
1 - My number 1! The best conference by a country mile in 2008 was Handheld Learning, which took place in London in October. I attended Handheld as a non-speaking delegate. Doesn't mean I didn't talk to anyone, because there were many very useful conversations. No, I went along with no pressure, because I had no paper to present. The event had something for everyone, including Nintendo Wii games to play, superb staging and lighting, excellent organisation, great catering, friendly crew, a specturm of papers and workshops which ranged from entirely practical to challengingly academic and above all, an extremely eclectic mix of delegates drawn from every single sector of educational practice, and a great venue - The Brewery in the East End of London. Congratulations go to Graham Brown-Martin and his team for organising such a memorable event - I definitely intend returning for Handheld Learning in 2009 (5-7 October).