Thursday, 25 June 2009

M-Libraries 2009 - The Plenary Sessions

There were four plenary sessions after Lorcan Dempsey’s keynote at m-Libraries 2009. First up was Ken Banks who spoke about the role of mobile phones in the developing world. Ken was followed by Carie Page who focused on engaging the 21st century learner through mobile technologies. Next up was Paul Nelson who highlighted some initiatives in which the NHS have been involved aiming to improve people’s health via the use of mobile devices. The final plenary for the morning was Joan Lippincott who made steps towards realising more innovative libraries through the utilisation of mobility.

My favourite plenary session was that delivered by Ken Banks. Ken gave an extremely inspiring talk about how mobile phones are being used to transform and even save lives in developing countries, such as in Africa. FrontlineSMS is the means to achieving such amazing feats. Ken, did however, keep his session grounded, enforcing that even thought it’s very easy to get carried away with the technology in a mobile environment, helping the people in the developing countries always remains at the heart of his work . This is something that I think we also need to continually reiterate when we look to explore the possibilities posed y technology in education – the learner must always come first – not the technology.

I would have to admit that after an engaging start, Carie Page lost a bit of respect from her audience (reflected in the Twitter backchannel) through her overly focused stance on the “digital native” concept, over-egging the fact that young people are so self-assured and fluent with technology compared to the older generations. I think in a very general sense, the digital native concept does hold some weight, however it is important also to acknowledge that there are many other factors that effect people’s uptake of technology. It would’ve have been nice to have heard something new from Carie Page, rather than just a reiteration of a common concept. I felt it was a shame that she didn’t expand the topic, taking it somewhere new, as she was a very engaging and enthusiastic speaker and I feel that she didn’t quite do herself justice…

I think that Joan Lippincott fell into a similar trap – she didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. Joan spoke about how libraries now need to try and meet the challenge delivering digital information to a mobile phone, expanding on ways in which libraries can make steps to overcome such a challenge.

Maybe the lack of depth to the plenary sessions was a result of the short time slots that the speakers received, each only having 30 minutes to get their point across – maybe if they had had more time, they could’ve dived a little deeper into the subject area?? I must admit I was hoping for a little more from the plenary sessions, I just hope that for the 3rd m-Libraries Conference, they reassess the time slots in order that their speakers can do themselves justice. I could’ve listened to Ken Banks all morning after all!!

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