Networked Learning at the Sani Beach

Sani Beach

It’s been all go since I got back from the Networked Learning Conference, so I’ve not had a chance to post my thoughts from the conference as yet, so here goes with a few thoughts from the first day. The conference was held at the Sani Beach hotel, which is in Halkidiki in Greece. This was the sixth conference and in the past they have been held in Lancaster or Sheffield! I’d spent a few days beforehand in Thessaloniki, which was a great city, with lots of great archeology, nice bars and cafes and great shopping! Sani Beach is a luxury resort around a beautiful bay, with pine trees and sand dunes and a wonderful beach! Photos will follow very shortly!
This was my first Networked Learning conference and I wasn’t sure what to expect, in terms of who would be attending and the focus of the event. I had thought the event might attract mainly researchers, rather than e-learning practitioners, and be focused on technology. I certainly did expect to meet many librarians, but as is the way, the first person I spoke to was a librarian! I came away from the conference with a real sense of needing to focus on my teaching and student learning, rather than technology. I also was pleased to see many e-learning practitioners as well as researchers attending. The opening conference keynote from Charalambis Vrassidas from the University of Nicosia, focused on social networking for social justice and he provided an excellent and inspiring start to the conference. He considered big issues on tackling adult literacy, poverty and using technology for online activism.

Gwyneth and I were fortunate to give our paper in the first parallel session of the morning, which was a set of papers all related to library issues. The first paper from the University of Macedonia, was from a university library using Moodle to develop online courses. the courses were using open source software (Moodle) to deliver training on open source software! Amazingly these courses were offered widely and open to the general public to register and seen as part of the university’s information literacy support. Also in the session was a paper on Networked libraries for lifelong learning. Another session I attended on the Monday was Blogging for Beginners, but Julie Hughes and Emma Purcell at the University of Wolverhampton. They described using blogs and eportfolio’s in teacher education. This was the first of a series of sessions I attended about eportfolios – but they also talked about the idea of storytelling and blogs to support the transition from university to teaching practice. Mark Childs from University of Warwick gave an interesting insight into evaluating learners experiences of Second Life. He talked about the Theatron project based at Kings College London which is building performance spaces in Second life. It also led to an interesting discussion about the level of computer literacy that students needs to operate in a mediated environment such as Second Life. Finally Stuart Boon and Christine Sinclair talked about disquiet and identity in Second Life and Facebook and some of the issues of how people represent themselves in these environments. Issues such s authenticity and trust were raised which have implications for both teachers and learners. They talked about people revealing things about themselves they might not usually do and how Second Life experiences can cause ‘disquiet’ and can be brought back into real life. Some of these issues, such as the idea of Second life being ‘uncanny’ were picked up in a symposium I attended on the Tuesday, which is the work of Ray Land and Sian Bayne. More about that later though as now I want to enjoy what is left of the sunshine!

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