WCBNE & ETP18 Conference Review

This past weekend was a bit of conference mayhem; it started with WordCamp Brisbane on Saturday & Sunday, followed by EdtechPosium on Monday & Tuesday. Four days, three presentations, three social events, and two cities. And much inspiration on all things WordPress, Moodle and Edtech.

WordCamp Brisbane

Leaving a little early from work, on Friday afternoon I was on a plane winging it north to beautiful Brisbane. You know with WordCamp that there’s always a pre-party and I was keen to meet my fellow speakers.

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Good afternoon #Brisbane. #qf562

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Our flight route into BNE took us over the city. 

It was good to catch up with old friends and meet new people at the Speakers’ Party. One speaker, Emma Patterson, recognised me from my hosting duties at WCBNE17. But credit to the organisers that the Speakers’ Party was hosted at the same locale as a general pre-conference get-together. It was terrific to mingle with everyone, organisers, attendees, volunteers and speakers alike.

What I saw

There were some great presentations at the WordCamp; in particular, I enjoyed Phillip Johnson‘s How We Handle 90% Of Our Annual Traffic In 5 Mins, Tony Cosentino‘s  Podcasting with WordPress, and Mandy Weidmann‘s Building a community using all.the.tools.

I also thought Ben White and Peter Wilson did a good job of telling a story from the client and supplier’s point of view with their Greenfields or die: Modernising publishing for 2018. Mick Viller also did a great unexpected companion presentation to mine with his 10 Mistakes beginners make when setting up their websites. 

What I missed

I did miss Emma’s presentation Zero to Website: From planning to launch in 9 steps and Leon Stafford‘s WordPress As A Static Site Generator, both presentations I really wanted to see. Fortunately, all the wonderful presentations from WCBNE will soon be uploaded to WordPress.TV. Soon you’ll be able to watch all these great presentations, but if you want to preview my presentation Your First Twelve Plugins, I’ve published my slides on slideshare.

A few photos…

Back: (L to R) Myself, James Carmody, Robey Lawrence
Front: Kate Toon, Wil Brown
It’s always a good talk when you manage to sneak in an ad for your car.

EdtechPosium

I had to skip out the last few sessions of WCBNE to head down to Canberra. I knew this would be a jam-packed weekend when I first saw these conferences were back to back, but I really wanted to be there for both communities. This was my fourth ‘Posium and I didn’t want to miss it.

There was no pre-party this year, and I think we might need to schedule an Underground Board Game Geek Night next year if nothing official is planned (I’m already conspiring…)  Truth be told I probably needed the sleep more than I’d like to admit. 

I felt a few mixed emotions when I saw the Pukunui logo flash up as a sponsor on the screen. It’s the first time in three years that I was at a ‘Posium not representing them.

I suppose I didn’t expect Pukunui to send anyone, so imagine my surprise when getting a coffee at morning break to hear “Hey Scott,” and turn around to see none other than Shane Elliott himself. Shane had come down from Hong Kong to run training in Melbourne this week, and decided to fly in a bit early to catch the conference. They had a free ticket as a sponsor after all.

It was really good to catch up with Shane and find out what’s going on at Pukunui. I think there’s a few items in the pipeline that are coming up for them that I started. How true that is might be a matter of opinion, but I’m certainly going to take some credit here.

Highlights of EdtechPosium

The theme for ETP18 was Design, Develop, Play! and the play part took hold immediately as we were challenged to a game (by mischievious gamer Crystal McLaughlin) to find clues to claim a prize. It took me awhile to get into it, but it was a nice spin on Play.

Sometimes a whale is just a whale.

I enjoyed Malcolm Abel’s Developing web tools in PHP & MySQL for better LMS sites and procedures, it gave me a little inspiration for potentially building a few more tools for our project. Mathew Hillier’s Design and evaluation of robust online e-Exams with Moodle gave an interesting insight into the challenges of building a bullet-proof Moodle exam system.

I also enjoyed catching up with old friends like Russell Waldron, Michael de Raadt, David Meacheam and Penny Wheeler. I ran into a few old Pukunui clients too, and I was glad to be able to introduce them to Shane and keep the conversations going.

How’d ja go?

My presentations were well received. I was feeling pretty confident with my WordPress to Moodle (and back again) with RSS. This was very similar to what I presented at 2018NVC, with a touch more polish and confidence. I even tempted the gods and gave a live demo a go.

I really think everyone, especially the academics at the conference, needs a WordPress blog. Add a post every now and then, give your opinion on a piece of research or the news, promote your publications, whatever. Just start getting your name into Google. Because one day someone is going to go looking for the experts in your field, they’re going to start looking with Google (for better or worse), and you’re not going to get any funding back on Page 17. If I might be so humble as to give academia some advice – start working your SEO magic today.

My other presentation, Design and redesign, was much smaller, shorter, and honestly, I put a corresponding amount of attention to it. I showed the work I’ve been doing on designs for the TAFE NSW SMS project Staff Moodle site. I demoed some of the custom tools I’ve been building – the Tile Builder and the Box Builder, and discussed the CSS Framework I’ve been working on for the project.

I didn’t think it would be special but I think I got a bigger response from this presentation. Lisa Casey, who I’d met last year, came over to discuss some design issues she was facing in her project. And a couple more people stopped me in the hallways to comment on the Builder tools. I don’t know how I’d genericise them, but people were interested.

Twittermania

There were two very good Play sessions though. The first being Katie Freund and Rebecca Goodway’s Teaching with Twitter: The Revenge.

While it was similar to last year’s workshop, there was a few ideas about how to use Twitter in the classroom. I’m a big fan of Twitter so I just enjoyed the sharing ideas.

I really love weird Twitter accounts and I think Twitter can be art – be it a retelling of  Shakespeare in the medium, or something weird like someone tweeting as a background character in the Friends coffee shop from 1994. I’m really glad to see Rebecca and Katie discuss it like it’s a serious medium. It’s different from other forms of social media. It can have so many dimensions, uses and consequences. Twitter deserves serious study. And serious play!

Legomania

The LEGO was full on at EdtechPosium. This was some serious play! The final session was Stephen Dann’s Serious Play was a series reflective exercises with LEGO to capture our EdtechPosium experiences. My team of Shane Elliott, Michael de Raadt and Lisa Casey had fun playing with LEGO and trying to express our thoughts in bricks.

Conclusion

Wow, it was a busy four days. I renewed existing friendships and cultivated new ones. I reflected, shared, and listened. I am full of inspiration. And I spent time with two great communities, and I brought ideas from one to the other and vice-versa. I think both these conferences are terrific value for money and I hope to be back again next year.

I just really hope they add a week in between.

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