What do you do at an unconference ? Perth barcamp 2007


Here’s my answer to anyone who asks “so – what do you do at an unconference or barcamp ?”….

Getting there

Co-Pilot and I went to barcamp today. A very good day that was stimulating, harmonious, efficiently organised, had minimum officiousness and lots of good displays of geekery (these people know where to buy USB powered slippers to warm your feet). By the end I coveted a teeny-tiny Macbook, not a hulking big one.

There was freshly ground coffee, a whole lotta milk and fizzy drinks in cans. The entire event was free due to sponsership, including pizza or sandwiches for lunch, but we spent $10 for a barcamp t-shirt. We also picked up PerthNorg t-shirts.

Just as the first attendees began getting social, someone realised the wireless was available. Conversation stopped and we all dived for our laptops. Here’s a twenty second clip, BarCampPerth, setting up

Deciding what we talked about

About a week before barcamp, people posted topics they’d like discussed on the wiki. Other people offered to prepare a presentation. On the day, a whiteboard was divided into 16 sessions, and presenters wrote the session times in the slots. Next, people ticked the presentations they wanted to attend and we dispersed. Simple. About 5 spots were initially unfilled, but by the end of the day, this was the timetable:

Schedule: Room 1

Schedule: Room 2

What I saw

The first two presentations I attended were from women. In fact almost every timeslot had one presentation from a woman. I’m just saying….

Three presentations were from people who worked in libraries. I counted five librarian participants. (were there more?) I’m just saying…

I was so engaged in the conversation from the first two sessions that I didn’t take many notes

Sue Waters talked about mobile learning – via mobile devices and ensuring online material was suitable for them. She clarified that University sector aims at being centralised, with the lecture still the main mode of delivery, whereas the VET sector is now aiming at workplace based learning. At universities , lectures are automatically turned into podcasting via LMS (or as Trevor from ECU called them, CMS) like Blackboard. At TAFE, the lecturer uses whatever they have at hand, independently. In universities, the lecturer puts up the material on the CMS, at TAFE there are people who specially design online learning materials.

CW and Kate talked about “How to introduce Web2.0 to n00bs” They told us about projects they had been involved in using Web2.0 technologies, how these were received and gave us tips on how to cope with any problems. We had an interesting discussion about the time burden social networking can impose on teachers and on students – to set up, maintain and check material on a course blog, wiki, via SMS, traditional essay and other modalities fragments time. Do we go back to basics for administrative ease?

What use is Second Life in Education ?

I had created my presentation on a wiki, What’s the use of Second Life in Education, presuming that we’d be having rather rough and ragged conversations. Most other people had created rather polished slides and some people had obviously rehearsed and precisely timed their presentations.

Thanks to Nick Cowie who lent me his laptop that had an external wireless connection so I could live demo Second Life. Kate asked for a walkthrough session in the afternoon, so I winged it a bit, showing them ABC island and letting participants drive my av.

Some liveblogged sessions

I published the following sessions as separate posts

Yep, it’s fun

I enjoyed using twitter as a backchannel, especially to keep up with what was happening in the other room. Bit of a drawback when non-Perth twitter friends see my cryptic messages. You really need to be able to create separate channels of grouped friends on twitter.

I know that “whoever turns up is the right person”, but I was still surprised by the number of non-coders there who were interested in the same not-so-techie sessions as I was. I loved being able to twiddle with my laptop as people spoke.

Overall the mood was less frenetic than I expected. It was very friendly and relaxed, but also felt like people were extremely focussed and very engaged in each session. Some sessions felt more like a big discussion between all participants. In some sessions the audience were more quiet..but there was no mistaking it for boredom.

Well, I’m ready for the next one.

More information:

UPDATE 1 July 2007 : We didn’t all just turn up and do our bits without a whole lot of preparation beforehand from the mob organising it at AIWA – particularly Myles, Gary and Simone. Big thank yous and pats on the backs to them.

3 thoughts on “What do you do at an unconference ? Perth barcamp 2007

  1. Couldn’t have summed it up better if I had tried. It was a great day in a relaxing environment, also good to get f2f with all the “Twits”

  2. Thanks Frances. What are you also doing out of bed at this hour? We should both trot off to bed immediately.

  3. I wish I could have spent more time with all the geeky types at Perth barcamp. Thoroughly enjoyed your session Kathryn and hope to steal some of your ideas when I promote SL at Central.

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