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Photograph of office buildings at Holborn Circus

Holborn Circus – I was struck by the different angles of the buildings


For me two big themes came to mind after this year’s Future of Technology in Education Conference (FOTE). Firstly, around creativity, innovation and co-creation; and secondly about how fundamental data and analytics is becoming.

Creativity, innovation and co-creation

Several of the speakers talked about innovation and creativity.  Dave Coplin talked of the value of Minecraft and Project Spark and the need to create space for creativity, while Bethany Koby showed us examples of some of the maker kits ‘Technology Will Save Us’ are creating.

Others talked of ‘flipping the classroom’ and learning from students as well as co-creation and it was interesting in the Tech start-up pitchfest that a lot of the ideas were student-created tools, some working in the area of collaborative learning.

Data and analytics

The second big trend for me was about analytics and data.  I was particularly interested to see how many of the tools and apps being pitched at the conference had an underlying layer of analytics.  Evaloop which was working in the area of student feedback, Knodium – a space for student collaboration, – offering interaction and sharing tools for video content, Unitu – an issues tracking tool and MyCQs – a learning tool, all seemed to make extensive use of data and analytics, while Fluency included teaching analytics skills.  It is interesting to see how many app developers have learnt the lessons of Amazon and Google of the value of the underlying data.

Final thoughts and what didn’t come up at the conference

I didn’t hear the acronymn MOOC at all – slightly surprising as it was certainly a big theme of last year’s conference.  Has the MOOC bubble passed? or is it just embedded into the mainstream of education?  Similarly Learning Analytics (as a specific theme).  Certainly analytics and data was mentioned (as I’ve noted above) but of Learning Analytics – not a mention, maybe it’s embedded into HE practice now?

Final thoughts on FOTE.  A different focus to previous years but still with some really good sessions and the usual parallel social media back-channels full of interesting conversations. Given that most people arrived with at least one mobile device, power sockets to recharge them were in rather short supply.

I was at the Future of Technology in Education conference on Friday.  Run by ULCC at Senate House in London, it was well attended with over 300 people there.  It was the first time I’d been to FOTE.  It had been recommended as a really good conference so I was interested to see what it was like (and it was a good chance to get out of the office and stop thinking about the new library website for a day).

Reflections on the day

It was a good conference and I’d hope to go again. I’ll probably blog later about my reflections on the content of the conference itself as there are a few thoughts about the way FOTE was run, that I found really interesting.  Firstly, it was pretty much paper-free, with the exception of the name badge which actually unfolded to reveal the conference agenda and details of the conference hashtags.   That was a really neat approach, no A4 printed out agendas or bulky bits of paperwork to carry around with you.   The only other bit of paper, a playing card for their ice-breaker game.

What was really novel was the creation of a set of FOTE mobile and web apps, for iphones, ipads, android and web.  FOTE ipad app screnshot
These had the delegate lists, agenda and details of the speakers, details of the conference location, sponsors, as well as several feeds for the FOTE blog, comments and twitter feeds.  They even include the delegate survey for the conference and the voting for one of the sessions.  I’m really very impressed with the thought that went into this approach.  It’s the first technology conference I’ve been to that seemed to have got to grips with understanding that as the audience was going to be coming armed with an array of ipads, laptops and smartphones, that giving them bits of paper to carry around wasn’t the right message. I wonder how the cost of creating the apps compares with the cost of printing out copies of various bits of paperwork or conference packs that people traditionally give out but it was a really impressive thing to do and it would be good to see it taken up by other tech conferences.

My second reflection was that when you got to the conference venue, the wifi access code and links to the various conference apps were up on posters and displayed with QR codes, making it really easy to link from a smartphone.  That was a good touch.   Conference wifi access was pretty good and reliable considering the number of devices in the conference, I suspect probably more wifi connected devices than delegates.

Final thought was about the twitterwall used for part of the conference sessions.  The transition from one tweet to another was eye-catching.  The previous tweet would clear, often with those letters falling down the screen, leaving just the letters that were in common with the next tweet, which would then appear.  It was a good visual effect although possibly a bit distracting from what was going on in that session maybe.

I do find it fascinating the way that different universities approach the wifi access issue for conference delegates.  ULCC had a separate conference wifi SSID and what seemed to be a daily access code.  But there seem to be a few different approaches.  Maybe something to blog about another time.

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July 2020

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