Conference Round Up – Informatology Annual event

by | Jul 8, 2009 | Articles

During my tortuous journey on public transport from Manchester to Middlesex University to Informatology’s annual conference at the end of June, I was beginning to wonder if it would be worth it. 

Stephen Citron had never thus far let me down with his Informatology Events; however there could always be a first time. A new venue, a new format, even a new subject, could this be one risk too far?

The venue was not particularly well signposted, I’m glad I’d looked it up on ‘Google Street View’ so I could recognise the building I was aiming for. From the outside it was grand and steeped in history but as I walked through the glass front doors it opened into a light airy modern venue. The rooms and offices on three floors wrapped around a central coffee bar meeting place. A perfect metaphor for the conference first day which was to be all about Social Networking technology and where/how it meets traditional learning.

As I walked through the door, I was relieved to see a familiar face, holding the ‘Informatology Forum’ clipboard; I was directed to a welcome coffee and the first session. Stephen’s organisation continued like clockwork as usual, a credit to him and his team. They were even able to accommodate my late change of mind with respect to my choice of workshops, even though they were over subscribed. The venue struggled to keep pace with his exacting timetable but the occasional delay in refreshments gave impromptu networking opportunities so did not detract from the day for the delegates although it did present some extra work for the team.

The new format on that first day was the addition of hands-on workshops, along with traditional lecture theatre style presentations. The theory was we were able to try out the social media software in rooms equipped with PC’s. With only 45 minutes for each workshop and the majority of delegates knowing nothing about the subjects (they were there to learn), often there was only enough time to log into the application. Some workshops worked well, others would have been better as demo’s; I think it depended on how feature rich the software was and whether the presenter was able to picked out one or two functions to show, rather than cram a days training into 45 minutes. That said every single workshop that I attended was enjoyable and informative:

So the new subject was social media; although I know a bit already and have been using twitter for a while, by the end of the day I was on overload. All these products that were new to me, the question remains should I be using them?

My highlights of the day

Now that a few days have past I can reflect on the highlights of the day:

  1. The Google team were impressive, I enjoyed the session from the Head of Learning Technologies at Google EMEA, initially charting the ways I’ve learnt and researched through my life. Illustrating how IT has followed real life: e.g  the questions asked of a mother that were answered with the forerunner to the hyperlink: “ask your father”! Culminating in a reference to Google Wave that was previewed only weeks earlier (see this Youtube preview for more info) and must be the ultimate (to date) in on-line conversation/collaboration platforms. One of the workshops I attended demoed Google Apps – again impressive, I just need the time and opportunity to try them out.
  2. On a personal note, I’ve been putting off joining Facebook determined not to succumb to peer pressure in an attempt to keep my business and social life separate. However as it was Nick Shackleton-Jones from the BBC giving the Facebook workshop I decided to listen to what he had to say. He talked about the use of ‘Facebook groups’, illustrated using the one he set up for e-learning professionals with over 4000 members. I now have that feeling that I’m missing out on an opportunity here so checkout if Nick managed to convince me or not – can you find me on Facebook? To find this group if you are in Facebook go to settings>applications>groups> then search e-learning professionals.
  3. In the final open Q&A session I raised a question that had been discussed at a clients of mine the previous week. Are we ready in the L&D departments to take the criticism/abuse from the learners if we ask for a star rating and comments at the end of an e-learning course? The feeling from the meeting was ‘we have to be’. If we are going to improve, we have to give the opportunity for people to comment publicly however this will only work if we are willing to listen and can be seen to be acting on what we hear.

A great day of learning and networking, I’m even more convinced now that social media/learning will compliment e-learning and that the informal will improve the formal. There will be pain in the short term I’m sure, as we open up to the world for comments and also learn to use these tools that are now so readily available.

Was the journey worth it? Absolutely!

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