Thoughts on the 2008 Ascilite conference so far

1 12 2008

Introduction:

Okay, the first thing I have probably learned is that it’s probably a good idea to borrow a laptop before coming.  It’d make note taking much easier among other things!

The first day of the conference went well, consisting of a half day workshop on educating the NET generation.  It was a non stop discussion which was really interesting.  Basically it is interesting to hear what people think about the so called NET generation.. I’m not convinced though.

Obviously trends show that social networking and technological tools in general are becoming increasingly ‘natural’ to a lot of people.  I find that these people aren’t narrowed down by an age group or a certain demographic however, as the whole idea of the ‘net generation’ seems to suggest. Millions of things contribute to how one understands and uses technology in every day life.. I always grew up with technology, my parents always gave me access to it and used technology themselves so in one way this would have shaped my natural uptake and use of these tools.

After today I had the feeling that a lot people tend to talk about web2 tools as something for students to use, something to base objectives or actual activities around.. I’d personally like to see more staff USE these technologies to TEACH.. use them to teach and see where that goes.  VoiceThread for example would be an awesome mode of delivery for online lecturers or even tutorials, no matter what discipline.  Students could also co-contribute and everyone would be hunky dorry… however you spell that.

Anyway, before I ramble on too much; the discussion showed some really interesting student trends, based on studies taken in 2006.. something to bring home and have a look at.  Overall the workshop was good, and fun.

Day 1:

So far today has been .. interesting.  From the workshops so far I’ve seen some web2 tools that I’ve never heard of, so I’ll be sure to keep a list of them, and suss them out when I return back to work.  One in particular would be VEX; a tool that combines various web2 features in one spot, blogs and more.  I like the idea of a single tool to do many things, much more than half a dozen tools to do separate things.

The whole notion of students as co-contributors of content and thus their own learning is popping up in most sessions.  Again I think of VoiceThread having great potential but I’m sure there’s so many others that I don’t know of yet.

In talk #2, session 1, we heard from a University that had been trialling a trigger enabled SMS system, this one was also pretty interesting.  Students opt to sign up for the service, and once that’s done they can easily request assessment results, exam times and dates, dates of upcoming assignments, and much more.  It wasn’t a request based system only, students also got personalised reminders close to due dates and so forth.  Overall the feedback generated from student surveys indicated that it was more than moderately successful, I personally think it’s a pretty good idea, perhaps not in terms of ‘learning and teaching’ as such, but for basic student convenience and motivation..

Talk #3 was a very unique presentation; rather than presenting strict evidence or theory it gave us an insight into what students think about using mobile web2 technologies.  Students were supplied with equipment such as iPhones by the University in a course on Product Design (and others); the clips we saw really showed how enjoyable this was for students.. no doubt this contributed to their overall course motivation.  Who wouldn’t be happy being given an iPhone to play with for a semester!!!

Summary of Day 1:

I’m finding that the talks are very short and rushed, which is a shame, because a lot of these presenters have so much more to offer.

From what I’ve seen so far, we are MORE than keeping up with most other Universities in terms of thinking about how to incorporate web2 tools TO enhance learning AND teaching.  We’re doing a good job, we just need more people power!!

Over and out for today.

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