Friday, October 12, 2012

My Brief Visit to E-Learn

I went to Montreal on Wednesday to present my work on what makes augmented reality good for learning (and in general, really).  The conference was the World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare & Higher Education (or just E-Learn for short).  It was an interesting experience, but in the end, not entirely satisfying for me personally.

I only attended E-Learn for the day since it would have been difficult to bring the baby along this time, and Montreal is only 2.5 hours away on the train.  This meant that I missed all the keynotes and, because I also had to pump milk twice while there, many of the regular sessions.  Some of the sessions I did see were so poorly presented that I don't even know what they were about anymore.

I felt like I did a good job of my talk. (The slides are above, but they are fairly minimal and are missing the transitions.  If you're interested in this work, definitely check out its research page, where you can read the full paper.)  Unfortunately, it seemed that the audience wasn't quite right.  My work is more geared toward those building augmented reality systems, while the people who attended my talk seemed to be those who want to use AR.  So here I was convincing them how great AR could be for them, but had little to offer in easy, ready-for-the-classroom solutions.  I felt kind of down about it by the end.

Luckily, a few people came and talked to me later in the day, and that boosted my spirits.  Some just commented that they enjoyed the talk, and others were itching to collaborate.  For instance, the chair of the session told me he requested it because he thought my topic was interesting.  He mentioned he wanted to do something with QR codes.  Since the little QR code app I've been working on here and there is almost app-store ready, I figured we may as well try it out for his needs.  At the same time, we could try to employ the advice in the paper to help validate it experimentally.  I'm looking forward to getting in touch with him soon.  There was also a lady from Carleton that might be able to make use of my work, and we'll meet up for coffee sometime soon.

The most interesting talk I caught after my own was by one of the founders of an ed-tech company from Toronto called Spongelab.  They do educational games, but that wasn't what the talk was about.  Instead, the focus was a recently released science education content community, which is what you see when you visit the main website.  It's a place for sharing and organizing resources to use in STEM education, and is free and open for everyone to use.  It looks quite promising, though there is currently nothing for computer science and only a bit for engineering (perhaps something we can work to fix?).  If you're an educator in STEM, I recommend checking it out.

Maybe it's because I was there for such a short time, but I didn't get a lot out of attending E-Learn.  I can see why others would like it, but I doubt I'd want to go again unless I had a paper that was really well suited to their program. But that's ok - I am glad to have my AR work out there, and will look forward to the potential collaborations that come out of it!


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