E-Learn 2016 Washington, DC: Interview with Conference Attendee David Webster

450 participants from 50 countries, 3 keynotes, 3 invited talks, 4 workshops, a movie, museum trips, topic lunches, 250 sessions, 2 SIG meetings, posters and round tables: E-Learn 2016 was a great event – 3 days packed with networking, discussions, new information and learning opportunities. Which concepts, tools, ideas, approaches  and connections did the conference participants take home?  I had the pleasure to talk to E-Learn attendee Dave Webster about his conference experience.

When was your first AACE E-Learn conference?

I came to E-Learn in 2006 in Hawaii – an eventful event. Both in terms of power-cuts and earthquakes, but also in that it really marked the start of my serious interest in e-learning. I started a blog on the (very long) journey home, that is still going a decade later! I also attended the 2007 E-Learn in Quebec, where I learned a lot, too (that is, stole a lot of ideas), but I hadn’t been again till the 2016 event. It was good to be back!

What other learning and technology conferences do you typically attend?

I sometimes get the EduLearn in Spain – which is huge, but valuable. Probably the most regular has been the Future of Technology in Education (FoTiE) in London each year.

You mentioned your blog and conference participants can also find you on Academic Experts. Do you have other social media profiles you want people to know about?

On twitter (which I use a lot, and for teaching) I am @davidwebster – this is probably my primary professional identity.

What did you tell your colleagues about the conference after coming back to work?

There are always lessons to pass on – and I am blogging about them at the moment (that is – when I find time..). More than just specific ideas (though I will pass those on to certain people), what I try and hold on to and communicate is the ethos and the enthusiasm. The spirit of experimentation amongst participants is fantastic. People have been thinking of what might be best for their students – and really trying to innovate in their particular context.

Have you brought back an idea or concept you will use? 

Oh yes! I picked up something Richard Mayer said in his keynote about evidence indicating that students remembered things drawn by a first-person hand much more that from static drawings. His example looked like a math formula, but I started to have some ideas… We have Illustration and Animation students here at Gloucestershire, and I want to see if we can find a way for them to produce some visually stimulating content to match an audio track of me describing key philosophical ideas. I will have to see how it pans out, but I have begun to plot.

Do you use LearnTechLib? How do you use the conference proceedings? 

I find it a useful tool. It is often best when I am trying to communicate a paper that enthused me to a colleague, but I just can’t quite capture the nuances: so I send them the link, and they can see the original. Papers from here can be good conversation starters when running staff development workshops.

You presented two papers at E-Learn 2016: What were your experiences from a presenter’s point of view?

I love to present. Partly because I am an awful show off, but mostly for the engagement. At E-Learn you have a very expert, but also quite diverse, audience. It is rare to be able to talk about Technology Enhanced Learning work you are engaged in with your peers in the Technology and Pedagogy – so the conversations are like gold-dust!

Share a personal take away messages from the conference: What sums up your conference experience?

At E-Learn, my sense is that people don’t just come to present – but also to listen. As someone with a background in philosophy, I also found it fruitful (and fun) to discover people wanted to argue. Not in the negative sense, but in the spirit of a discursive process where we are engaged by a common purpose (improving student outcomes), and are trying, collectively, to work out the best way to make it happen.

Are you planning on going to E-Learn 2017 in Vancouver?


More Information:


Dr. Dave Webster is Head of Learning & Teaching Innovation at the University of Gloucestershire, and also contributes to their Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course. He blogs at davewebster.org, and is on Twitter as @davidwebster. His PhD was in Buddhist Philosophy, but he spends much of his current role advocating for best practice in technology-enhanced learning. He tries to combine these interests in the www.philosvids.wordpress.com video blog.

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