Great places, awesome people

I was fortunate this year to be invited to speak at major events in some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Although I hate the travel, I have to admit that when I am in such places, and while I am meeting such brilliant and inspirational people, I am in my element. Here is the first part of my end of year retrospective on the top ten (actually eleven) places I visited in 2011, and the great people I met. Today's post goes from 10 down to 6. (Continues tomorrow).

10 =. Newcastle, England. I had an absolute blast in the North East in June. Newcastle is a city I'm quite familiar with from many day excursions with my wife and family over the years (Her parents live in Washington, Tyne and Wear). On this occasion, I was delighted to be invited to keynote the Northern Grid for Learning Annual Conference, and what an event it was! For a start, I flew up in the company of Mr Chickenman himself, Dan Roberts, and when the two of us invaded the executive lounge in the hotel, they quickly ran out of pretzels (Dan's doing, not mine I hasten to add). The speaker list read like a who's who of innovative educators from across the UK. It was wonderful to meet face to face some of the people whom I have followed on Twitter for some time, including Bill Lord, Ian Usher, Steve Bunce, Martin Waller, Ian Addison, Lisa StevensJoe Dale, Bev Evans and Jan Webb. Conference organiser Simon Finch and his team did an excellent job putting together what turned out to be a memorable, inspirational day, and the evening social post event at a Spanish tapas bar on the banks of the Tyne was the icing on the cake. Full story here: It's grins up north.

10 =. Liverpool, England. In March I attended the JISC annual conference in Liverpool, for once purely as a delegate rather than as a speaker. It was a nice change for me, not having to worry about preparing a talk or trying desperately to find my speaking venue. I stayed in a hotel just across the road from the Liverpool Echo Arena where the conference took place, within the beautifully rebuilt and repurposed Albert Dock quayside. In the distance I could see the iconic (new) Liverpool Cathedral on the skyline. I was delighted to discover that I was staying no more than 100 yards from the famous Beatles museum, so I spent a very enjoyable afternoon wandering around looking at all the exhibits, and reliving some of my younger days listening to the Fab Four. Full story here: The next ten years.

9. Auckland, New Zealand. I was in New Zealand in November/December on my lecture tour. While in Auckland I keynoted the International Conference on e-Learning Futures at Unitec. This was my second visit to the City of Sails, but I will never tire of Skycity and the waterfronts of this great city, and in such a stunningly beautiful country. Probably my peak experience of my entire four week tour of the Antipodes was my welcome by the New Zealanders and my invitation to speak in the carved wood meeting hall of the Maori people - the Marae. It was also great to meet up again at the conference with several old friends such as Thomas Cochrane, Noeline Wright, Nigel Robertson, Derek Wenmoth and Richard Elliot, and also to make some new friends including Mandy Williams, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Vasi Doncheva and of course ICELF organiser Linda Keesing Styles. Full story here: Barefoot keynote.

8. Karlsruhe, Germany. I arrived on a snowy February evening in Frankfurt and took the train across the Karlsruhe - a town I had first heard of when the invitation to keynote at LearnTEC came through. I admit I had to go to Google Maps to find it. LearnTEC is one of those German Mega-conferences and expos, regularly attracting in excess of 8000 delegates each year. Karlsruhe is a sleepy little town, and in the grey overcast light of a German winter wasn't that impressive. At night however, with all the blue, yellow and red shop and hotel lights glowing and reflecting off the snow, it was magical. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with Conrad Wolfram (also keynoting the event) in the huge Karlsruhe Messe Expo Hall, and also got to spent an enjoyable hour in conversation with him on the journey back from Karlsruhe to Frankfurt International airport. We talked a lot about the future of the Internet and his own research into the development of Answer Engines. He gave me some great insights into the Silicon Valley set and his friendships with the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Theodore Gray. Full story here: Interview with a Wolfram.

7. Lisbon, Portugal. It was a pleasant surprise to be invited to keynote not one, but two conferences in Portugal this year. What was even better, was that they were back to back and in the same area of beautiful Oeiras, near Lisbon (this is a picture I took of the Palace of the Marquis de Pombal, the venue we met in). I first visited Lisbon in 2008 when I attended the EDEN Annual Conference and picked up a Fellowship award. It is a beautiful city - the kind that glistens in the sun, captivating your senses wherever you go within in. I spoke at the Concede Conference and then keynoted the final day of the EFQUEL Innovation forum. Many of the great and the good from the world of European e-Learning were present, including Grainne Conole, Chahira Nouira, Deborah Arnold, Alastair Creelman, EDEN President Morten Paulsen and Ulf Daniel Ehlers. I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with prolific Twitter activist Paulo Simoes for the first time, and also spent some time with charismatic OER guru Wayne Mackintosh. Full story here: Grand Residence and Wayne's World.

6. Cologne, Germany. I first visited Cologne on a school trip when I was 15 years old, and don't remember too much about the city. This time, I was in town in September to keynote the Zukunft Personal HR Expo, another mega-sized German conference. Cologne is a wonderful place to spend a few days, with its soaring gothic Cathedral, many  bridges crossing the river Rhine, picturesque cosmopolitan streets and marvellous bierkellers and wateringholes. Several of the medieval city gates still stand, despite the pounding Cologne took during the Second World War, and I stayed very close to one of the most spectacular - Rudolfplatz. It is a city that oozes art and culture, and it is not difficult to see why it has become one of the premier German convention centres. The convention hall itself is massive, and it took me some time to navigate around it, before I eventually found the conference hall I was looking for (they host many events simultaneously). It was a pleasant surprise to bump into fellow speaker Laura Overton in the street outside the hotel, and later to meet up again with old friends such as Armin Hopp and Wilfred Rubens at the conference. The tram rides and practicing my German in conversation with the locals were also great fun. Full story here: Business games and Sharp practice.

More great places and awesome people next time.

Creative Commons Licence
Great places, awesome people by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


wrubens said…
Indeed, it was great to meet you again. And to hear you speak.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Wilfred - until the next time :)

Popular Posts