#Day24 Experiencing the tingle in threshold crossing – DRHA conference

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This was one of the slides presented by Steve Dixon, which expressed how I felt at the DRHA 2015 conference this week at DCU, fascinated and in awe but completely out of my depth.

The conference was at the threshold of different worlds, a meeting of tomorrow’s world intermingled with art, drama, explosions of creativity mixed with scientific purpose. Check out Tweets from the conference.

I felt uneasy in my seat, I wondered what these people were talking about from worlds of education, art, technology and drama. I felt myself panicked trying to analyze and understand the avalanche of new terminology and meaning ‘cybernetic existentialism, post humanism, vibro-tactile devices’!

But all I could do was surrender to being in that space, listening and trying to relate information back to my own experiences as a learner, as n educator as a technology user.

Many presentations were fascinating and here are some examples:

Vibro-tactile feedback devices for performing arts, sensory feedback was given to actors through vibrations. It seemed like a great devices for actors with other potential applications to people who are visually impaired.

Eyetracking software for identifying reader connection to poetry
These researchers used eye-tracking software to generate heatmaps of types of poetry. The heat map of a Shakespearean sonnet was produced from a comparison of 20 readers of the poem. The hotspots showed where reader paused and reflected on meaning. However in contrast the postmodern poem showed no significant hotspots. The researchers concluded that the readers had disconnected from the postmodern poem and that postmodern poetry was not enabling reflection for the reader. The researchers felt that this could have further meaning. They questioned the accessibility of the themes of the postmodern poetry.
Perhaps a less knowledgeable/educated audience could not connect with postmodern less accessible themes. The Shakespearean sonnet may have more common themes, that more the majority of people understand
So in conclusion with postmodern poetry people disconnect, rather than connect with it.

Deirdre Gribbin’s Keynote was emotionally powerful, an account of her musical compositions influenced by politics, social world and culture. She spoke about research into music in collaboration with medicine to calm anxiety problems, and her research with geneticists. But what was most powerful for me was her story about incorporating lambeg drums from the Protestant marching band tradition into her compositions, how this came aboaut, what it meant to the drummers and that tradition involved. Gribbin made the point that music communicates more than words and that it unlocks and embraces paths for process. I felt that by acknowledging the culture of drumming in northern Ireland she had given people a voice and those people felt acknowledged and felt understood, a powerfully healing experience for a community.

Nora Murphy posed questions about the openness and participation on the Internet. She described a romantic relationship with the Internet, where anything is possible, that we all have a creative voice. But she asked if this really is the democratic world we think it is? She urged the audience to think if openness was really available on technology that was owned privately. We think that the Internet is a playground when it is really a factory. She claimed that we are all working for Facebook, our labour creates big data, which in turns feeds economic goals of privately owned commercial internet. Democratization is an ideal rather than a reality.

We were invited to critically think about our participation on the web, do we genuinely possess an authentic voice online, and can we have an authentic voice without causing implications for others. I was inspired by Nora’s words as they relate to my research on social networking and Twitter and how we use these tools. We need an awareness of current state of our networked technologies and not to be so blind to their usage

I think that this conference has been the most significant conference for me this year. It stimulated my thinking, kicked me out of my comfort zone, enabled me to see technology from other perspectives.

It was a challenging experience not being at ease in the usual habitat of teaching and learning. But to present on my research and get thoughtful questions and ideas from others at a different conference was a great learning opportunity. It got me thinking about bigger implications of using suppose public tools such as Twitter.

I have summarized some of the keynotes and presentations that I found interesting but overall I progressed my own understating of the potentials of technology; that technology can extend and contribute social relationships with others.

Importantly technology can be involved in a reflective process with the self, increasing our own self-awareness, helping us understand who we are in the world. Use of technologies (in mindful ways) forces us to understand who we are in the world, understand our identities as human beings in the online social world. I can take this expansion on my thinking and bring this into my EdD research and also my own practice as a professional where I advocate technology for learning.

I am left with the thoughts that ultimately technology can be an enabler for human and social progress.

This was a mind blowing, emotionally explosive and creatively challenging conference – if you like the sound of this conference  I would advise you to participate in the Bristol conference next year.

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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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