Edugeek @ Learning Gateway Conference


Myself and Russel Dyas attended the Learning Gateway Conference on behalf of Edugeek.net, it’s been a few days now since the Conference and i think it’s about time i got round to writing up my thoughts.

I personally think it was very successful!  The attendance was fantastic for the first Learning Gateway conference with over 150 attendee’s I believe and I am sure there will be many more to come.

It was only a about 3 months ago now i went to see Alex at Great Barr School and he mentioned he was speaking with Richard about putting something together and to see it actually happen a few months later is fantastic! I’ll be honest and say i was shocked at the turnout i did not expect there to be as many attendees for the First Conference so that was my first shock of the day!

The day was planned out very well from me turning up to me going home, no problems at all i walked through the doors and everyone knew what was going on.. Everything was on time and everyone had the chance to talk to some of the most experience people out there “picking their brains at every chance they had”. 

I followed the “Building the Learning Gateway” Pathway starting off with Best Practice for you SharePoint configuration by Steve Smith (MVP and owner of Combined Knowledge) i thought i was doing everything the right way and the best way but it turns out there were a few things i should of done differently in my setup and i will be changing a few things over the summer holiday to improve our setup so i would like to thank Steve for his advice. I think the presentation Steve gave was excellent covering all the basic requirements for a SharePoint Setup.  My knowledge with SQL does lack i must say but after listening to everything Steve said this is the area i will be improving over the holiday! Everything he said actually made clear sense and i think to myself why didn’t i do this in the first place!

So once Steve had finished answering everyone’s questions we moved on to “Unified Communications for the Learning Gateway” with Nathan Winters.

Now i have never really looked into this, it’s always been something i have wanted to know more about and attending this session really did put some light on this area. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Exchange 2010, Office Communications Server 2010 just so i can implement some of the features Nathan told me about.

I never really thought something like this could help a school, but i look at my school and think communication is a real problem having something like this in place “may” help improve this.
Just having the ability to use OCS to manage the schools communications is fantastic! And i love how it uses your Exchange Inbox to do most of this. Transferring between the different types of communications is just so easy and would make Administrators/Secretaries Lives so much easier for starters! 
So once Nathan had finished we all went off to have a nice Lunch and have the chance to talk to the Sponsors and MVP’s.

Lunch was really nice by the way 😉

Now after lunch the session i attended next was Site structure and Templates presented by Andrew Woodland. 

I think this was a great session for schools starting out with SharePoint who are in the process of planning there site structure now you may ask why i have made Planning bold well, one thing that everyone should of taken from this is that Planning is the most important part when planning your SharePoint setup! Don’t just go in there and create sites all over the place it needs allot of planning what templates you are going to use, are you going to use Collaboration or Publishing sites? As this is a very important decision you have to make.

So after this we had a lovely session from Penny Coventry.
I think this session was very important, i have noticed after looking at many schools SharePoint portals that very little people customize SharePoint Master pages etc and i really think penny helped many people understand that it’s not too difficult to do its actually fairly simple to just to very simple changes that will make your portal unique in terms of the look.
I spoke to many people and asked why they had not customized SharePoint and the response was mainly because people did not understand how to customize the master pages every time they did they seemed to break there SharePoint setup.

You can do allot of customization by just editing the CSS (note: do not edit the default CSS files in SharePoint always made your own so that it will override these)
If you wish to change the actual layout of SharePoint then you will need to make a new Master Page, now the best place to start is get a Master Page that has already been created and just edit that take bits away, move controls around etc also the best site you can have in your favourites is Heather Soloman’s Website ([url=http://www.heathersolomon.com/]Heather Solomon – Design, Web User Interface, Content Management, SharePoint[/url]) you will find some very useful tips and resources on here to help you get started!

Oh and make sure you get hold of SharePoint Designer 😉
So we moved on to the last session of the day “Other Components you can use” by Dave Coleman (Twynham School) [url]https://www.twynhamschool.com[/url] this was one of the sessions i was very interested in and i think so were allot of other people!

Media Streaming, Remote Apps etc everyone seems to struggle with by Dave showed everyone how they had done it and it is actually really easy to achieve and looks great as well!
Out of the whole room only 2 people had actually used SharePoint for their school website, but if you have a look at Twynham School website you can see that it does make sense to use SharePoint for your website too… if you can get your head around the customization (above) then you can make one very cool, easy to use website.

I sat with Stuart Wilikie through-out the day and you can find his blog here which I think will also come in useful!

I will have more to come over the next few weeks 😉 but as you can imagine with the school breaking up now I’ll be pretty busy for a few weeks but will get some guides/tips/useful information out there!

So before I turn this into a Monster i would like to say a big thank you to Alex and Richard for all there had work over the past few months sorting out this very successful conference!

I would also like to say thank you to all the MVP’s, Sponsors of the conference it was great to meet you all and have a chat and pick your brains!

And last but not least! Hollie you did an amazing job! 😉 and i even got to buy you a drink (that was the second shock of the day 😉 )

I look forward to the next one! 🙂

James.


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