LF ‘un’conference 16/09/10

As mentioned in a previous Blog post I have been dabbling with the idea of arranging an unconference for a number of internal Learning Facilitators on the subject of ‘Using Technology to Enhance Learning’. Well after months of planning (read flapping!) it finally happened, want to find out what happened?…. read on…

The Success Factory

I decided right from the outset to showcase the various technologies and platforms that are available to enhance learning activities, so what better place to start than creating a digital set of Joining Instructions as opposed to our traditional paper-based options, feedback to this approach was encouraging and I am hoping that this will generate some interest from the Learning Facilitators that attended.

The day itself kicked off with everybody arriving between 0800-0830hrs, they were greeted by a Captain Caveman poster (thanks Sam ;-)) which invited them to park any ‘negative’ thoughts that they had about using technology to enhance learning before the unconference started.

Captain CaaaaaveMaaaaaaan!!!


It was interesting to read everybodys views and in particular to gain an insight into some of the concerns of people for whom using these technologies is ‘new ground’ – all in all a very simple exercise, but an extremely valuable one.

The unconference kicked off with a keynote address from Alison Hattersley from The Success Factory on the subject of the ‘New World‘ using a piece of tech that everybody seemed impressed with which was PaperShow.


There were a number of great soundbites from this keynote but what really struck home for me was the statement “if you always do what you’ve always done, you WONT EVEN get what you’ve always got” – the justification behind this twist on a well-known phrase, is that due to the pace of change in the ‘New World’, doing business as usual means that you will just get left behind………

Alison Hattersleys' Keynote address

There were some (in my opinion) strong challenges to the use of technology during this keynote that I feel led us down a path that we didn’t really need to go down i.e. arguing that emails are bad because they distract you from your work… aren’t emails in themselves work? And if they aren’t then ignore them… anyways we were soon back on track and the floor was handed over  to little old me!

I conducted a number of small icebreakers designed to not only allow attendees to introduce themselves but also to get some hands on with Learning Technologies straight away. Everybody participated in creating an iPadio podcast (which I subsequently lost, due to my mobile phone losing the signal during upload – (note to self: use the traditional ‘dial-up’ method next time!!!) Everybody then got the opportunity to look at some everyday and some not-so everyday items of hardware that could be used for learning activities; they were then asked to describe how that particular item could be used to enhance the delivery of learning events within their specific subject areas, this is what they had to say.

What was really encouraging from my perspective were the ideas that were being generated, I can only hope that the Learning Facilitators get the opportunity to put them into practice.

We then moved on to the subject of Twitter, which I know was of specific interest to many of the facilitators present. As this was an unconference and I was committed to taking a social constructionist approach to the day, I broke the attendees into 2 x groups and allowed them approx 20-30 minutes of online Twitter research time prior asking them to present their findings back to the group.

Researching Twitter

I particularly like this approach to facilitating as I know that the content is readily available and it places the onus on the delegates to ‘pull’ the information as opposed to me ‘pushing’ it onto them. Once again they didn’t disappoint and came up with some great research covering the history, learning uses, marketing uses, communities of practice and even url shortening services. I wish I had learnt as much about Twitter as quickly as they did!

Researching Twitter

Pretty soon they were Twittering amongst each other and a few even found the time to follow individuals and organisation from within their professional circles of interest – well done folks. Here is a summary of the Tweets that used the #lfcpd hashtag.

Lunchtime was fast approaching and believe me if there is oen thing that you do NOT want to miss whilst at The Success Factory, it’s the lunch so I asked my friend and work colleague Geoff to facilitate a session on the use of voting handsets. As expected Geoff took to this with this usual passionate style and within only 30 minutes had provided us with an insight into the architecture, setting up, settings and end-user experience of the TurningPoint Technology voting system.

Geoff facilitating a session on the use of handheld voting systems

This system saw widespread use across my organisation several years ago, however its use has become sporadic so I have always hoped that its use could become more widespread. Judging by the interest shown during Geoff’s session and subsequently via Twitter I fully expect to see an upsurge in its use once again.

