As you are probably aware by now, the TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival was a week long festival looking at developments in educational technology with learning and teaching. How the sudden shift to online and blended learning has put a strain on many academics workloads and more often skill perceptions. I say this as what the current situation has shown is people are far more capable than they ever gave themselves credit for.
Across the week the range of subjects was impressive and comprehensive. All the sessions were recorded and can be found on both the TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival website and YouTube on this playlist.
This post though, is just a brief look at how the week felt to me. The first point to note of every conference is that if you are presenting, you don’t really get to attend. Except with a fully digital conference, I am able to go back and revisit the sessions. This is a real pleasure as there were a few sessions that conflicted with mine that are of benefit to my training and personal interest (now just to find the time to watch them all back)!
The second area for me is the adrenaline rush, even just being sat at my desk. The first day saw a few technical issues that made it all the more exciting to diagnose and solve as part of a team. It got rectified very quickly, and by the 4th session of the day the hangover from the problem was gone. The team came together, set goals, allocated tasks and we did it. The reason I bring this up is not to talk in depth about the issue but to say how great it was to work with the whole team, we were able to overcome obstacles together and provide a smooth experience to those that attended.
My third point is that it was great to have another person to present with and to a large crowd (for most sessions) to bounce ideas around and get people involved with the process. It was a shame that my session with Andy Clegg wasn’t a little longer to be able to run the activity in full, which would have essentially been ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’. Throw some ingredients at us and let us help solve a problem on the fly. This did take place with Mike Wilson when we ran beginner and advanced Moodle demos and were able to just show people answers to questions they had. It was live, specific and not fitting a normal conference where you may not get what you actually hoped to see. It is something that I hope to be able to do more of going forward, working with colleagues on sessions that can be fun, engaging and promote creative discussions for those that may not normally see the benefit of what we do in the department.
My final reflection is that I am so proud of what the team and colleagues have done. Watching Stephen Webb and Shaun Searle demonstrate principles of content capture and talk about how quickly they have had to deal with the implementation of Panopto, it makes you proud to be part of something so proactive (maybe a little reactive in this case) and so professional. The whole conference was put together quickly with people quickly developing sessions and actually we all learned of ways to develop our specialisms into the wider field of what the department does.
From the feedback I and others have received, it was a great success and I hope to do something similar in the future. It has opened my eyes to ideas that can run across the year and not just in one day. How my training online could be the way to go (don’t get me wrong I love face to face experiences) but actually online, I know people have a device and I can be more creative with what was once a demonstration type session.
This festival was a pleasure to be a part of, and I was sad it finished. I was also glad at the end as it was intense, mildly hectic and not really a sustainable solution to training especially with trying to help manage a family in lockdown (I was lucky not to be attacked by children!). However, my feeling going forward, even after the worst of this current isolation is over, is that the conferences that we run and organise could and should have more online elements to really engage everyone that wants to attend. It opens up other possibilities that physical locations can’t. The best part of this whole experience though was this tweet from @Drstuartsims. Even in lockdown, conference food is questionable …
— Stuart Sims (@DrStuartSims) July 14, 2020