Learnpod 2012

Yesterday I attended the LearnPod 2012 “unconference” held at Doncaster College.

“On the day, the agenda is set by delegates, who pitch ideas to share their expertise, or source the expertise of others to answer their questions. Some pitch interactive workshops and others pitch presentations, discussions and forums. Whilst it is not compulsory for delegates to do a presentation, as there is much to be gained from participation, those that do pitch their ideas can be sure that that their individual interests are met.

The event is the brainchild of Freeserve’s founding Chief Technology Officer (CTO), internet entrepreneur and college Chair of Governors, Rob Wilmott, and has captured the imagination of learning providers and technology entrepreneurs across the country. It’s also attracted high profile delegates including international social media legend Chris Brogan and community social media pioneer John Popham.”

LearnPod12 focused on how to move social media, technology and innovation forward.

Workshops were spawned on the spot from delegate interests;

Timetable of discussion topics for the day

Generated by the audience interests

And we certainly did. I pitched to offer 2 sessions: “OERs, Accessibility & Inclusion”, and “Horror Stories – learning from mistakes”. One of my mistakes being get more from your attendees by switching positions; move each to the front for a few minutes and change the dynamic.

In the first we discussed the OER landscape, use of repositories for finding licenced  materials and our professional preferences; it appears that communities form around each type of node and their expectations for sharing tend to follow the technologies on offer – little use of aggregators evident, or RSS feeds. “I’m not technical but…” is an academic expectation – in effect “I want the functional technology without having to have mastery ‘under the hood’ so to speak” – the best tools and the best collections please. But strategies to pool this knowledge vary, so an unconference is ideal to surface these.

In our “Horror stories” session we discussed how to learn from mistakes by taking apart some examples we had each hear about. Often it came down to managing expectations, actually following the policies and promises originally given, referring to the appropriate experts as soon as possible and confessing problems in the reporting. Having a space to share non-judgementally works.

General topics included Xerte tool kits (XOT) developments, the Xpert repository search for discovering resources, specifically the attribution image search which finds and embeds cc media with attribution.springpad.com – a more visual evernote; pinwheel.com – Find and leave notes around the world which can persist beyond the source (it copies); Trello.com – for organising tasks.

Google circles was liked by many as it provides a space to network without invading personal spaces like facebook. Many more tuned services ebuddy was/is used a lot by students; whatsapp for IM across different devices; path.com – If Twitter gets too noisy etc. More details are available through the Storify of the event, which will aggregate postings, tweets, images etc. See

I would recommend an unconference to quickly gather and share community knowledge/experiences but perhaps modify the ground rules to raise expectations from the attendees, perhaps handing over key themes from one speaker to another within a session or using a different facilitation technique in each room. It was certainly useful for me to engage with the non-HE sector as they appear to be more flexible around sharing issues and solutions on very common problems.

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About Terry

Techdis advisor interested in the realistic, sensible and pragmatic application of IT in education to improve the accessible learning experience.
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