On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending LearnPod at Doncaster College’s flagship Hub campus.

Purportedly the UK’s largest unconference for post-16 learning, LearnPod  was the brainchild of  Internet entrepreneur and former college Chair of Governors, Rob Wilmot

The event started with an address by college Principal, George Trow, who gave some mixed messages about the use of social media although overall was trying to be positive and supportive.

Being an unconference, delegates were asked to pitch up ideas for sessions and yours truly volunteered to facilitate a discussion on Communities of Practice, using the Maths Champions and YourCouncillor networks to introduce the issues.

I was hoping for some interesting discussion around the different approaches to community management, including registration, moderation and facilitation, as well as exploring other people’s experiences more generally.

Image of Maths Champions Network on iPhone

We got off to a slow start but the discussion soon livened up and we got into some interesting territory, as well as some slightly off subject areas, all part of the fun of an unconference session.

I was interested to hear about the challenges of supporting a community for people with learning difficulties and issues faced in other areas, including of annonymity in an online community for people living with HIV.

Fascinating areas for reflection and interesting to observe how many of these issues feel very new.  We don’t necessarily know the best approaches to take and are exploring the use of social technologies through experimentation.

It was also interesting to hear the support for blending virtual communities with workshop events and get togethers.  There was an overwhelming view that online collaboration, certainly peer-to-peer collaboration, is more effective when participants have also met in the real world.

I was asked to run my session again in the afternoon and in the interim attended a couple of interesting sessions on the use of new technology in teaching and dealing with technophobes.

Image of Linoit running on android devicesThe first session was led by Thea Ferguson who demonstrated her use of cloud based Lino It and Padlet in the classroom.

Very colourful and popular applications, with some limitations in terms of printing and the inability to download a local version of a user’s portfolio.

Thea shared positive experiences of using technology in the classroom.

The technophobe session was instigated by Rachel Hartshorne who opened a debate on how to engage people not using new technology in further/higher education.  Suggestions included finding areas of interest to engage older people e.g. using Google street view to look at where they worked or lived in the past or doing some family history research.  Building trust, providing support, developing digital mentoring schemes and other worthy initiatives were explored including making learning fun (a theme running through much of the day).

As usual at unconferences, there were a number of other sessions I would have liked to attend too.  Thankfully, the Twitter stream was ‘active’ and made it possible to gain an insight into what was missed.  The Storify below should give you a flavour, including of the rather excellent lunch kindly provided by the College!

Many thanks to all involved.



[View the story “#Learnpod13” on Storify]