Did you miss #articulateuk2010? You missed a lot! Have no fear, though, I'll fill you in :)

Did you miss #articulateuk2010? You missed a lot! Have no fear, though, I’ll fill you in :)

I know, I know, it’s almost 3pm and I haven’t done anything super-super productive πŸ˜‰ But I really can’t. I’m still on such a high about yesterday’s #articulateuk2010 conference that you wouldn’t believe. So much coming back to me but I guess stream-of-consciousness rants are not exactly what makes good blogging (or question-asking, if I remember what I threw at our poor speakers yesterday πŸ˜‰ well, occasionally at least πŸ˜‰ ).

#articulateuk2010 was such a special day because of all these wonderful people

#articulateuk2010 was such a special day because of all these wonderful people

Brill day overall: Simon Baines, University of Leeds Chair of the Blended Learning Futures Group and Pro-Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications talked about our university’s commitment to innovative and effective blended learning and got everyone’s attention when he started dropping in the stats: in one year, the number of Articulate Studio resources (AP, AQ, AE together) available to students in our VLE/LMS Blackboard increased from around 200 to over 1,600 (or should I have said ‘skyrocketed’???). Student and lecturer feedback, you ask? Absolutely outstanding!

Articulate Captain Smiley at #articulateuk2010 (Second European Articulate Conference, University of Leeds, UK, 17 May, 2010)

Articulate Captain Smiley at #articulateuk2010 (Second European Articulate Conference, University of Leeds, UK, 17 May, 2010)

Then it was time for our first keynote speaker: independent consultant, e-learning specialist, 2009 Director of the eLearning Network Clive Shepherd. He was fun, had a great story, clever controversial snippets (he challenged the concept of learning styles as people are way too different to be put into categories (I read what he was saying like this: the VARK model, while interesting, perhaps, is not necessarily relevant in e-learning)). I gathered that addressing the digital divide was a much more important issue for Clive. Β He also made excellent points about the importance of humour in online learning (though humour many times fades because of tons of corporate constraints, political correctness, etc…) He warned against patronising learners, not including sufficient real-life examples and simulations, testing excessively, and he talked about a few recipes for good e-learning (challenging conventions, telling interesting stories, providing engaging challenges, expressing oneself and not overdoing the self-study aspect). All in all, extremely well-received and full of good tips and food for thought!

Next up, I joined Articulate expert Dave Moxon in the Articulate Helpdesk session and we answered several participants’ questions about creating more engaging Articulate resources, using Articulate in VLEs/LMSs, creating various paths through resources using the Branching functionality in Presenter and Quizmaker, as well as PowerPoint hyperlinks. We had quite a few examples of source files and published work and that was very well received, too. A special highlight was also James Kingsley’sΒ Low Bandwidth Accessible Articulate HTML Player – we had a play and participants were very interested to learn about it. So that went well, too! πŸ™‚

After a coffee break, we had a favourite of last year’s conference: the networking event in which as many participants as possible can show the crowd what they’re (or have been) working on. This year it proved very popular, too: our presenters talked (briefly) about really diverse things: from creating a virtual conference space to researching the actual benefits that using Articulate in teaching actually brings; from interactive resources developed by the University of Leeds Library team to embedding accessible and super funky drag-and-drop activities (with Dragster) into Articulate; from using Articulate to convert current teaching resources into Open Educational Resources (OER) to using Articulate to create interactive and engaging resources to attract youngsters to the art and profession of language interpreting. A successful session? YOU BET!

QR code for the Second European Articulate Conference official webpage

QR code for the Second European Articulate Conference official webpage

After lunch, we had a super fun session in which Michelle, Jade, and Dragos (that’s me) showed how they went about transforming the frankly awful PowerPoint file we proposed before the conference into a fun and engaging resource. I think I can safely say that there were pretty much 100% smiles around the room and a fair amount of admiration as the three presenters talked through their wacky ideas and showed off their design skills. I just couldn’t resist and I connected my phone to the projector to show how a Flash resource displays on the Nokia N900 over GPRS (2G rather than 3G because we were indoors, but my Articulate resource still appeared and could be browsed as normal. Sound was there, too. Could this have been perfect, though? Nope, I had to get an anonymous phone call just as I was showing off, which cramped my style a little, but the point had been well made by then. Take that, Apple! :)) Another super cool session in the bag!

The super-super techy participants had put up very bravely with all our chatter and examples of design, engagement, branching, and the rest, but it would not have been fair to them to leave them without something to get REALLY excited about. The moment was provided brilliantly by Tony Lowe’s (Webducate) presentation on the work he has been doing customising Articulate skins. You will forgive me for not including too many details. I know now who to call if I want a custom skin and that’s good enough for me πŸ™‚ Top stuff!

A bit more coffee and we went on to have a look at some examples of VLEs/LMSs and what Articulate packages look like in them. Dave Moxon had very kindly given me access to pretty much all the ones he’s talked about in detail on his blog, so that was again very useful and answered a few participants’ questions. We also talked about Articulate Online and heard about the experience that our colleagues from Prometric have had with the app. We also had a quick look at the reporting functionality and mentioned the API in passing, too πŸ™‚

It was just in passing because the atmosphere was reaching fever pitch. E-learning guru, Articulate Community Manager and super nice and cool person Jeanette Brooks was on the other side of the ocean, in Chicago, and was ready to share loads of tips and tricks about creating more engaging e-learning and we were really excited about that, too. I was keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro and our local wireless set-up handles the session well and had planted lots of back-ups around the room (I think I was up to plan E, which also included running the session on my phone – can be done, and well ;)) Fortunately, the back-ups weren’t necessary and Jeanette quite simply wowed the entire audience with lots of examples, tips, tricks and super useful advice structured in 3 sections: Be Inspired, Be Resourceful, Be Engaging. What an end to a great day! Absolutely superb!

This is I think the biggest post yet from me, so time for a quick round-up: a fantastic day in my opinion, a great opportunity to make new friends, and hoping we’ll be up for a new one this time next year πŸ™‚ I am extremely grateful to everyone who made the journey to Leeds yesterday to present, network and make friends; to my managers Chris and Penny for trusting me with organising this event; to my colleague Claire without whom the organisation would have been a LOT more difficult for me; to Don, Dave and Jeanette from Articulate for their time, patience, wonderful ideas, constant support, goodies and enthusiasm; to Clive for a great opening to the conference; to Murray and everyone at Omniplex for supporting the conference and being happy to share advice with us; to all my colleagues and friends for all their contributions and support; to John Gibson, Zen master, for his advice and support, setting up the venue brilliantly and looking after us; and last, but by no means least, to the #Articulate Twitter crowd who have spread the word and who are always selfishly sharing super funky ideas and resources. BIG THANK YOU AND SEE YOU NEXT YEAR πŸ™‚