Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

One of the great things about the internet is it lets you find out about all the stuff the mainstream North American media ignores (i.e. 90% of what happens in world).  The second greatest thing is it lets you find out about all the stuff the mainstream media does cover but you miss because there’s just too much to consume.

I had an encounter of the second kind recently while listening to the BBC tech podcast, Click.

I found out that more than 1700 people gathered in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam from May 25-27 for the 6th annual eLearning Africa Conference.

In 65 sessions, under the central conference theme, “Youth, Skills and Employability”, participants explored 23 sub-themes including:

  • Mobile Learning;
  • Traditional Pedagogy Versus 21st Century Pedagogy;
  • Affordable Bandwidth;
  • eLearning in the Agricultural Sector;
  • Affording Socially Excluded Young People Access to Quality; Learning Opportunities; and
  • Open Education Resources (OER) Movement.

322 speakers from 57 countries discussed and demonstrated best practices and new ways of learning on the continent and in other parts of the world.

Canadian speakers included:

  • Collin, Simon, Université du Québec à Montréal, The Potential of Online Tutoring and Innovative Learning Practice
  • Crichton, Susan, University of Calgary, Developing and Using Online Education Content
  • Karsenti, Thierry, Université de Montréal, Current Practice in Educational and Administrative Integration of ICTs in African Schools
  • McGreal, Rory, UNESCO/COL Chair in OER, Associate Vice President Research, Athabasca University, The Learning Africa Debate
  • Moncion, Isabelle, University of Montreal, Canada, Sustaining Free Access Web Resources for Professional Development
  • Redmond, Darlene, Nova Scotia Community College, Canada, What is Meant by 21st Century Pedagogy: A Closer Look at Theory and Practice
  • Thompson, Terrie Lynn, Digital Opportunity Trust/Athabasca University, African Youth and Digital Identity

Conference sponsors included global IT heavy weights like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco.  Other smaller organizations specifically supported African participation including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Spider, a Swedish organisation that does ICT development in developing countries. African government participation included 25 ministers and deputy ministers and more than 50 high-level government officials from 21 countries. The lead conference sponsor was cloud computing company WYSE.

As for using social media to keep the conversations going, the conference web site has links to a Facebook page with recent posts and over 1000 members and a LinkedIn page with more than 250 members.  Their Twitter account is gone – though the link remains on the site.  There is also a link to a lonely blog with sporadic posts and no comments.

With all the talk about the penetration of mobile phones in Africa I was surprised to see just one mobile sub-theme. I also saw nothing specifically dealing with K-12 age children. The biggest omission, however, is no videos or audios of sessions which to me seems a huge missed opportunity.  Putting the sessions online for the many who couldn’t afford to attend seems a no-brainer – and very doable considering all the deep pocketed IT sponsors. Mmm….time to fire off another email…

I was inspired last weekend.

I was inspired by people yelling the title of this post (the first part at least) to over 2000 people in the massive hall at the National Conference on Media Reform in Boston. The “low” part refers to low power, low cost FM radio that US media activists recently won the right to expand in the US. LPFM makes it far easier for communities to start small, community radio stations.

I was inspired by the number of people at the conference, their passion for why they were there and what they had already accomplished before getting there.

And, I gotta say, my first reaction when I read the title of the conference was, “Man. Are these people still trying to make the mainstream media “be nice?”. Gladly, the topics covered were far broader than the conference title suggested. Session topics included media regulation, youth in media production, net neutrality and a number of sessions touching on media education and media-centered popular education.

Two of the best sessions I attended were Media Reform Through Media Education and Mobile Voices. Mobile Justice. The first, put on by the Action Coaltion for Media Eduction (ACME), focused on media literacy and demonstrated the vast resources available on YouTube to teach visual media lit. ACME’s mission is to provide organizations with unbiased media lit resources, maintaining that many easily available materials are biased because they’re either paid for, or made by, corporatations. They gave out 50 DVDs containing a complete media education course containing a treasure trove of video examples. (The ACME folks said you can buy the DVD from them). They dissected the Pepsi Refresh campaign for hypocritically associating Pepsi with healthy food and Disney’s practice of turning female pre-teen idols into highly sexualized teens – and maintaining and exploiting the link between the two.

The mobile justice session used a popular education model to generate discussion around mobile justice issues. We did a “speed dating” exercise where we paired up and had two minutes each to respond to the same question related to our personal experience with mobile phones and carriers. After we each had our turn we had to find another partner and answer another question. Most of the workshop leaders work with low-income and immigrant people on media justices issues, with a particular focus on basic mobile phones.

And I also met Abdulai Bah…

Abdulai is from Guinea and Sierra Leone, Africa and now lives in New York City. He works with the Community News Production Institute (CNPI) which is part of the People’s Production House. The CNPI is “the [United States’] only grassroots news bureau where low-income workers and immigrants are trained to be professional radio reporters.” Abulai got trained and now works as a CNPI Program Associate.

Low power FM means Abdulai’s stories and those of other CNPI trainees may soon have more local stations on which to broadcast their stories to their own neighborhoods. Now that’s power.

Abulai and I took some time out from the busy conference to talk about what he’s up to at the CNPI.


