This is my presentation from the Eisenstadt E-learning conference where I discussed the theme of 'togetherness' in the context of emerging technologies including the ITEC WidgetStore, real-time technology and the classroom of the future. My talk began by getting all the delegates to sing, using one of the techniques which I learnt from Pauline Oliveros's 'Deep Listening'. (I'm grateful to my experiences at the American Society for Cybernetics for this). The point in doing this was to underline the particular and special situation of doing activities together: this is not Facebook, Twitter or a VLE - it has a different and more profound quality.
I divided the challenge of thinking about the classroom of the future into three categories: SPACES, ACTIVITIES and ORGANISATION.
Technology, and in particular ITEC Technologies, seek to mediate between these three aspects, providing new kinds of SPACES for learning, different kinds of ACTIVITIES, and providing new ways ORGANISING those activities.
Real-Time technologies are, I believe, fundamental to this transformation of spaces for learning. With the advent of real-time interactive systems like Steam and OnLive, the richness of real-time collaborative experiences is deepening. At the same time, such technologies afford richer kinds of interactive activities in physical spaces: for example, cinemas might exploit real-time interactivity for audience participation (equally lectures, although cinema and theatre might in the end prove far more attractive).
But what of the kinds of activities that are done? Here again, I think real-time technologies play an important role. However, rich activities online don't just have to be real-time. Eric Whittaker's Virtual Choir still stands out for me to be the best online activity I have seen. But there has been an explosion on the web of simple activities embodied as 'widgets' or webpages, which if used creatively by teachers can be really innovative and enrich lessons. Making these activities easily accessible for teachers to organise is one of the goals of ITEC. The ITEC Widget Store does just this, by providing the facilities not just to browse a range of different kinds of widget-based activity, but to personally curate collections of favourite tools.
But then, given a range of tools, how can learning activities be coordinated? Here too, recent technological development are addressing the ease with which activities can be presented to a class, and coordinated. The Open-Sankore open-source Interactive Whiteboard platform can seamlessly integrate with ITEC's widgets because it uses the same W3C standard. There is one way of coordinating activity. But I also demonstrated the ability to present tools to users, and to dynamically change the tools that are presented on each user's screen using the ITEC Presenter Widget. This also uses the technology of the Real-time web, and provides a facility to ensure that learners have a shared experience, even when they are looking at personal devices.
Finally, I invited people to participate in a performance of Haydn's Surprise Symphony. This was done by using the interactive features of the real-time web to power 'controller widgets' which served to deliver real-time signals to a sound generator on my machine which was hooked to the sound system in the class. At the crucial moment, participants hit a button to ensure that Haydn's surprise was more surprising than even he intended!