I’ve been at the JISC Conference in Birmingham. I skipped the opening keynote opting to sit around the CETIS stand talking to colleagues (wilbert/oleg/paul/osswatch etc) including discussing the potential for an improved project tracking system based on DOAP and what to do with the old e-Learning Framework – all of which is completely part of my work-plan for the next six months.
I mooched around the stands – picking up several good things like a small rubber armchair and a neat little 4-port USB hub. Thanks to the exhibitors whoever you are… but I then went and left the bag of goodies on a train! How silly is that. Fortunately it didn’t have anything of real importance inside.
The first session I went to was on The learners experience of elearning. Based on two ‘big’ studies it examined learners and their use of and attitudes toward learning technologies. The session felt like somewhat of a bedding down into the web2 mould – acknowledging that learners are mostly streets ahead of institutions in terms of their demand for online services as illustrated through blogs, myspace, msn, faceparty and that subverting these to educational ends is simply happening naturally.
One institution which has taken the bull by the horns and provided collaborative eportfolio-blogging services for the student body is Wolverhampton – through their use of Pebblepad. Emma Purnell, one of their recently qualified PGCE students came along to tell us all how she had caught the eportfolio bug and how it changed her learning – watch the video if you dare!
Next up, I went to a session about OpenAthens. In case anyone doesn’t know Eduserv is a firm charity which provides the Athens authentication service to many educational institutions and organisations, mainly in the UK. The commercial and open-source worlds are starting to get on their own personal identity bandwagons with offerings such as OpenID and Windows CardSpace. To deal with all this Eduserv have cooked up a framework of their own which (for fairly obvious reasons) they have called OpenAthens. It’s a re-working of their existing software and services only designed to work in a more heterogeneous environment. It includes libraries and plugins for client applications, administrative tools and plugable back-end services capable of interfacing with all sorts of different federations and federation methods including Shib, OpenID and all the rest of them. By all accounts it sounds pretty neat. The session was supposed to be a workshop and I thought they might just do a real demo to show how it works… but no this is another death-by-powerpoint moment. They did however point to their developer site http://labs.eduserv.org.uk/aim/ for us to glean the full gorey details.
Finally the inspirational talk of the day was given by Tom Loosemore from the BBC. He runs their whole online operation by the sound of it and mercifully sounds like he really has his head screwed on. He outlined the scale of the BBCs electronic empire (thousands of sites) and took us through the 15 most important things you need to know about the web. It’s always heartening when someone just talks common sense and you can almost hear everyone in the room go “oh my, of course, how sensible”. You can of course read the commentary and see his 15 important things for yourself. Or read his blog which is currently violating rule #8 – hopefully to be rectified soon.