Monday, August 15, 2016

Awesome time at the 2016 Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

This year’s DTL was a high-energy journey into all things teachy, learny, and techy. Format was different this year, leading to more lively offerings that included show and tells, mini workshops, discussions, author book discussions, vendor showcases, poster sessions, alongside the traditional 45-minute information sessions. And with each offering having a different time length, things certainly got interesting for maximizing conference time.

Keynote speaker Richard Culatta
The morning keynote was provided by Richard Culatta. Richard has arguably the coolest job title ever: Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Rhode Island. His rapid-fire presentation was titled Technology as a Tool to Reimagine Learning. Among other gems of wisdom was the suggestion for creating user experience (UX) groups to assist in maximizing the user experience. UX groups are much more than focus groups or advisory panels. UX groups assist developers in creating the perfect user interface that takes into consideration both the physical as well as the holistic experience. In his follow up session, Richard suggested never having a big project rollout. Doing so sets the project up for failure as users will expect perfection and be annoyed when things don't work as they should. Rather, conduct small pilots and solicit suggestions for improvement of the product. Then gradually increase the size of the pilot while incorporating any suggested improvements.

Later that day I scored a free book! Curt Bonk (U. Indiana) and Thomas Reeves (U. Georgia) co-edited the book MOOCs and Open Education Around the World. At the discussion forum, they handed out free copies to the grateful circle of attendees. The overall message of the discussion was that MOOCs are still a globally popular method for obtaining knowledge, even though they may not be redefining higher ed as was originally predicted.

Ray Schroeder (center) receiving the Wedemeyer award
And one of the stalwarts of the educational technology field was honored at the Wednesday luncheon. Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning and Professor Emeritus of Communication at the University of Illinois-Springfield, was presented with the Mildred B. and Charles A.Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award. The award represents “distinguished contributions to the scholarship and practice of distance education”. I’ve attended Ray’s pre-conference workshops on technology innovation for several years and have yet to be disappointed. A humble, caring, and tireless champion for the cause of distance education and learning technologies. Congratulations to Ray on this much deserved honor. 

A pre-conference workshop focused on innovative learning technologies satiated my need for tech. Facilitated by staff from the Center For Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois-Springfield including Ray Schroeder, Vickie Cook, and Carrie Levin, the workshop focused on technologies for the online and on-ground classrooms. The workshop presentation is available on their DTL 2016 conference website. Some of the more interesting technologies included:
  • TodayMeet: a back channel for use in classes.
  • Zeetings: easy to use cloud-based polling site.
  • Remind: reach out to students en masse without sharing personal info.
  • Polaroid Cube: $100 wearable GoPro-style camera
  • VR Box: $10 next-gen Google cardboard
  • Ringly: ring version of the smart watch. 
  • Real Time: set of two ear plugs. Translates what you say into French, Spanish, Italian, and English. ~$150 for two ear pieces
Irish Road Reuben with fresh dipping veggies.
And the venue at the Frank Lloyd Weber-designed Monona Terrace in Madison never disappoints. And I stumbled across a new favorite eatery called the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company on King, just off the Capitol Square. Tasty burgers and brews. 

Well done once again, UW-Ex!

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