Reflections on the NUTN 2008 Conference

Last week I presented at the National University Telecommunication Networks‘ 2008 conference. I have to say that it was one of the best conferences I have ever been to. Not that others were bad, I just really enjoyed this one. Maybe it was the beautiful mountains of Park City Utah. Or maybe it was the really good food (just as Patti promised). Here are some of my thoughts.

First of all, if you go through all of the trouble to pick an interesting city to host a conference in, then also be like NUTN and plan to integrate some of the cities attractions in to the conference (not just as after hours activities). Like a trip to downtown Park City for networking dinners or the gondola ride up the mountain for an awards dinner – great ideas.

My presentation on the future of the Internet was fun. I was a little surprised at the resistance to meta tagging that was voiced (“that will take too much time with no return benefit”). Of course, these people were in the minority I found out, as other people came up afterwards and told me they loved tagging and found it very useful.

I was also in a session that looked at the future of pedagogy and instructional design. Basically, three presenters each defended their position: tried and true (aka “the talking head”), expansion of current policies, and cutting edge. After they talked, we discussed. I was surprised at the support for tried and true lecture-based instructional delivery (both in face-to-face and distance learning). Passive learning has long proven to be ineffective at delivering instruction (no matter how interesting the presenter is), but I guess some still feel they are doing something while up there yapping. A great discussion nonetheless.

The keynotes were excellent. The opening keynote was Kurt Bedell, who had been with Apple for 10 years. He showed us some back-door stuff for iTunes University and even a little bit about the new iPhone :) I am always a little suspicious of podcasts because people tend to promote passive learning when using podcasts, but done correctly they do have their place.

We also had Mary Cullinane, who basically was the School of the Future Technology Architect for Microsoft. They seem to be doing great things for the future of education. That is, if you want to go to a four year college. She seemed to indicate that she believes that the only way to successfully complete your education is to finish a four year college degree. I didn’t get to ask her if she meant to imply that, but we do tend to think that way in suburbia America. The problem with this is that many people just are not interested in four year colleges. Technical schools, community colleges, and on-the-job training are all very acceptable alternatives to job development after high school.

Then there was the closing key note – Chris Melissinos, the Chief Gaming Officer of Sun Microsystems Inc. Yes – Chief Gaming Officer. He was incredibly funny, and not to mention really smart. He gets to play and develop games for a living – and go around presenting about them. Think video games are too violent? According to Chris, less than 20% of all video games sales are rated Mature (can’t remember the exact number). He spent a good chunk of time debunking myths about video games in education.

Also had a blast doing a geo-chaching activity. Did I mention there was also good food? I did manage to take some pics and a few short videos – mainly of the scenery:

So, plan on attending next year in Saratoga Springs, New York. You won’t be disappointed.

One thought on “Reflections on the NUTN 2008 Conference

  1. I agree with you Matt. It was a wonderful meeting. Even after 40 years in the distance learning business, I came away with a host of new ideas, thoughts and concerns. It’s fun to look at the future is such a dramatic setting, and with some really intelligent and caring people who love distance learning. Glad to have met you.
    Love your blog.

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