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University of Huddersfield Teaching & Learning Conference 2010

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

I attended the 5th annual University of Huddersfield Teaching and Learning conference yesterday, its theme this year was the connection of research and enterprise to teaching and learning. The conference was held in the new Business School building which has just opened for students this coming academic year which proved to be a great venue, as everything was in once place, and has lots of daylight and social spaces. The conference as always is a great way to network and share ideas and good practice with colleagues, and is always well attended and excellently organised. Last year they went with a totally open ‘unconference’ format where none of the session except keynotes were planned ahead, and people suggested their own ideas for sessions on the day – and moving around between sessions was actively encouraged, though being very British we didn’t exploit that as much as perhaps we should have, and most people stayed put in the session they started in. I liked this format, and volunteered a session (on the use of twitter) which generated a lot of useful discussion, but apparently the open format was not liked by all. This year they decided to adopt a hybrid model with keynotes and two parallel sessions planned with calls for presenters in the traditional conference format and two parallel sessions in the open unconference format. This seemed to work really well and hopefully acceptable to most people. There seemed to be less people volunteering session titles this year though, not sure if we exhausted topics last year, or there was just a general reluctance or hesitancy of people to take the lead. I hung back in a hope that enough people volunteered, so I could attend other things but when there was a slight shortage of sessions I offered to facilitate one on how we could encourage staff to use more learning technologies in their teaching.

The conference had an official twitter hashtag which was widely publicised on the website and in all conference rooms – this was a noticeable shift from last year, tweeting seemed much more accepted and prolific and drew people in from outside the conference to the discussions and talking points, there was even an iPad or two around. Even so I think there were no more than about 10 people regularly tweeting at the conference.

The other interesting feature of this conference was to employ graphic facilitator, Nick Payne, to build up a graphical representation of the conference. He started with a very big blank piece of paper in the morning’s keynote and slowly built up a drawing representing the conference themes and the things he heard discussed and presented on during the day. He even attended some of the sessions, and talked to the facilitators to get a feel for the discussions and themes of the day. It was fascinating to see the drawing develop throughout the day.

Overall I thought the conference was really well organised, had a good vibe to it, the format worked really well, and I had a enjoyable day networking with colleagues, many who I knew but some that I hadn’t met before,  thanks to all those involved with the organisation.