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October 24, 2008

Thoughts on FOTE

Pete's recent post about DC-2008 reminds me that I never wrote up my thoughts on FOTE 2008, the Future of Technology in Education event organised recently by Tim Bush and colleagues at ULCC.

It's probably too late now to do any kind of lengthy write-up of the day.  Suffice to say that there were some good talks and some bad talks.  See my live-blog on eFoundations LiveWire if you want to know more but my closing remark pretty much sums it up:

AP: summing up... i think there have been some very good talks today and some very bad talks.  on balance, i think it has been a good and useful day.  as i mentioned, i think that suppliers (with the exception of the Huddle guy) have a tendency to talk down to the audience - we know the world is changing - what we want is help in thinking about how to respond

One of the best talks (actually, probably one of the best talks I'll see this year) was by Miles Metcalfe of Ravensbourne College.  I include the slides below but you won't get the full effect without the very humorous presentation that went with it.

His closing slide, which he suggested was originally going to be entitled "Like I trust the fuckers", poked fun at the proposal that institutions can trust external service providers such as Google (who were also presenting at FOTE) to provide services critical to their business. Having said that, the earlier parts of the talk also acknowledged that individuals within institutions can now make many of those kinds of outsourcing decisions for themselves - irrespective of institutional policy.

The whole thrust of the presentation was to ask, "where does that leave institutional computing service provision?". We used to think that at least the institutional network was sacred (and to a large extent it still is) but with the advent of widely available 3G, of which the iPhone is the classic example, even that is being nibbled away at.

On the same slide, Metcalfe also argues that moving towards OpenID makes more sense than Shibboleth (in the current environment), a view that I tend to share, albeit acknowledging some of the usability issues that still have to be resolved.

All in all it was a very entertaining and thought-provoking presentation, and well worth turning up at the event to see.

(Note that slides from most of the other presentations during the day are also available.)


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Ironically at work my iPhone tends to connect via The Cloud (free with iPhone contract) which we use to provide conferences with wifi access - so although my phone is setup to be able to access the institutional wifi, it usually latches onto The Cloud instead.

For me this generally doesn't create problems as I can access email via the iPhone no matter what network, and I don't tend to use other protected resources via the phone.

You said: "his closing slide, which he suggested was originally going to be entitled 'Like I trust the fuckers', poked fun at the proposal that institutions can trust external service providers such as Google to provide services critical to their business."

I find it ironic that many academics would express equal skepticism about the institutional IT provisioning, and would certainly see Google as a useful escape from institutional shortcomings.

Note that all the videos from the day are now available at




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