Yesterday I was in two contrasting cultural settings, both connected with ICT and education, and both looking towards the future.
I started the day with the London University Centre for Distance Education at the 2008/9 CDE conference held at the Brunei Centre. The theme was Research in Distance Education: from present findings to future agendas. London University last year celebrated 150 years of working in distance education.
I don't belong in any university, but I am pleased to find myself connecting with them. I am a practitioner, not an academic – but I am a reflective practitioner, and I strongly believe that theory and practice should be interconnected and of benefit to each other. Sometimes I am disappointed when I try to make this connection between theory and practice, but yesterday surpassed my hopes and expectations.
I was delighted to find that the research presented was relevant to my interests as a practitioner and related to what is going on now. Perhaps this is because the CDE is researching areas of its own work - relevant to its own practice - so in a way it is both researcher and practitioner. The discussions stimulated my thinking, and as I hurried away from the CDE conference and on towards my evening meeting I was aware of taking new ideas and insights with me.
I was due in Bermondsey at 5.30 to meet with Vinay Gupta, Mark Charmer and others at the initial meeting of GlueSniffers which is about appropriate technology and sharing knowledge.
(The glue refers to joining pieces to form a bigger whole than the component parts). Vinay and Mark had attracted a rich mix of people, so the component parts are looking promising.
The meeting gradually got too large for the small conference room where we first met, so people spilled out into the larger office spaces. By then people had introduced themselves, and got some feeling for how the group connected, so we could usefully circulate, investigating shared areas of interest more deeply.
As well as the people who arrived in person, we had a young American student who joined us on Skype - video. (I assumed he was talking from the USA, until he happened to mention something local, in Peru.) I now realise I didn't learn the name of the Skyping student, I think it may have been Robert, (so that is the name I will use for now - if I learn better I can edit it later).
I'm intrigued by the dynamics and social niceties of online meetings. Robert had been included in the group meeting and Mark had suggested that Robert and I should have a one-to-one discussion later. When people started to break into smaller groups, I asked Mark to give Robert and me some pointers for our conversation, so we would know what interests to start exploring, and I was very glad to have the opportunity to meet him.
Of course, Robert was in Peru (or from my vantage point, he was stuck behind the laptop screen). This made it "difficult for him to circulate". After we had talked for a while I asked him how much longer he could stay with us, and he reckoned about 15 minutes. Everyone else had moved away from the conference room towards the beer and nibbles, so I called a couple of people back to talk to Robert while I went to circulate on his behalf. I went around letting people know that he would have to be leaving soon, so they could choose to go and chat or at least say goodbye before he left. When I looked into the conference room some time after he should have left, he was still chatting, so I was glad I hadn't just said good bye to him and left him “trapped in the laptop on the table”.
There will be another meeting in March (and with any luck that information will be updated in future so it will always help you to track down the next GlueSniffers meetup).