The ASCILTIE 2012 conference in Wellington was excellent! Here are some of the highlights. Well done to the conference chair Mark Brown from Massey University and his team!
Neil Selwyn kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking keynote. He argued in particular that we need to take a more critical stance in terms of the use of technology in education. He suggested that we see educational technology as a ‘positive project’, the allure of the new, the allure of speed and the promise of substantial change. He quoted Steve Woolgar (2002) who critiques the notion that something new and different is happening and also Terry Mayes’ metaphor of the Groundhog day – in the film the main actor wakes up everyday to the same day, which is repeated over and over again. Terry argues that we are seeing the same with new technologies, each one being heralded as being transformative but in time nothing much changes. Larry Cubans much cited Teachers and Machines – the classroom use of technologies since the 1920s is depressingly still relevant today; i.e. technologies have not had the predicted impact on learning and teaching.
Dale Stephens provided a different take on things on day two of the conference. Dale argued that the university is dead, new technologies offer alternative ways for learners to connect and learn. He has set up an organisation called UnCollege. The website states that UnCollege is a social movement designed to help you hack your education. This manifesto will show you how to gain the passion, hustle, and contrarianism requisite for success — all without setting foot inside a classroom.
One of the highlights for me was the ‘Great MOOC debate’. I led the for team along with Norm Vaughan and Keith Smyth. The against team consisted of Bill Anderson, Maggie Harnett and Mark Nicols. Sadly we lost but I have to give it to Bill’s team they were very eloquent and entertaining. Some of the arguments we put forward were that: MOOCs are free and hence provide a mechanism for those who can’t afford education a means to learn and improve their employability options, they provide a marketing shop window for institutions, they enable learners to be part of a global, distributed, networked community of peers fostering connectivist approaches to learning, they can be personalised and adapted to individual needs, they focus on ‘hot’ topics and are delivered by experts in the field, they over widening access and a means of combating social inclusion, they provide a mechanism for harnessing the power of social and participatory media, they are free of time and space, and finally they can be linked to badges for recognition of competences and can be linked through to formal accreditation. There is a great video of the debate well worth watching.
And finally, the conference dinner was amazing! Given that it was the day before the premier of the Hobbit, the theme was Hollywood or rather Wellywood – some great costumes, Sean the sheep was my favourite.