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Report from Innovating e-Learning 2008, theme 2

Ros Smith
Last modified 10 Nov, 2008
Published 10 Nov, 2008
The second two days of the JISC online conference, Innovating e-Learning 2008: Learning in a digital age - Are we prepared? focused on Theme 2: Going boldly into the dark. Topics covered included; the impact of mobile technologies, achieving transformational change and using multi-user virtual environments.

Notes from Theme 2: Going boldly into the dark

Theme Two: Going boldly into the dark, took delegates on a voyage of discovery to challenge their perceptions of the role of technology in learning. The programme included debates on:

  • the impact of mobile technologies
  • the pros and cons of using multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) in learning and teaching
  • how to achieve transformational change

Experiences were rich and varied and included further live sessions in Elluminate, avatar creation and a social event and fashion show in Second Life, courtesy of the JISC Emerge team. [http://elgg.jiscemerge.org.uk/about.php]

The keynote, delivered by Rose Luckin, London Knowledge Lab (LKL), explored the fundamental question: who will drive the learning process in years to come? Rose proposed that "we need to understand more about the learners’ context" and put forward a model of the factors influencing the learner’s experience for wider debate.

A session on mobile technologies explored the disruption that innovation brings with it – whether to institutional practice or to relationships between tutor and learner, and even between peers. In some cases, significant benefits were recorded from the use of mobile technologies – mobile learning, it seems, presents challenges for the uninformed, but is not entirely uncharted territory.

Virtual worlds, however, posed tougher conundrums: should we view them as "the new social spaces" in which learners can develop an understanding of their own and others’ behaviour, even acquire professional competences – or do they still pose too many unanswered questions to be adopted as educational tools? Adherents and critics took up their positions, but the timely publication of JISC Serious Virtual Worlds report [http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/seriousvirtualworldsreport.aspx] offered support to those who were undecided.

Andrew Williams, Kingston College, summed up the dilemma posed by adoption of new technologies in learning: "..All meaningful educational initiatives will be disruptive. Challenging and re-forming any practice will involve a certain amount of disruption, dislocation and even dismay...I doubt we can move forward in any area without disruption." Then it was the turn of Mark Stiles, Staffordshire University, and Peter Bullen, University of Hertfordshire to consider how to embed the new and potentially disruptive without losing its creative potential – a very difficult task, since "the very act of embedding can become a barrier to innovation".

John Davitt, in his innovatively collaborative closing keynote in Elluminate, offered some key advice for those looking forward to the future: There is no real contest between real and the digital worlds – we want to live powerfully in both, but move between our worlds with ease. Our skills in doing so will improve over time, he told delegates. What a conference! As James Clay noted in his blog entry The end of the beginning: "There has been so much excellent discussion, so much to think about, so much to take away."

Innovating e-Learning 2008: Learning in a digital age – Are we prepared? [http://www.jisc.ac.uk/elpconference08] attracted nearly 400 delegates from UK higher and further education and from overseas and prompted 1690 postings in session discussions. The conference remains open for two weeks after the closing date for reading and downloading content. Summaries of conference proceedings will be available in due course.

 

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