Belatedly blogging the E-Learn conference, which took place in Waikiki the week before last.
Many wonderful people. Old friends such as Jaakko Kurhila, Peter Brusilovsky, Curt Bonk, Philip Barker, Rosta Farzan, new friends such as Robert Mertens, Dave Webster, Sieuw Mee and Greg. Sorry for all those I missed, but the conference is already fading from memory and somewhat overshadowed by the mLearn conference I attended last week.
It is always interesting to see themes develop in conferences. All the old stuff is still there of course, the case studies of learning management systems, learning objects stuff, instructional design precepts and patterns etc. This year there was a much bigger emphasis on the social, some stuff on mobile (pretty stable but growing slightly for the past two or three years), but the biggest growing theme was undoubtedly variants on connectivism. George Siemens would be proud. For me, this is pretty cool as it is what I have been trying to shout about since the 1990s and at last my way of seeing the world of e-learning is becoming mainstream.
This conference was especially memorable for its shakiness. The 6.7 earthquake hit just after 7am on Sunday morning while I was in the shower. At first I was just a little surprised that the floor that I had remembered as being concrete was actually made of thin plastic. Realisation dawned on me just in time to get out of the shower before the second shockwave hit, at which point things fell of tables and rattled on walls. My own hotel was without power or water. I had to come to the assistance of a couple of morbidly obese women in a nearby room who had no water or food. The journey up and down a darkened stairwell as temperatures began to climb in the day was less fun than you might think. Amazingly, the conference hotel managed to restore some services via its backup generator, providing some lighting, a couple of lifts and even a hint of Internet access. They also laid on sandwiches and, by the evening, even a full spread of food. An interesting day full of queues to get water and food, struggles to make mobile phones work and some brave attempts to continue with presentations, often with presenters holding up their laptops to show the PowerPoint slides. Not a great idea. It was almost sad when the lights finally came back on some time after 9pm. There was a real feeling of camaraderie and companionship in adversity.
Earthquakes aside, it was interesting to compare the experience of E-Learn with that of the same conference in the same place 7 years ago. Then, email was limited to a couple of 15 minute sessions in a day, and the rest of the world seemed far away. With unlimited (bar during the earthquake aftermath) wifi access for the whole conference, the world in 2006 is a smaller and more intrusive place. I was never really away from the office, just had less time to work and more distractions.
By: Jon Dron
Posted: November 1, 2006, 4:04 am