Plymouth Elearning Conference April 2011

A few weeks ago I tweeted saying that every teacher should attend Plymouth University Elearning conference at least once – which was perhaps a bit foolhardy as I’m also tweeting that if they only attend one CPD event this year it should be Northern Grid’s Conference in June.

I’ve always liked to listen to BBC Radio 4 when I’m pottering around the house or working. I feel it’s like eavesdropping on (usually) intelligent and sometimes challenging conversation and ideas. It’s not that I have some kind of driven need to to learn new things, I just find it kind of comforting that someone is doing the Big Thinking and they’re sharing it with me.

Pelc11 is a little similar. I attended some workshops and keynotes where my thinking was challenged and there were times, I confess, where I didn’t quite follow what was being said. That, is where Twitter comes in. A constant stream of 140 character summaries of key points and messages augmented the keynote and presenter’s delivery, helping me to take ownership of the sometimes big and complex ideas.

There will be others who will blog about the content of the keynotes. Here , I’d like to simply say what a delight it was to watch and listen to the magnificent deliveries and resources of Stephen Hepple, John Davitt, Andy Black and Shell Terrell (who I watched online – no one does tech support and delivery like Pelc!). I feel spiritually refreshed, inspired and, yes, reassured, that my half formed and sometimes jumbled thinking is at least in the right ball park.

Where Pelc differs from other conferences is in the behavior conventions of  the audience. There are, at most conferences, unwritten rules (though sometimes spoken; ‘Turn your phones to silent’) that discourage movement of any kind. Many conferences feel more like auction rooms with each delegate scared to move a hand, reach inside their bag or even shuffle in their seat to ease a creeping cramp. At Pelc I constantly took pictures with my Android and then my camera, and then tapping and reading tweets, sat on the floor and uploaded images to Flickr via my laptop, stood on the stairways and left and entered sessions at will. This freedom to take ownership of my learning is a rare experience for me and one that has ensured that I have taken far more away from this conference than any other more ‘analogue’ conferences.

Yes, Pelc is, what I will describe as an intellectual or cerebral event. It’s more about the big picture than the minutia of specifics and perhaps the teacher who attends expecting handouts may be disappointed – in other years, but not this time. Wednesday was Schools Day at the conference and there were children there. Yes! children, pupils, students, learners. What a radical idea. Imagine allowing children to be in the same building as a teaching and learning conference. The audacity! The evening found Pelc hosting a teachmeet and it was here that teachers exhibited that boundless and unstoppable enthusiasm for teaching. Lots of ideas, lots of sharing and lots of mutual support and appreciation.

And finally, I had such a great time with my friends. Friends? Yes amazing, kind, generous, funny, supportive individuals who I met, via Twitter, on The Internet. Y’know, that thing we forbid our children to do – meet strangers who we’d met online. And here’s the thing. This is all the proof that I could ask for. That those people who interact with me online, who we mutually groom with praise and gratitude, actually turn out to be fantastic individuals when we meet face to face.

And finally, finally I delivered my quirky sessions and received affirmation that the materials and ideas I develop, often at odds with mainstream thinking are welcomed and valued by people who know what they’re talking about. I leave Pelc stronger, happier and energized to continue to strive to be the agent of change I aspired to be all those years ago.

Thankyou Plymouth University. Thankyou Prof. Steve Wheeler and thankyou to all the delegates and new friends who restored my faith in what we’re trying to build here.

Pelecon 12 is here


18 Responses to Plymouth Elearning Conference April 2011

  1. Cat says:

    Great post!! Really interesting to hear the perspective of an attendee @ pelc11. I simply read tweets and wished I was there!
    Hoping to attend NGfL conf this year- sounds superb.

  2. Interesting read, thank you. It was particularly heartening to read about the involvement of young people in the conference.

  3. Your contributions to the conference were definitely amongst the highlights for me. As a student teacher that hasn’t really had the opportunity to experience and get involved with e-safety, your panel discussion was particularly useful. So I say thank you and I hope to see you again at PELC12!