One of the delegates, Jim, asked a great question as to how to create well crafted, robust questions to use within surveys and polls such as those that can be created using the TurningPoint tool. I knew that I had access to such a resource but couldn’t for the life of remember where, well Jim (and anybody else who’s interested) here it is. It’s technically for the SurveyMonkey toll that we hold an account for, but the overarching principles of good survey design remain the same.

Following a cracking lunch and an AWESOME Eton Mess,

it was time to get online again.

Prior to the unconference a number of Learning Facilitators had expressed a keen interest in discovering more about Virtual Classrooms so I had arranged for @philipgreen from Onlignment to facilitate a virtual classroom using Elluminate! Unfortunately Phil has been ill recently (get well soon) but he had kindly arranged for Elluminate themselves to facilitate a session for us. An archive of that session can be viewed here.

Getting to Grips with online voting tools

Judging by the verbal and written feedback that people provided following this demo it was quite clear that most people saw the benefits of this tool not only for delivering synchronous learning events  but for improved business-wide communications. My plan is to ask Phil to deliver the planned session again once he is back on his feet as I believe it will allow us to see the full functionality of the tool from a ‘learners’ perspective – looking forward to that  🙂

From that point on things started to go a bit wrong!

  1. I had embedded a number of YouTube videos into my slides using PPT 2010. For some reason best known to Microsoft this set my slidedeck into a perpetual loop, preventing me from exiting the YouTube clip. I was only able to exit this by closing the entire presentation down, opening it up again and then starting the presentation from the ‘next’ slide – very time-consuming and frustrating!!
  2. The WiFi connection was lost to all PCs, given that we were just about to look at the Delicious bookmarking tool, this really couldn’t have happened at a worse time, but fortunately the venue very kindly allowed us to utilise their secure connection…. it did nothing for my blood pressure though!

We then undertook a bookmarking exercise in which we demonstrated the restricted nature of conventional website bookmarking (i.e. on your PC) and the benefits of using social bookmarking tools. Many of the attendees responded positively to this change in practice and identified the benefits of social bookmarking such as knowledge-sharing, collaborative working and helping learners to ‘pull’ information as well as the challenges that it may bring in terms of quality-checking the bookmarks provided. My most recent Delicious Bookmarks can be seen at the right hand side of this screen or alternatively my Delicious site is here.

We rounded the day off with a brief introduction to the concept of Virtual Learning Environments which included a whistle-stop tour of some Moodle platforms I have been working in.

Yours truly... waffling probably!

Whilst I didn’t have sufficient time to cover its functionality in full, I was encouraged to hear some very positive comments from the group one stating that a VLE would enhance the effectiveness of learning delivering learning events to shift workers and another comment from an attendee who had operated in a VLE that sounded like it had only got as far as Stage 1, but who was impressed by the level of interactivity that I had been able to introduce into my sandpit VLE – I was well chuffed 🙂

The day closed with a prize draw for a Flip Ultra camera, the lucky recipient being…….. (you know who you are!) and no I’m not responding to the cries for a “recount

So that was the day over; I’d like to say a BIG thank you to body who attended, to Alison, Martin and Vicky from the SuccessFactory, Neil Fagan for his support, Sam Pennington for Captaaaaaain CaaaaaaveMaaaaaan, Phil Green for all his help, Elluminate for their demo session and for everyone who contributed via Twitter.

So that was the day over and with my first unconference under my belt I turned my attention to the next one, or more specifically what went well, what could have made it even better and some action planning points.

  1. Utilise online polling prior to the event. People appreciated being asked what they wanted to cover.
  2. Limit the amount of topics to be covered. Too much content, too little time.
  3. Return to the same venue – comments were made as to how relaxed and informal they felt throughout the day.
  4. Have a second projector plugged in and on ‘stand by’ – the main projector surrendered mid-way through the afternoon.
  5. Utilise a Twitter back channel, possible with a Twitterwall playing.
  6. Change the screen size when using embedded YouTube videos in PPT 2010, to allow me to click forward onto the next slide.
  7. Use a traditional dial-up method when using iPadio in the future.
  8. Investigate the PaperShow tool.
  9. Request a demonstration of the SMART visualiser.




