I was very fortunate to be able to attend what I consider to be one of the best higher education, ed tech conferences in the world, last week in Manchester, UK. I was even more fortunate to be asked to do the closing keynote. The annual Association for Learning Technologies sponsors the Conference (the C) and a Journal Alt-J. This year, was a sold out event and lots of great presentations, conversations and networking. Alt-C is probably the best kept UK secret, as it is a world class event, but the attendees are at least 90% UK ed tech innovators. The conference features the usual keynotes, panels, tradeshow, concurrent sessions, posters, food and drink. Unlike some others I’ve attended, this one was very well organized, few presenters missing and tight adherence to time lines leaving a fair chunk of time for discussion after each presenter.

The first keynote was by American Anthropolgist Michael Wesch (of YouTube video fame including
Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us). The second was an introduction to most of us to Martin Bean the new Vice Chancellor (read president) of the British Open University. Both were entertaining, dynamic and not just a few laughs.
Martin’s talk focused on  new opportunities and challenges of the net connected world- seems just what the OU needs! I’ll let my faithful readers judge the results of my own keynote as it was recorded by the Elluminate folks. I rehashed Jon Dron and my “taxonomy of the Many” but also got into some new stuff on the Open Scholar. I posted the slides on my slideshare account

The conference featured its second year of “social networking” with an integrated CrowdVine This site allowed one to create a customized schedule, make comments and get slides from each presentation and send emails to registered friends. It resulted in me expending some time on the profile (wish it could import from other networking sites) and flattered my ego with friend requests, but not sure it added much value. Probably way more valuable for completely online conferences.

I always return from the UK, with a does of envy over the research and development resources and support  they have available and the way the government seems to take tech enhancement to learning very seriously. In particular the JISC community offers a whole range of information, programs, grants and support services. I also was impressed with the growth of capacity in the Higher Education Academy with a whole series of professional development activities and resources. I especially like the 25 subject centres which recognize the need for differentiation of resources and discussion amongst different academic tribes. I noted however that the Centres of Excellence in teaching and learning program may not be refunded but that an evaluation of their work is underway.

In sum, a good and learning time was had by all. I hope a few more Canucks get to experience next year’s ALT_C in Nottingham.