Mahara UK conference 2011 in 500-ish words

Today I’ve been at the Mahara UK conference, hosted by Southampton Solent university. This is my first visit to Southampton Solent University, and also my first time at a Mahara conference. I have some objectives for attending today.

It was been a great morning. First thing today we heard from Mark Osborne who came all the way from Albany Senior High School in New Zealand to tell us the amazing story of their approach toward learning. Mark and his team have such a clear strategy around learning technologies so clear is this vision that some of the challenges most of us are still struggling with are not even on the agenda! A BYOD policy – bring your own device – including mobiles, tablets, laptops applies. It’s down to you, the learner. Expectations of teachers in the organisation is loud and clear: this is how we do it, are you with us? Powerful stuff that has produced seemingly impressive results. What I can’t convey easily here is the fantastic common learning spaces used throughout the campus. These are open spaces large enough to accommodate several classes, and enable them to work flexibly in one space at the same time. Mark provided some images for us in his slideshow – I encourage you to take a look.

Kristina Hoeppner was going to talk about fifteen ways in which you can support the Mahara community. By the time she started, this had grown to 21 and 3/4! You can follow some of the ideas she proposed to the group via my contributions to the #maharauk11 Twitter thread, or check out the slides. I think I enjoyed this session most though because I got a mention for being such a prolific (that could equally be ‘annoying’) Tweeter, and including regular refences to Mahara along the way.

Among the other sessions, Mary Cooch led a session about making mahara an attractive platform for younger learners – 14 or less. Her presentation included a great reference to video podcasts produced by one of her students, and published through his Mahara presence. University of Kent are clearly some way along the Mahara implementation track, having already gained considerable experience with PebblePad, and subsequently with Mahara. There were some great ideas here that came out of this session; CPD points collection scheme sounds outstanding in so many ways; there are a multitude of ideas emerging for using Mahara to support CPD. After lunch we had some narrative to explain the development roadmap for Mahara over the coming months, including a number of key points that might be of significance to the education sector, namely MaharaDroid and change of the familiar ‘views’ term to ‘pages’.

In one of the later sessions of the day, Don Presant demonstrated to us how he uses Mahara as a tool for presenting learner activites – and more importantly, learner skills. Most powerful in Don’s presentation was an individual demonstrating through video his understanding of electronic components. This is surely a powerful message to a potential employer, and is one step beyond the perhaps more obvious ‘interview’ style video.

You might remember that I had some objectives today. Five, as it happens. How have I done?

PS: Don’t forget the Mahara Guide!


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