About Craig Taylor

Disclaimer: The contents of this Blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer nor any other organisation with which I am or have been associated with.
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13 Responses to LF ‘un’conference 16/09/10

  1. Nicola Jaynes says:

    I really like this blogg!! It just comes down to my “stuck record” syndrome of time! How’s that for old world.


    • Craig Taylor says:

      Hi Nicola,

      Thanks for your feedback about my Blog, but I think you are being a little hard on yourself…

      … the fact that you have become a Learning Facilitator, that you volunteered to be an elearning author, that you came along to the unconference, that you immediately identified the possibilities for the PaperShow tool and that you were beavering away today to get ‘Beyond the Bullet Points’ puts you well and truly in the New World!!!



  2. Phil Green says:

    It sounds as though there was great value to be drawn from the day. I wish I’d been there, if only for the Eton Mess – I guess I’ll settle for a virtual mess instead! As you know I was in hospital and so couldn’t trot out my Elluminate session, but it’s “in the can” (as media people say, and not American toilet slang!) Once I’ve successfully despatched my kidney stone, I have a plan to co-facilitate for you and your colleagues a very special live online session with my friend Julie Wedgwood, whom you know. Together, and using Elluminate, we aim to push out the boundaries – I promise it will be a SIT UP and not in any way a SIT BACK session! All the best – and do keep taking a fresh and balanced look at these wonderful technologies that have so much potential for learning and communication. A final oxymoron as my old Latin teacher used to say festinare lente which, translated means “hasten slowly” and very roughly interpreted means “get on with it, but at a contolled pace”. Phil Green.


    • Craig Taylor says:

      Hi Phil,

      Many thanks for dropping by my Blog and for your encouraging comments. I’m really pleased to hear that you are getting back on your feet, but please take your time.

      I passed on your offer to co-facilitate a session with Julie to my colleagues yesterday and they were VERY keen to participate in a session that allows them to view the full functionality of the system from a learners perspective. I am even going to invite a colleague from our IT Department who will play a key role in sourcing any end-solution.

      Utrinque Paratus



  3. Jim Williams says:

    Got some very useful insights from the day. Have just been adding bookmarks using Delicous site. Once get an e-mail account easy to do. Can then see who else bookmarked a relevant site and then look at their bookmarks.

    Still trying to find some useful nuclear bloggers. Don Johnson was mentioned to me.


    • Jim Williams says:

      I intend to promote the use of ‘DELICOUS’ by delegates on UUK Safety Case / Safety Case Owner events by putting relevant links under my account.


      • Craig Taylor says:

        Hi Jim,

        Thanks for your feedback on the unconference and well done on spotting the uses of social bookmarking sites for your learning events. Hopefully future delegates on your events will not only benefit from the links you have provided them via your Delicious bookmarks but may even start to use the tool for themselves……????



  4. If the test of a great day is that it’s still provoking thoughts/actions a week later then our day was certainly a big success. I have lots of workshops/learning events coming up and the little question of how could I use technology to enhance this experince keeps popping up – and of course I now have far more answers to this question than ever before. Thanks Craig


    • Craig Taylor says:

      Hi Alison,

      Many thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback. I’m very pleased that the day provided you with food for thought and that it can be of some use to you in the future. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to chat about anything in more detail.


  5. Gary Mort says:

    Thanks for facilitating this day it was well organised and I am sure everybody who attended found some areas of interest.

    I see a use for the Paper Show for use in Emergency Command and Control, Turning Point as this has many uses and VLE’s if security issues can be overcome.

    So impressed with the Paper Show have ordered one to evaluate.


    • Craig Taylor says:

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for taking the time to provide the feedback.

      I know that you have ordered a PaperShow product and would really appreciate having a look at it once it arrives on-site.

      A recent meeting has removed the final ‘blocker’ to introducing a VLE so keep you ears open and I’ll keep everybody updated as and when I have any news.



  6. Allan Isdale says:

    Hi Craig,

    Looks like the unconference went well, keep up the great blogging.




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