    I loved the more casual, laid-back approach that the conference took. Made me feel much more comfortable to, as you say, take ownership of my own learning. May others take inspiration and follow suit!

  4. Simon Ensor says:

    Even glimpsed from afar through intermittent video/twitter stream and blog posts like this one, I have the feeling of connecting with a community in which I feel enriched, encouraged, challenged. Continuing to teach differently and to challenge the institutional norm is a lot easier connected to this stream. Thanks to this community I don’t feel alone , I feel together. This experience underlines for me the benefits of social media as a means to scaffold change and to enhance learning and well- being. Thank you.

  5. Alex Bellars says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Simon, Simon! (?!) And in fact I “met” Simon (Ensor) out in Clermont-Ferrand via Twitter during the conference, while languishing on my sofa with a chest infection… Pretty unusual conference etiquette, but it exemplifies the beauty of Pelc and other such events (yes, there are others!) starting to snowball across the digital landscape. I feel like I have extended my PLN considerably over the 3 days, have COUNTLESS links to sift through and check out, and a myriad of ideas and challenges to try out. And I agree wholeheartedly with Simon (Finch) that the fact that the (student) LEARNERS were at the centre of Pelc was a superb coup. Thanks so much to all concerned…

  6. […] Read this article: My reflections on #pelc11 […]

  7. So beautifully captured, Simon. The Plymouth eLearning Conference was an amazing combination of things: open, informal and full of laughs, as well as intense, reflective and thought-provoking. I just about wrote and drew my way back to Galway… ideas, plans, mind maps. Ready to roll! It was, indeed, a privilege to spend time with so many people hopeful and blazing with energy about the future of learning.
    Happy to call you a friend, Simon. 

    • simfin says:

      Twas a genuine pleasure to meet you and if you need some S & M in Galway then let me know. Inappropriate presentations is my forte 😉

  8. Sharon Flynn says:

    Great post Simon. I think we all felt the same, it was a very positive experience. I am buzzing with ideas and very hopeful about the future of education.

  9. thanks for your nice words Simon – I enjoyed it too – and also the tweets beyond the event – great stuff!

    • simfin says:

      Thanks Stephen. A million years ago in the early 90s I was a teacher on a 14.4 modem, an LCii and freelance education writer for MacUser. You were one of the very few Mac people I knew online and when MacUser and I struggled for answers someone would say ‘Ask Stephen Heppell’ and you and I would exchange emails and sometimes calls, talking through the role of IT, Macs specifically, in changing teaching and learning. At that time Ultralab seemed the coolest place in Ed and would have given almost anything to join you!

      Was good to see and hear you even though nothing, and everything has changed 😉

  10. Michael says:

    Sounds great. Wish I was there. However, the uni only offered Windows media player connectivity for viewing presentations. Alas, I don’t do Windows. So next year I have to attend 🙂
    Stephen Heppel similarly influenced me after meeting and having dinner with him and Apple execs in Singapore in the 90’s.

  11. […] which took place last week. I summarised my initial reaction in a comment on Simon Finch‘s blog post on the […]

  12. Really enjoyed this: it’s amazing how hearing someone speak makes me read the writing in their voice. Also, I’ll be quoting this in my report of pelc11 to my boss 🙂 Hope you don’t mind if I just put the entire 5th paragraph about taking control of your own learning into my report?

    • simfin says:

      Glad you enjoyed it and feel free to quote away! I’d like to see your report when finished if possible. 🙂

      • I should be able to: it will be a review of the important points I recall, some notes about specific presenters/ presentations and how I think it matters to Hartpury. It’ll probably be quite dry, so I’ll let you know which page you make a guest appearance on 🙂 I’ll pdf and put it on my site when it’s done (couple more hours at least: there’s a *lot* to sift through).

  13. Pete Fraser says:

    […] Simon Finch […]

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