In Perth Again, Virtually: ASCILITE 2015

The last time I was physically present in Perth, Australia, was an angsty period in my life. It was the one and only time that I had permed my hair (see pic below).

Today, I encountered Perth again — virtually!

Through the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning and Tertiary Education Conference (#ASCILITE2015).

[Note: Transcript is on the way! My apologies.]

Vaguely, I had some notion of a conference going on in Australia but was occupied by a full schedule of life events. Maha Bali notified me about a session that Virtually Connecting (VC) was having today and that I was in the same time zone! In previous VC sessions, I was frustrated by the technical problems and differences in time zones. My laptop often crashed and this deterred me from following the discussions. The time zone differences made participation awkward as I would wake up very early or stay late, at unearthly hours, to try to participate.  I was either croaking in the morning with a dry throat or washed out after a long day. I figured I wasn’t contributing much either way, and should get out of the way of folks doing their jobs.

Today, the stars were all lined up. The session was held at a time when I could be fully present. I had time to review the tweets under the hashtag. I used my desktop and a pretty expensive headset (I use it for audio transcription). Wendy Taleo and Penny Bentley co-moderated the session. The number of virtual participants was manageably small so that we each didn’t take up too much bandwidth. Perhaps my being in the same time zone also helped, I was feeling human in the mid-afternoon timeslot.

We (including virtual guests, Kahiwa Sebire and Maha Abdelmoneim) had a lively discussion with onsite participants Associate Prof Helen Farley from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Alison Reedy, Manager, Higher Education Training and Development Team (Office of Learning and Teaching) from Charles Darwin University. Our conversation topics ran the gamut:

  1. Presentations on learning analytics appear to take up a sizeable chunk of the conference program. Over at the back channel/Hangout chat, we wondered if the trend towards learning analytics is indicative of the evergreen instructional design principle that it’s not about the technology, but how we use the technology?
  2. Open education and its interpretation at the conference. Penny Bentley mentioned Xiang Ren from USQ as one such presenter. He tweets as @renxiangcn.
  3. Helen and Alison shared what they heard from keynoter Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner. He advocates learning as moving from “a hero’s journey to an inclusive, collective journey of storytelling.” If you read his tweets, you will find quite a handful of retweets about his keynote address.

4.  We were fascinated by Penny’s reference to the conference tweets on failure being a western concept.

My mind went fleetingly to the Chinese proverb, “失败是成功之母” (Transl: Failure is the mother of success.) It apparently has its roots in Chinese mythology. I thought too of Manu Kapur’s publications on “productive failure.” Maha raised the notion of a trend to romanticize failure. An interesting counterpoint — consider how we refer to failure sometimes: failing forward, fail fast, growth mindset (No offense to the creators of these concepts; just referenced here for discussion).  Books about heroes or heroines beset with extraordinary failure, and who triumph subsequently, become best-sellers.

5. Wendy invited Helen and Alison to talk about their research projects. Alison raised an interesting indigenous method of data gathering, yarning; a notion discussed and published by Dawn Besserab and Bridget N’gandu. Helen shared about her AU$4.4 million “government-funded Making the Connection project which is taking digital technologies into correctional centres to increase access to higher education for Indigenous and non-Indigenous incarcerated students” (Source)

In a short hour, I had learned more than 5 BIG IDEAS that had been discussed at the ASCILITE 2015 conference. I have to run along to explore more about them instead of yarning here!

I hope to have a chance eventually to moderate a VC event(s) for a conference hosted in Singapore. For me, these events have great educational value and allow those of us unable to be present at the conference sites to engage with onsite participants and presenters. It’s such an amazing privilege to take part in one. I hope to have the chance to give back at some future date. I’ll be on the lookout.

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