One of the gems I picked up at last weekend’s Podcasters Across Borders conference came from the CBC’s Tod Maffin. Tod did a presentation called Twenty Minutes of Epic Awesomeness (or “These are a Few of My Favourite Things” on the downloadable PDF program). In it, he shared twenty of his personal productivity and/or creativity tips – and this from a guy who scores high in both areas. Tod speaks internationally on technology and society and if you’ve ever seen him in action you get why he’s so in demand.

One tool he mentioned, the audio editing software Adobe Soundbooth CS4, solves a problem that’s existed since people started recording interviews: transcribing your tape. Yes, there is finally a program that will transcribe your tape for you! And it does it in all the cool, useful ways you want.

You can select a section of your audio, just like you do when you want to edit it, and have Soundbooth transcribe just that part. Or, after you have transcribed a section, you can highlight some text and Soundbooth will jump to that part of the audio file so you can edit it.

How much would you think editing software that smart would cost? $600? $700 $1000?…

Nope. All that and more for a little over 200 bucks.

I don’t think I’ve every heard so many people say, “I am so getting that.” as during Tod’s presentation.

Why you should go to podcamps

Author: Robin Browne

Podcamps never cease to amaze me. They are amazing conferences full of inspiring speakers and they’re free. In addition to that, if there’s a topic that’s not covered, you can create your own session. Depending on what it is, you’ll probably get some of those amazing speakers to drop in and give their two cents.

For example, I’m heading to Podcamp Toronto at the end of February and I’ve noticed there are currently no sessions on mobile marketing. So I’m going to suggest one and ask some of the speakers who are doing cool things with mobile if they’d be willing to take part. All it will cost me is the humility to accept if some or all say no. Even if they do, I’ll be able to get a group of smart participants together and come away with insights on mobile marketing that would be hard to get otherwise.

In these lean times there is really no excuse for not taking advantage of great free learning that events like podcamps have to offer.

PAB2008: Stuff White People Like?

Author: Robin Browne

The title of this post is inspired by the wildly popular (average of 1000 comments per post), satirical website of the same name, Stuff White People Like, and the fact that I just checked out the group photo from Podcasters Across Borders 2008 (PAB2008) and was surprised to see that this year’s PAB looked less diverse than last year’s – and last year’s didn’t set the bar very high. I’m not saying that is the fault of PAB or its organisers – I’m just stating a fact.

PAB, and unconferences like it, are amazing opportunities to learn and network but, unlike most conferences, they’re free or very cheap. For many brown communities that are economically disadvantaged these are golden opportunities. However, for some reason, very few brown folks come out to these events (at least the ones I’ve been at) and this only widens the digital divide.

One way to change this is for the folks who do attend to make an effort to connect with other communities, let them know about these events and encourage and help them to attend.

So I make this pubic commitment now: I will personally bring at least two young brown folks to PAB2009 to join and diversify the conversation!

I attended the first day of MARCOM 2008 this week; a conference focused on public sector and not-for-profit marketing. Now, marketing being a broad subject, the MARCOM organisers could have gone a lot of different ways with the opening keynote but I was happy to see that they invited Environics Research Group president, Michael Adams, to share some very valuable information related to one of marketing’s key commandments: know thy audience. Adams talked about the findings in his new book Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism. In the book, Adams argues against the notion that Canada’s multiculturalism means that it is just a matter of time before we suffer violent conflicts like those seen in France and other countries. He provides results of Environics research that shows that, despite the global economic slowdown, Canadians are not following the sadly historical route of blaming it all on, and targeting, immigrants.

Some of the stats he shared:

  • Toronto has the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world
  • 77% of Canadians said no when asked, “Do you think immigrants take all the jobs?”
  • 63% said no when asked, “Do you think immigration is too high?”
  • 77% feel immigrants have a positive influence on society
  • However, a majority (sorry, I missed the exact stat) believe that immigrants don’t adopt Canadian values fast enough.
  • Only 15% of Canadians reported being white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants (WASPs) in the last census.

So marketers: know thy audience…and be happy that, in Canada, thy audience hath good heads on their shoulders.

The lineup of the upcoming Government Communicators’ Conference suggests that the Canadian government is finally beginning to embrace social media. Social media/personal branding guru, Mitch Joel, is giving the keynote and workshops include:

  1. Playing in the Social Media Sandbox
  2. Citizen Journalism: The Beginning of the End of the Communications Profession or the End of the Beginning?
  3. Innovative Conversation: Our Community Ventures into the Social Media World
  4. Branding (a two-hour session with Mitch Joel)

However, if my experience at the department I worked for is any indication, most government communicators won’t get to learn all this great stuff because they can’t afford the $1000 to go. The department I was with would buy two passes for 60-plus communicators to share. The government should go all the way and embrace the “free” part of the unconference model like podcamp Toronto and others. That way all communicators get to go and the knowledge they all gain will easily pay for itself in my opinion.

Podcamp Toronto

Author: Robin Browne

Spent the day at Podcamp Toronto at the Ryerson’s Roger’s Communications Centre and now it’s real late so I will post tomorrow on the bus ride home. However, I did want to just say it was cool to see folks taking notes during sessions right on their blogs thus turning their notes to posts. I will try that tomorrow.

Lots more cool stuff learned which I’ll get to tomorrow.