Another successful Jisc Digifest conference took place this week in Birmingham. Jisc is the organization for all things digital within the higher and further education sectors in the UK. The event brought educators, technologists, ed tech partners, and more to a two-day gathering of presentations, debates, keynotes, demos, and conversations. Here are some of my highlights and takeaways:
- People make Digifest a terrific event. The conference felt a little bit like a family reunion. There were several "hey, I follow you on Twitter and it's nice to meet you in-person" moments. In fact, the serendipitous side conversations at Digifest make the event all the more meaningful. My first conversation at Digifest17 was with Maren Deepwell from the Association for Learning Technology. The ALT annual conference takes place in September and is another high quality event for anyone interested in learning and technology.
- One of the hallmarks of Digifest is the opportunity for hands-on demos of different pieces of ed tech gadgetry. My favorite new device was an AR headset. The Microsoft HoloLens is an amazing piece of augmented reality technology. Now, you will look like a nerd while wearing them. However, the visuals/interactivity that they offer up are like something from the future. Microsoft's Mark McManus was on hand to showcase all of the features of the headset. Compared to virtual reality headsets, the nifty thing about the HoloLens is that it augments reality in a way that lets you continue to be present with your surroundings while interacting with digital projections.
- This year I once again had the chance to give a presentation. My session was a continuation of the "Why Educators Can't Live Without Social Media" talk that I gave last year. It was great to see tweets from in-person attendees as well as from people who were watching Jisc's free Digifest live-stream.
- Some vendors are uber persistent. Tip of the virtual hat to Turnitin's Matt Kennard who managed to track me down at the exhibit hall. We ended up having a nice chat about their new Feedback Studio offering. It sounds like Turnitin is making moves towards becoming a more holistic service provider/partner for higher education. Feedback Studio is definitely worth a look.
- While it wasn't fully "demoable," Blackboard's Gillian Fielding gave me the rundown on Bb's new Ally product. Anything that Blackboard does to assist educators with providing accessible content for students is a win-win in my book.
- Nicola Osborne from the University of Edinburgh live-blogged throughout the conference. Her ability to create an on the fly transcript of a session is amazing.
- Kudos to the students from Epping Forest College for their contributions to Digifest. Zac Grego and Brad Forsyth shared their views on student expectations and technology. Their ideas about using social media for student engagement were on point.
This was my second Digifest as both a presenter/participant and I continue to be impressed at the quality of Jisc events in terms of content, exhibitors, and conversations.
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