Ascilite09, Auckland, NZ

Day #1

Ascilite began on Monday with a traditional Maori welcome to all delegates. MP Maryan Street opened the conference and invited all delegates of the conference ‘to encourage the creation of magic within the classroom’. This was followed by a welcome address by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland.


Dr Scott Diener delivered the first keynote of the conference, he is the Associate Director of Academic IT Services at The University of Auckland.

Diener spoke about world population increases and the accessibility to education for growing numbers of students. Innovation in technology can provide opportunities for access to education for more people, one innovation Diener is especially fond of is Second Life (SL).

The University of Auckland has set up an emergency room(ER) (LongWhiteCloud island) for medical students in SL for students to practice ER skills. Diener allowed a peek into the ER room in SL at the session. I would like to see a simulation or observe how students collaborate and work in this space.

Also Diener spoke about the potential of SL instead of face-to-face meetings, he described how meeting participants were very interested in the creation of their Avatars. However I thought that this sounded like meeting participants were distracted by the creation of self identity in SL, I could imagine the agenda of the meeting not being dealt with! I think SL is a worthwhile experiment for those who are interested, I am just one of them! I think that video conferencing is an easier means for non-face-to-face meetings. I voiced this on twitter and many other agreed with me.

During the conference I got talking to others working on SL projects, the SLENZ , SL in New Zealand project, which is a national SL project, they are very enthusiastic about the potential of SL and are very willing to collaborate with others on SL development internationally.

Also the island LongWhiteCloud is open access on SL  to view and use.

Invited Speaker

Mark Nichols, founder developer of eportfolio system Mahara, spoke after morning tea. Interestingly he made no use of PowerPoint and appealed to the audience to just ‘be present and listen’.
Mark advised Ascilite delegates to examine new innovations in learning technology ‘with a healthy dose of disagreement’. He highlighted the growing norm to accept the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, and asked that we be sceptical and aware of the downsides of ‘group-think’. Mark also referred to the non-academic rigour of Prentsky’s notion of digital immigrant v’s digital natives.

Parallel sessions

I attended the 60 minute Symposium with Sebastian Fiedler, Robert Fitzgerald, George Siemens,  Terje Väljataga: Cascading change: The role of social software and social media in  educational intervention and transformation.
This was based around a transnational project (iCamp project) attempting to improve self-directed learning skills in students. Tallinn University introduced learning contracts to undergrad students to support self-directed learning.
George Siemens mentioned the organisational changes that all education institutions potentially face due to societal changes and technological changes.  Sebastian Fielder cited that ‘media is changing the way we experience life’.

Ian Doherty, University of Auckland. Educating educators in the purposeful use of Web 2.0 tools for teaching. This session described a 3 year study into integration of web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networking tools) at the F?aculty of Health. Web 2 tool were introduced through workshop sessions to academics and these workshops were evaluates.

Diane Robbie: Where’s my class? Using Web 2.0 for collaboration in a design environment.
This described a project working collaboratively between 2 Australian universities and 1 US University, sharing images via Flickr, and how students critiqued and analysed images.

Matt Bower: Conceptualising Web 2.0 enabled learning designs.
This was interesting as described how learning activities incorporating web 2 tools aligned with various stages of Blooms taxonomy, I will read this paper!

Ruth Weeks: Innovation and entrepreneurship education: Embracing Web 2.0 across a postgraduate program.
Ruth, an academic developer, introduced use of a ‘wiki’ to business students to develop entrepreneurial skills. Lessons learned were not to use the Blackboard native wiki, they changed to use mediawiki instead. Unfortunately I did not learning anything new at this session and felt it lacked value as a session.

Andrew Litchfield: Interactive classroom mLearning and the experiential transactions between students and lecturer.
This session highlighted the growth of Smart phones (internet enabled mobile phones). Andrew presented a classroom instant response   tool they have developed for Smart phones: ‘mIntereact’. This allows students to respond to questions within lectures. This tool for mobile phones is similar to clicker technology currently used at DIT.

Kathryn MacCallum: Identifying discriminating variables that determine mobile learning adoption by educators: An initial study.
I really enjoyed this session. This is based on Kathryn’s PhD research, she is looking at adoption trends for learning in mobile technology. She is investigating the attitudes, characteristics of people, age differences etc relating to adoption of mobile technology. She asked that we help her with her data collection. Please go


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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