What did I get out of it?
That’s always a difficult question to answer when you go to these things. I certainly made a few contacts among the delegates (not the one in the picture on the right though!) which is always useful for future partnership type bids, and for furthering my own research. Did I learn anything new? Well, the idea of the gaming environment that Manchester Metropolitan University are experimenting with discussed in part 3 may well have some applicability for us although where I’ll find the time to explore it I don’t know. And John Selby’s talk was ominous, although I have been thinking that we’re heading into more difficult times for a while now, and while it wasn’t pleasant to hear it being confirmed by someone from HEFCE, it wasn’t particularly surprising either.
A lot of the really useful stuff that goes on at these events takes place outside the lecture theatre though. I had a very interesting chat with somebody from Coventry University who has developed a problem based learning scenario for training paramedics that plays out in Second Life. – indeed they had a demonstration running of it, (http://www.elu.sgul.ac.uk/preview/index.htm) and I began to see ways in which Virtual Worlds might have more pedagogical value than just recreating the real university. I was also interested to see demonstrations of the 19th Century Newspaper Archives, the British Cartoons Archive and the British Library’s archive of sound recordings.
On a less academic note it was interesting to see Keele University, where I’d never been before. It’s a very attractive rural campus, albeit only a few miles from Stoke on Trent. Keele is a tiny little village and I wondered why the University had chosen the name it did. (That’s Keele Hall in the picture. The conference dinner was held in there, but not the conference itself) Actually the nearest town is Newcastle-under-Lyme and I can see that calling it the University of Newcastle might have raised an eyebrow or two. But I still think it’s a bit like us calling ourselves the University of Brayford or something.
Anyway, after the conference finished, partly to let the delegate traffic clear, but also to get a bit of exercise, I wandered around taking photographs and examining some of the finer trees. The campus has quite a spectacular collection and I was quite impressed to find a couple of sequoias – better known as Redwoods,- and also pleased to discover that the wood really is red. (Although I was a bit disappointed that they hadn’t grown so big that you could drive through them – as I seem to remember from ancient National Geographic Magazines). Anyway here they are on the right. (I think. If I’m wrong I’m sure some arboreal expert will put me right!)