On Friday I gave an “Introduction to OpenLearn” presentation at the Italian MoodleMoot08 in Padova. The first day started in true Italian style – about an hour late – though to be fair this was actually more due to the fact there had been a train strike in the morning which had delayed a lot of the people arriving. The transport strike also explained why my bus from the airport to Padova on Thursday had been free, I’d tried to buy a ticket from the driver but he refused my money and just indicated for me to sit down, so I spent the hours journey wondering if the ticket inspectors would get on and I’d get fined! Fortunately not, and it was explained to me later that the refusal to take money is unofficial strike action by the drivers, for fear of robbery if they are carrying cash.
I was the only English speaker at the conference, but thankfully John Hannon (English teacher from Bari )translated everything on the fly for me, for the benefit of the entirely Italian audience of about 200 teachers. I just about managed to understand some of the other presentations, with help from little translations from the people sat around me.The conference was also being webcast – so I’m hoping that the replays will appear soon. [Update 15/5/08: the replay of my presentation is now available at: http://www.videoserver01.unimore.it/p85167542/, my talk starts at about 1’08. Presentations from the other sessions are also available – all in Italian ;-)]
My presentation seemed to go really well, I certainly had plenty of people asking me about OpenLearn and our tools (especially FlashMeeting), so I gave a few demos when I could get on a PC with an internet connection. A wireless connection wasn’t available, which meant there was virtually no-one using a laptop on the audience (so no complaints about noisy keyboards), still I managed to grab a machine with in connection so I could give a few demos of FlashMeeting (or the FM project as it’s now officially called), though it was a little tricky with no web cam and no speakers!
Roberto Pinna from the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) dept at the Università del Piemonte Orientale gave me a demo of their MeetingPoint application – it’s a web based video conferencing tool, so similar to FlashMeeting although it uses the opensource Red5 server (rather than the paid-for Flash Comms Server). The main differences (that I can see) are that MeetingPoint doesn’t record the meetings for later replay (as far as I’m aware), but it has a plugin architecture, so if there’s a tool you’d like to embed then you can do so – or (for example) replace the provided whiteboard application with something else.
Luckily I had the time to spend the rest of the weekend in Padova as it’s a really nice city – not far from Venice (but far fewer tourists), but plenty of historic monuments, and being Italy, churches. It’s home to the second oldest university in Italy (Bologna University had opened 3 or 4 years before) and where Galileo taught and his observatory it still standing. Some parts of the old university are still standing (see my pics) – the crests you can see in some of these picture are the shields from the previous directors of the university and faculties.
Other sights I got to were the Basilica di Sant’Antonio and Cappella degli Scrovegni. St Antonio relics, seem to consist of slightly more gruesome relics than I’ve seen before (usually bits of bone), including his lower jaw, tougue and larynx… hmmm…
Far less grim were the botanical gardens – “regarded as the most ancient university garden in the world”.