MLCB conference – retrospection

After a busy week – it started on Saturday 19th with the two-days EduCamp (#echb11)  and ended with the Medien Kongress in Berlin (#kbom11) on March 25 – it is time to close the chapter MLCB 2011 (#MLCB). This post is simply to reflect on lessons learnt and issues emerging, and to provide URLs to resources that we collected and compiled in order to allow for something like sustainability.

But to start with, our sincerest thanks goes to all those who contributed to the conference – participants, reviewers, media people, assistants, organisers … We think that the conference was a success – which is a result of the engagement of the participants who made the conference to what it turned out to be. We have seen ourselves as providers of spaces and places only and hoped that people would accept our offer ;-) However, from our point of view the atmosphere was very constructive, friendly and relaxed, and it was great to see so many dear friends and colleagues attending one of the first mobile learning conferences in Germany.

So, as for the reflection part, the following might assist for the moment:

 

Stats
After two conference days not only the stats tell the organisers that they dealt with lots of input and output: We had about 100 participants from 19 countries (Austria, Botswana, Canada, Catalonia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Nigeria, Sweden, Sitzerland, Turkey, England/UK, USA). They contributed with 50 papers, workshops and video presentations to about 40 hours programme.
Our team of 7 organising committee members of which 4 did the executive organisation was supported by 7 assistants, 1 videographer, 1 radio producer, 1 photographer and 1 designer. 30 reviewers supported us in selecting proposals, and 5 members of the organising committee edited the book of abstracts.
Finally, we have several hundrets of GB of data – video, audio, photo – which gives impressions only of what people quantitatively gained from the conference.

Resources for subsequent use
During the 2 conference days we collected so much data that we are not able any longer to host them on our own servers. The videos and photos that were made during the conference are/will be available on Vimeo, Youtube, Flickr and the Pontydysgu website accordingly. Some are abvailable yet, others will be available soon.

  • Podacsts from the Sounds of the Bazaar live radio shows can be streamed from the Pontydysgu website. Day 1 and Day 2.
  • MirandaMod Mindmeister Map.
  • Book of abstracts from the LMLG website is available here for download.
  • Photos are collected on the LMLG flickr page.
  • Videos from the presentations and Interveiws are available via the LMLG website.
  • Presentations are collected on the MLCB Cloudworks cloudscape. If you haven’t done so yet, please share your presentation via Cloudworks, too.

Bring people together in advance
The ‘Mobile Learning: Crossing Boundaries in Convergent Environments’ (#MLCB) Conference was opened by the get-together on the event ship Treue on Sunday evening. Meeting people before the conference begins turned out to be a quite smooth start into scientific exchange. And it provided additional time to get familiar with interesting people, projects and ideas which is often missing during the conferences – at last for the organisers.

Provide spaces and places
In order to allow for discussions and self-organised activites during the conference, it is helpful to have rooms available – such as lobby, café, terrace – which people can use to meet, talk and exchange their ideas. Such spaces are framed by the “formality” of the conference and conference activies, but helps networking in an informal ambience.

Keep the setting open for people from different fields and disciplines
Even if organisers and participants agreed on mobile learning as topic of the MLCB conference people bring different discussions and discourses to a conference. Especially appreciated is interdisciplinarity – we learnt this from feedback that we received during and after the conference. Interdisciplinarity was perceived as being a fruitful basis to widen the own perspective and to gain insights into disciplines that are dealing with the same topic but that refer to different theories, models, aims and goals.

Be open for different contents to track trending topics
Also at this conference practice seemed to be basis for considerations about implementation of mobile technologies and usability in different settings. Theoretical approaches were presented, too, but related to the ratio theory : practice, theory was underrepresented. However, the MLCB conference was thematically dominated by Higher Education and Health Care / Medical Education – two issues that seem to be trending topics in the near future. Learning in schools by using mobile devices seems to be the basis of the mobile learning research that is taken for granted; now it could be time to discover new areas and places to explore mobile learning opportunities and constraints.

Low-budget event moves attendees from being audience only to being engaged participants in discussions
As highlighted by Graham Attwell several times already the MLCB conference run low-budget. We decided to keep fees low in order to allow also people with no or low refund opportunities to attend (undergraduate students and unemployed were free). To run such cost-saving event was possible only because the Bremen Youth Hostel provided first class service for small budgets: with the conference fees we did not only rent 5 rooms in the premises of the YH but it also included 2 coffee breaks and lunch at each of the two days. One side effect was that people seemed to expect to entertain themselves instead being entertained. Not sure if there is any relation, but the atmosphere was very constructive and full of discussion.

Lessons learnt and issues emerging
On our latest post-conference meeting we made a small and very informal review of the conference and discussed about what we consider as being necessary to be improved and what was resolved successfully. A more detailed version of our lessons learnt will be available soon on the Pontydysgu weblog and here, on Media Education Culture. To start with, here are some issues that came to my mind during the last couple of days.

  • poster sessions are under-valued but great opportunity to demonstrate work-in-progress
  • keep conference small and allow for a good number of breaks and rooms in order to provide space for exchange and networking
  • refer to web 2.0 tools that people are using also outside conferences instead of introducing new tools
  • for small organising teams: avoid to organise hotels but provide lists instead
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