Association for Learning Technology Online Newsletter
Issue 7 January 2007   Saturday, January 27, 2007

ISSN 1748-3603

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Leitch is no Occam
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mLearn 2006: Across generations and cultures
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Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
by Simon Walker and Linda Creanor

Ascilite stands for the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education and, in many ways, mirrors the activities and themes covered by ALT-C in the UK, SURF (collaborative organisation for IT innovation in HE) in the Netherlands and AACE conferences (Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education) in North America and Europe. For us, it was a chance to gain a better understanding of the Australian educational context that has produced some of the most innovative learning systems and tools such as Moodle and LAMS and which we are currently exploring. It was interesting to note that LAMS and Moodle may have firmer footholds in other countries: perhaps an example of the 'prophet not hailed in their own land' phenomenon.

Maturing e-learning technologies and approaches are currently challenging our understanding of what we know about the ways learners are learning. How do we, as teachers, know what our students are doing in the context of learning in media-rich Web 2.0 environments, and how might we better organise our institutions and resources, and learn from our research to make the most effective use of currently available and emerging technologies? This year’s Ascilite conference embraced these themes in the title “Who’s Learning? Whose technology?”

The conference kicked off with an evening reception at the Sydney Opera House. Although this created a highly sociable atmosphere, which continued throughout the week, we detected in delegates an air of anxiety about knowing our learners and teaching the next generation. This concern, expressed by the ‘grey generation’ of teachers (the age profile appeared to be much higher than at ALT-C), tended to dwell on differences between digital natives and immigrants: the so-called ‘Google generation’ addicted to connectivity and web 2.0 publishing; learners who would ask “where are you?” rather than “how are you?”. It came as a relief to be reminded by one delegate that digital immigrants mostly invented Web 2.0 services and applications.

The three-day conference comprised 67 full and 53 concise papers, with two keynote addresses and 30 poster presentations. Podcasting was a feature of the conference, but instead of recording the session, presenters were asked to record their thoughts after their presentation. Using prepared questions, Allan Carrington managed to capture a series of interesting talks. These can be heard at:

From New Zealand Dawn Coburn presented about reusable and portable Information Literacy e-Learning Modules across the University of Otago, Dunedin College of Education and Otago Polytechnic. The link to downloadable SCORM compliant modules for evaluation is: Ainslie Ellis presented two case studies that raised issues about the design of the online learning environment and the potential to accommodate different personality types based on the Myers Briggs introvert/extrovert scale. Taking a more philosophical approach, the notion of personality in online learning environments was taken up by Reem Al-Mahmood, who presented some learner vignettes or ‘spatial imaginings’ found in online environments, and raised further issues for their design.

Professor Shirley Alexander, a keynote at ALT-C 2003, discussed the conflict between technocracy and innovators, between developing practice and infrastructure through feedback loops rather than central planning. She spoke of a study at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in which students ranked e-learning as nineth out of 89 in importance, placing the role of technology in her institution very firmly on the map.

All abstracts and proceedings are available from the conference web site at Ascilite 2007 will be hosted by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, 2-5 December, when the theme will be "ICT: Providing Choices for Learners and Learning".

Simon Walker
Principal lecturer in education
The University of Greenwich

Linda Creanor
Senior lecturer (e-learning)
Glasgow Caledonian University

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