The whole is greater than the sum of its parts


It was a case of planes, trains and automobiles last week as I made my way to Plymouth for the Pelecon conference.  I’ve followed the conference via twitter over the past few years, and decided that this was the year I would make the trip to Plymouth, to see for myself what everyone seemed to enjoy so much.  I was lucky to have Catherine Cronin, Mary Loftus and Helen Crump as travelling companions for the trip.  If you ever get a chance to take a trip with these ladies grab it – you’ll have a ball 🙂  The intangible that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts at Pelecon, is the friendliness of the attendees.   There’s a real sense of community about the event and what a warm and welcoming community to be a part of 🙂


Unfortunately I missed the Wednesday sessions, which was a pity, as from from what I heard, they were a great start to the event.  The student session and Steve Bunce’s knitworking among others seem to have been highlights.


I arrived at 9 on Wednesday evening and one of the first people I met was Grainne Conole. We’ve connected on Twitter and Flickr but had never met in person which was hard to believe as we immediately fell into an easy chat.  This seemed to be the case for many at the event.  Proof again of the power of social media to connect people in so many powerful ways.

First up on Thursday morning were Grainne Conole and Doug Belshaw. Grainne took us on a tour of the digital landscape, pedagogical approaches, digital identity and learning design before talking about the challenges ahead.  She introduced the thread of digital literacies which was picked up by many over the couple of days.


Doug made animated gif’s a feature in his presentation about Mozilla Open Badges.  Risky strategy with so much going on on screen but he pulled it off perfectly!  He almost lost me on the Hypno Cat slide but moved on just in time 🙂 I was very interested in Open Badges as I think they would work very well both for CoderDojo and for the short courses proposed for the Junior Cert reform here in Ireland.  After hearing Doug speak about them I’m even more convinced!

Next for me came a session on Digital Literacies.  Nadja Guggi kicked off the session telling us about the importance of students on work placement developing their digital identity.  Catherine Cronin was up next reflecting on the blurring of the lines between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’, sharing her experiences of working with students as they enact their digital identities and discussing practices and resources.  Clare Spiret concluded the session by sharing the challenges faced in the glocal (global local) online learning environments.

digitalidentitiesIn the first of the afternoon sessions I chose to hear about VLE’s from Matt Lingard, tablets and PLE’s from Brian Whalley and Engaging Legal Minds from Emily Allbon.  Matt shared the University of London project to enhance the students and staff experience of VLS use through usability testing.  As a Moodle user it was interesting to see that some relatively simple changes could significantly improve the user experience.

usabilityBrian’s session provoked a lot of discussion on the backchannel with his contention that tablets would replace laptops and netbooks.  As a user of both I would be of the view that there is a place for both but I wouldn’t see them replacing each other.  The session concluded with Emily sharing the lawbore website, a rich and varied resource for law students.

Next up was a session on Problem based learning with Palitha Edrisigha and Arunangsu Chatterjee and Programming and trainee teachers with Miles Berry.  Miles Berry’s session was thought provoking as we don’t have computer Science as a subject in Primary in Ireland and we are just introducing it at Secondary School.  The aspirations on the learning outcomes seem quite challenging in the UK system.  One example given was that 11 year olds would understand how Google Search works!

The closing session on Wednesday was from Steve Warburton . He spoke about the jobs of the future, big data and learning analytics.  He also picked up the Digital Literacies thread which was woven throughout the day.  His look to the future was a good reminder of the changing nature of education.

The conference dinner was held at the National Marine Aquarium but there was still lots to learn from an educational point of view.  Both of our guides were brilliant but I think it’s fair to say that Leona stole the show.  Her enthusiasm and passion for her job were inspirational.  It’s lovely to see that joy shine through.

photo (11)

Friday morning’s first session for me was all about the Steve’s – Bunce, Wheeler and Margetts.  Steve Bunce spoke about the importance of books electronic and otherwise.  We also made our own books from a sheet of paper but it didn’t work out so well for Zak Mensah and I!! Steve Wheeler and Steve Margetts again brought up the issue of tablets.   Next up was a session on Open Badges with Doug Belshaw.  This was a very hands on session and I really enjoyed it.  We broke into groups and worked on developing various badges based on our own interests.  I chose the conference badge group.  It was interesting to hear people’s views on badges for conference attendance etc.  Teasing out the issues gave a real insight into what is involved in designing badges.  As with everything what you get out is very much influenced by what you put in.

The final session gave us keynotes from Joyce Seitzinger and Donald Taylor and again they didn’t disappoint.  It was very much a case of ending on a high with your brain fizzing with ideas.

closingkeynoteJoyce contended that it’s about filter failure and not information overlaod

filter failure

and urged us to develop our own filters


Donald then delivered the closing keynote by looking to the future and the changing nature of education.  He began by quoting Yeats

yeatsand then asked

comfortable extinction


Fitting end to a great event, an event where I got to chat with people who challenged my ideas on various topics, who backed up my thoughts on other topics and who were generally very good fun to be around.

Some of the many people I met and chatted with at #pelc13 :-)

Some of the many people I met and chatted with at #pelc13 🙂

Thank you Joyce Seitzinger for this lovely reminder of a great couple of days 🙂


2 responses to “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

  1. How lovely to relive the wonderful PELeCON 2013! Thanks for summarising some of the key themes and ideas so well, Pam. Many people talk about the best online courses and MOOCs being communities as well as courses. I think the same can be said for conferences, and PELeCON shines brightly in this respect — as a warm and friendly learning community. Thank you for capturing and sharing this; I’m happy we all got to enjoy it together 🙂

    • Thanks Catherine,
      So glad I finally made it to Pelecon and that I got to share the experience with yourself, Mary and Helen. As I said wonderful travelling companions 🙂 If I had to use just one word to describe Pelecon it would probably be friendly and with this welcoming, open atmosphere a community can develop and thrive. This is probably the essential essence that is Pelecon!

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