Making the social learning conference: social…

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I’ve just had a Skype call about the social learning conference in Sydney that I am doing a keynote for at the end of November. This is being organized by OpenLearning in partnership with MEIPTA:

OpenLearning is an educational technology platform formed by academics, which provides the technology and pedagogical support for universities, to move beyond traditional instructivist education towards constructivist teaching and learning strategies, which fosters student knowledge co-creation and knowledge transfer.

The website for the conference states:

The two-day conference will bring together academics, educators, researchers, instructional designers, technology specialists and government officials to participate in lively discussions, keynotes, and interactive workshops which will provide extensive networking opportunities.

The conference will explore social constructivism in computer-supported collaborative learning.  The four main themes will be:

  • Community, Contribution and Connectedness: Fostering communities of practice, designing for social presence, and informing effective online facilitation.
  • Beyond Content and Quizzes: Moving beyond content transmission and testing towards creating online learning environments for active learning, co-construction of knowledge, and social constructivism.
  • Behavioural Learning Analytics: Using analytics to analyse student interaction, and to inform design, effective online facilitation, and tools for self-regulation. It may also encompass designing analytics to effectively support academic research
  • Rethinking Assessment: Moving towards authentic assessment and documenting online learning experiences in e-portfolios.

My keynote is on the first topic ‘community, contribution and connectedness’. I want to explore what affordances are associated with open and social practices and what this means for the broad spectrum of educational offerings; from informal and non-formal to formal learning. The session will be followed by a two-hour interactive workshop, which will provide time to reflect on the keynote, along with a tailored session on using the tools associated with the 7Cs of Learning Design framework to explore how to design for social learning.

In the conversation with Sarah Sahyoun from open learning, we brainstormed ideas for making the conference interactive and engaging. Obviously, the follow-up interactive workshop sessions associated with each keynote will help with this, along with active use of the conference hashtag (#OLConf2017). In addition, the conference organisers are planning to set up a ‘conference course’ on their platform as a space for participants to engage before, during and after the conference. There will also be interactive demo sessions for participants to share good practice. It reminded me of the way in which we used cloudworks to support the PLE conference in 2012. Ricardo Torres Kompen and I did an ‘unkeynote’, we invited key experts in the field to submit short videos to the cloudworks conference space reflecting on what their thoughts on PLEs were, Stephen Downes provided a useful comparison of PLEs to LMSs. The ‘unkeynote’ then acted as a conversation space around these resources.

Obviously a successful conference depends on a number of factors: engaging keynotes, high-quality papers, a variety of session types (presentations, workshops, demos, posters, etc.), lots of opportunities for networking and of course good food and coffee! But nowadays I would argue that equally important is effective use of social media; an active Twitter hashtag, a space to collate resources and provide opportunities for debate, opportunities for people to participate remotely and ideally some participants live blogging and reflecting on the conference. I am very much looking forward to the conference and will be interested to see how this balance of face-to-face and virtual interactivity works.

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