This was the first year that I had attended a PLE Conference in person having been an active remote participant in 2010 when the conference was held in Barcelona and a slightly less active remote participant in 2011 when the conference was held in Southampton.
This year the conference was held jointly in Aveiro, Portugal and Melbourne, Australia. I attended the Melbourne venue and the highlight for me was seeing the two keynote speakers; Alec Couros (@courosa) and Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer). Having said that, they were ably supported by a range of interesting presentations.
Both Alec and Inger took us on personal narratives relating their beginnings in personal learning environments and of their experiences and practices. Alec wrapped this around the question of “Why networks matter in teaching & learning”. He had crowd sourced a number of responses to this question and included these in his presentation. You can see Alec’s slide show below:
Very cleverly, Alec sent out coordinated tweets during his presentation. A list of the tweets can be found here.
The presentation was pitched perfectly; for a significant proportion of the audience the concept of the personal learning environment was quite new. It included enough personal, practical and theoretical information to provide a comprehensive, yet rapid introduction for the potential practitioner.
On the second day Inger presented a keynote on Academic Identity which told the story of her transition into blogging and tweeting and she she uses her network as core part of her role in working with research students. Again, this highly personal and practical presentation contained more than enough for everyone, whatever their level of experience with personal learning environments. In fact, sitting at a table with an academic who had been sceptical at the start of day one was nice to see the penny dropping for him and for others after both Alec and Inger’s presentations.
Other highlights included a presentation from Kim Tairi (@haikugirloz) and Graeme Oke (@graemeO28) on “Librarians, microblogging and PLNs” and Kim Barbour and Professor David Marshall’s presentation on “Academic Identity and the PLE”. The former looked at the way that librarians were building the personal learning networks and the benefits that accrued whilst the latter reported on an ongoing research project into ‘persona’ in networks.
A very interesting presentation was given by David Jones (@djplaner) and Sarah Thorneycroft (@sthcrft). They gave us a case study where an attempt to develop a personal learning network in pre service teaching students had not been as successful as anticipated. Important lessons where learned.
I also enjoyed Howard Errey’s (@howard61) presentation examining the perspective from further education and training:
We were given an interesting view of the practicalities of implementing a PLE within existing frameworks in New Zealand by Sarah-Jane Saravani (@wintecsaravani).
Also of importance was Joyce Seitzinger’s (@catspyjamasnz) presentation around the nature of the “Cloud Academic” and using the PLE for staff development whilst David Cummings (@daveymelb) provoked some interesting thoughts around the design of personal learning environments and parallels with physical learning environments.
I gave a short presentation on the way that Swinburne Online develops personal learning environments for its students and I was honoured to be asked to chair a discussion forum featuring Alec Couros, Inger Mewburn, David Jones and Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) from the National Australia Bank who gave us a very valuable perspective from the corporate sector.
Overall, I was pleased with the collaborative approach, the workshops were well done and original and the participants entered into them with enthusiasm which is often unusual at gatherings of academics. But there was also plenty of questioning and reflection and discussion which was really just how it should have been.
Although the event was small with 65 in Aveiro and 40 in Melbourne there was a large audience participating online. On both days the #pleconf hashtag trended worldwide and at the end of the two days 1,500 tweets generated 3,773,876 impressions, reaching an audience of 432,255 followers within the past 24 hours (according to http://www.hashtracking.com/). The numbers over both days would have been much larger. In fact current archives are showing over 4000 tweets using the #pleconf hashtag since the start of the conference.
A collection of the #pleconf tweets can be found here.
The Melbourne conference was held at the very smart offices of the Deakin University City Campus and streaming of the keynotes was done by Deakin University. The videos will be available for viewing on demand soon.