ascilite09 conference reflections #3 – Day Two

Tuesday already, and another nice morning in Auckland.

I set up my poster (Professional development and Web 2.0, can the space make a difference?) before heading into the theatre for Grainne Conole’s keynote, ‘Pushing the boundaries into the unknown, trajectories of user behaviour in new frontiers.’ The focus was on how new technologies create change in behaviour and asks how evolving practices might impact on education. Grainne also gave an overview of Cloudworks and reported on how the site was being used. Visit the Cloudworks cloud for James Clay’s live blogging of the presentation and links to the presentation (.ppt) & paper.

During the coffee breaks I talked with people about my poster and found that the project resonated with people with regard to it being a good model for professional development. The idea that longer term, project or research based activities are more beneficial and support deeper learning than those compared to one-off workshop type sessions.

The next session focus of virtual worlds and spaces where student interact online rather than face-to-face. A mix of presentations talking about experiences in Second Life, Elluminate and online discussions. The key to success seems to be the ability to not only make the learning authentic and having some connection to real world challenges, but also taking students along for the ride. Unless the students have a clear understanding of purpose and a relevance to them, their studies, future profession & aiming to solve real world problems, it is difficult to get them to fully engage.

After lunch I attended an interactive session called ‘Integrating Web 2.0 technologies into Moodle courses’. Stuart Mealor introduced us to a range of Web 2.0 social networking tools and asked us to consider if these tools might be included in the learning environment. He then demonstrated how some of these might be incorporated into Moodle fairly easily, and that it could be set up as an aggregator of a lot of social networking. Not sure of you’d actually want to incorporate all that much into the learning space though…

The afternoon session I went to was focused on design, and include papers on assessment, learning, patterns e-learning environment, and ‘edgeless’ universities. The two things that stood out for me were; a presentation explained the benefits of students priming and leading weekly discussion sessions, and that while they gained much from this, the peer e-learning critique by other students needed to be better scaffolded. Another presentation reminded us that online spaces need to be supported by the concept of community, so that students feel that they can ‘belong’ and have a connectedness with others that is social, educational and professional.

The conference dinner was held at the Sky Tower and it was a great night with heaps of good food & wine, lots of conversation & networking, and once the band started playing, lots of dancing.

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