My #2017DML experience

I haven’t been to a conference for at least a year, but when the opportunity arose to pick one as an award I recently won at The OU for teaching and learning, it wasn’t hard to find the one I wanted to attend.

I’ve been reading the Digital Media & Learning hub since its roots – I think I originally followed a link from the MacArthur Foundation. On a more pragmatic level, the conference was near enough to Los Angeles that I would be able to stay with family and avoid hotel costs.

DML Steering Committe (aka Connected Learning Summit 2018 Steering Committee)

I had already decided to attend before I saw Constance Steinkuehler and Danah Boyd were speaking, my excitement grew exponentially at that point. Steinkuehler provided my introduction to ideas about gamification of learning – simplistically because around then I was attempting to link together my love of World of Warcraft with ways to create engaging literacy lessons in my classroom and I found that boys, in particular, were fascinated to know about which classes and faction I played! Although my love of WoW hasn’t changed much, and I still play, I like to think that my approach to gamification has become a little more sophisticated. So although I was disappointed to see her withdraw from speaking it was almost enough for this fan to catch a glimpse in the corridors of UC Irvine.

Around the same era I took excerpts of Boyd’s 2009 keynote for a professional development session with teachers. Aware that many held strong, albeit erroneous, beliefs about young people’s experiences of the internet, and social media, in essence a sense that they had more knowledge and understanding of the environment than teachers themselves, I shamelessly used Boyd’s words to to attempt to disperse these ideas. I like to think that using them, interspersed with a little discussion and reflection helped us to approach issues like cyberbullying and veracity from a more informed position. I am looking forward to watching Boyd’s #2017DML keynote again, and writing about it in more depth later, because it was equally, if not more astute, in its analysis of today’s information landscape.

Learning all the wrong things - slide
Danah Boyd and opening slide

Superficial reflections

The first day of my conference experience was a workshop; Preparing Teachers for the Connected Learning Ecology Through Playful Practice Spaces led by Torrey Trust and Dan Roy.  This looked at how teachers training and learning had so far failed to address connected learning — the overarching framework for the DML community and conference. Torrey created a ice-breaker which led to my own group disappearing down the technology rabbit hole, but enabled others to successfully explore each other’s creativity under the guise of introducing themselves. My take away from this was twofold, obviously don’t get obsessed with technology but also don’t treat the camera like a friend, I hope I never have to look at that video again! I’ll be practicing my video solemn but friendly face alongside my mobile duck face from now on.

The next task was to assess various learning activities against connected learning principles. Notably these case studies were not necessarily associated with connected learning but were specifically from the makerspace movement. We then went on to work on a rubric for assessing a poster. This was the activity which seemed the least connected to connected learning principles. Lunch was followed by a longer creative activity – a playful learning space for teachers. The groups producing a speed-dating lesson, a lesson-planning game (which was terrific), an introduction to Twitter card game and a web-based quest.

The next day began with Danah Boyd’s keynote.

I found it stimulating, invigorating and challenging and it set an interesting tone for the rest of the two days. People kept returning to it and when they did, this is when the conversations were most compelling. It balanced elegantly with the plenary discussion between Henry James and Esra’a Al-Shafei, both of whom were significantly more optimistic. I had been lucky enough to eavesdrop on their Virtually Connecting conversation the previous day.

Throughout both I was continuously struck by Al’Shafei’s sense of humor, she has the most wonderful and infectious laugh, and I intend to continue to “fuck fear” for as long as I am able, laughter is a magical weapon.

The other sessions I attended were:

  1. “Fork your syllabus you slacker!” by Elizabeth Lawley which provided one of those, why didn’t I think of that moments! She uses Github for all her teaching resources and Slack for class discussions. I loved that students could create pull requests to help correct the resources (for example). She teaches web development and here were students using the very environments they are likely to work with when working in the industry. 
  2. It was great to catch up with what are up to. I first came across this application at the #OpenEd15 conference in Vancouver and got very excited by its possibilities. Sure enough, there are now more and more examples of its use and it is getting more robust by the day. If you haven’t come across it, consider for a moment the power of being able to create layers of annotations on anything you can find on the web and use these inside (and out) of the classroom. They themselves recognize that they are only beginning to understand the scope of this application.
  3. For fun, I went to a session about using textiles for STEAM. This requires quite costly resources like conductive thread, Arduino or Adafruit both supplying the necessary control boards etc. However, I came away determined to create some online courses for teachers (and maybe students) on how to do create some of these.  Later at the tech showcase, I met some young women who had creating Reconstruction Kits, which simplified debugging issues that can arise when trying to teach this i.e. is it the stitching or the code?

