Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Given the bleak outlook for the VET sector in Victoria - for the TAFE sector anyway - it was encouraging that ConVerge went ahead this year, and was well attended with about 300 delegates participating.

On the flight home I was reading about blogging in Howard Rheingold's NetSmart . Rheingold says that when people criticise bloggers for writing about things they might consider trivial they are missing the point. The point is that whenever people commit thoughts to writing it is a valuable exercise in clarifying your thinking and disciplining the mind. Writing is of itself, ipso facto, a good thing to do. And so my thoughts on the sessions I attended at ConVerge12.

Tim Longhurst

The opening keynote was from Tim Longhurst, 'futurist', and CEO of consultancy firm, Key  Message An engaging and entertaining speaker he based his talk around three themes:

1.      Wisdom is in the group
2.      Barriers are collapsing
3.      the power of small

Personally it provided a great segue for my own presentation on Global Trends affecting education later in the morning.

He quoted Chris Anderson ( from Wired) saying that the world is getting better in many ways, but then showed a rather trite example of Lil Demon, the break dancer. As good a break dancer as this kid may be it's a stretch to think this has improved the world! Perhaps the point was better made by citing examples of people who have never met f2f collaborating with others across geographical and temporal boundaries - this is  significant progress.

An exercise followed where it was revealed that 80% of the ConVerge audience have used their smart phone for banking - apparently a good indicator of the extent of 'digital-ness' of people. (I haven't!)

Best bits of the future

1 We will all become cyborgs

He cited the example of people who took the Turing test,  and who were unable to tell if they were talking to a person or  robot. In some cases they were wrong. When they thought they were talking with a robot it was a person and vice versa. So machine intelligence is improving.

2. Live on the edge

·         Innovation is really about asking  is there a better way of doing this?
·         Find and foster the edge in your organisation
·         Make a point of listening to an 'edger' for 20 mins a month. (I like this idea - simple to implement.)

3. Abundance

Jamie Oliver gives his recipes away to generate a million dollar business. Copyright is a product of a time of scarcity of resources. This philosophy of abundance ties in nicely with the work of Martin Weller who includes a chapter title The Pedagogy of Abundance in his book, the Digital Scholar.

  • gives power to the small
  • individuals can use services like Kickstarter.com to crowdsource funds for creative projects. (Similar to kiva.org for micro-financing of development projects.)
  • Barriers to traditional education are collapsing -  eg the Khan academy

Tim Morrissey - Big Blue Button

An informative session (such a lame word!) detailing the results of a project using Big Blue Button -  the tool that many hope will become the Open Source alternative to proprietary virtual classroom products like Adobe and Blackboard Collaborate.

Alas, while some were  impressed with the audio quality of this tool it is still a long way short of being a viable alternative to the major players.

·         Poor mark up tools? seems better in presenter view.
·         Browser based > easy loading
·         Presenter can enlarge screen; no app share but has webtour
·         Won't work with inbuilt mics

As an aside Tim told us that he didn't think Blackboard were supporting Moodle integration any longer.

The obligatory session on MOODLE 2.3 by the inimitable Julian Ridden revealed:

·       new text editor is much improved; you can now paste from Word and junk code is removed automatically
·         using tables is MUCH easier
·         Cleaner interface
·         Navigation options - eg show one topic per page
·         Plugin resources now standard  (but not sure what this means)
·         Eg a new and better feedback tool replaces the clunky questions and surveys of older versions
·         Book module now core

Gilly Salmon was the keynote speaker late on day 1 but apparently did not have the version of the  presentation she wanted to deliver. Slides were too small to see easily.

Offered just this:
55% of Australians have a Facebook account

Learning Analytics and EPortfolios @ Box Hill (Julieanne Seaman and Pauline Farrell)

While there was an element of the speakers clearly believing their own publicity, Box Hill TAFE are a good example of an organisation that has gone for the long term view of implementing systemic change from the top down. That is, management is behind the change, and a whole of institute approach is employed.

They have done extensive profiling of their student body:

·         78% of students prefer workplace learning; text based is least preferred mode of learning
·         97% have mobile phones ; 63%  have smart phones; 78%  own a laptop


·         have implemented Echo 360 and apparently are struggling to keep up with demand
·         they have developed a script that allows them to track amount of blended, interactive nature of Moodle sites. This data is fed to managers - they call them traffic light reports. These results are published throughout the organisation and encourage section managers to come forward and ask how they can improve their section's standing - wonderful!

ePortfolios (Mahara) are used in conjunction with a Personal Learning Plan unit for students
·         some students like to use epfs collaboratively
·         Blockers: staff and student skills/system usability - limited customisation options

·        Box Hill distinguishes between learnER and learnING analytics; learning analytics is more about whole of organisation

·         more PD needed for staff to include assessment tasks suited to epfs

·         they sit with staff at Training Package stage and redesign content for e-delivery from the start


Kim Hubert said...

Great, im pleased this conference went ahead also, what valuable learning here for all of us. Learning and teaching has launched into a brand new era and gives rise to a plethora of topics that we as facilitators need to be sharing, expanding and embracing....so thanks for sharing Michael
Cheers Kim H

Michael said...

Thanks KIm - and good to see you here!