All in all, a very good conference, with the added benefit of being close to the sea.

waves at the beach

Thanks #2017DML.

#altc winter conference 2015

All the links from my presentation at #altc, given today

The background story went more like this though….

3.45am huge crashing sound, monsoon rain and howling gale…. really scary…. followed by

3.55am BLACKOUT …. phoned it in (on 1 bar phone access) …. went back to bed…. lay there….

4.35 am decided to drive to Starbucks, could still get there by 5.30am if I moved it…..

5.05 on my way out the door, the leccy flickered back on…..

5.07 and off….

5.20ish and on…..on…. phew… omg… I needed coffee so bad!

pouring coffee
animated coffee (lost attribution, so sorry!)

5.45am (have faffed around with mic for 10 minutes – I h8 windows 8)

6am Gave presentation , lots of people, not a lot of questions.

6.30am phew its over….. another cup of coffee

6.45am some really useful comments on my draft paper (see link above)

Thanks #altc… that was fun!

#dlrn – indie edtech – punk


There’s a bit of a jam going on, interpreting the riffs created by Jim Groom and Adam Croom (is the poetry why these guys got together in the first place? I’d like to think that.) at #dlrn. Doug Belshaw, Greg McVerry and several followers of #dlrn15 and #indieedtech joining in.

It’s Sunday here, raining steadily outside so instead of that hike I’d promised myself I have been inspired by Adam to watch the BBC’s Music for Misfits: the Story of Indie in three parts. It’s been helpful, partly because I was able to get to grips with my niggling discomfort with Adam’s USA centric presentation of Indie music; it turns out the UK and USA stories are very different. Jim and punk, well that’s another story – punk was all about DIY – fashion, art, even enterprise which eventually killed it. So these guys were conflating edupunk and indieedtech and all I kept coming back to was the phrase “long tail of edtech” and even Minds On Fire (Seeley Brown and Adler 2008). No mistake, I loved the #dlrn15 presentation and was carried away by their brilliant and fun analogies, but I was wondering where all the other genres, the little guys, fit in, you know, like _____ (insert own preferred genre) jazz?

So one of the things that the BBC programme made clear about the 80s indie scene in the UK was that it was funded, for distribution purposes, by the huge companies – EMI – Heavenly, Sony – Creation. The Indie scene changed and is still changing, but we still need people to find the quality. Is this is a bit like VC or HE funding the thinkers and dreamers Mike Caulfield mentioned during the final #dlrn session? I had forgotten that entrepreneurial part of the tale, instead remembering the earlier 70s indie story as being one of self-publishing and distribution (Zoo Records), which did resonate more closely with Jim and Adam’s narrative.

I was reminding myself about edupunk and it became clearer why Mike Caulfield stated that edtech was stuck in 2008; possibly the statement that kicked me in the gut harder than any other during #dlrn. Jim first coined edupunk in 2008, the Minds on Fire article was published in 2008, MOOCs erupted 2008, but does that really mean that there have been no new edtech ideas, or is it something else, what else is Mike thinking of? I resisted Mike’s statement which has kept echoing around my brain; selfishly personal because I don’t want to feel that now, when I finally have some time and space to think, write, connect about edtech rather than adopt, teach and fight for it, there isn’t anything new to think about. Really? No, I just don’t and will not accept that. It’s why I keep listening out for new voices in music – I don’t care about the big genres, any genre will do, just let me hear something that moves me or gets me moving. Like 3 For Silver (genre = anti-Americana), playing at the harvest festival in Camas a couple of weeks ago. First I saw the bass… DIY’d out of a galvanised wash tub and then I heard the guy sing, this band were so brilliant even my metal head partner (Metallica fan) was dancing rather than head-banging. But each to their own, you might hate the sound, who knows.

Perhaps the big idea side of edtech has slowed down (too much money embedded in the body not enough in the long tail), but perhaps it just means we now have to play the music; we have to use the ideas and technologies to educate, to reach the promise that many of us embraced edtech for in the first place. To fund the long tail with our time and energy. To turn our thinking onto the pedagogy, on using the tech, improving the tech, in order to spread education, openly beyond the cultural silos of the English-speaking nations, so abundantly represented at #dlrn.