From 27 March – 4 April I travelled to San Diego, California, to attend the 21st International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). With around 1200 delegates representing at least 56 countries, despite the global financial crisis this was still one of the best attended and the most international SITE conference I have attended since my first SITE conference in 1998. I am grateful to the faculty for support to attend the conference.
The conference proper started on Tuesday, 30 March and ran until Friday, 2 April. However, my first involvement was with the executive meeting that I attended on Monday as former SITE Vice-President and Chair of the Information Technology Council that comprises 15 special interest groups. Although SITE President Gerald Knezek described my position as ’emeritus’ my major role at this meeting was to ‘channel’ current chair of the council (Sue Espinoza) via Skype because health issues prevented her attendance in person. I substituted for Sue again during an 8:00 am walk around of SIG meetings on each of the first 3 days of the conference, and at the IT Council meeting on Wednesday evening where I again ‘channeled’ Sue via Skype while co-chair Ron McBride conducted the meeting.
On Thursday evening I attended the SITE leadership council meeting comprising the leaders of each of the 3 major councils and the SIGs. My major role there was as one of two nominees put forward by the election committee for the position of SITE president. Elections for president are held on a rotation with the successful candidate serving as President-elect for one year before assuming the office of President for 2 years. I was honoured to have been nominated but the successful nominee was Mike Searson of Kean University in New Jersey. Following the dinner I was invited by the current president to take leadership of a SITE effort to extend international links – a role I was pleased to accept and look forward to working with.
The presentations that I was involved with were scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The Tuesday presentation was a roundtable conducted with the editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education for which I am one of 3 associate editors. I will assume temporary responsibility as editor during April and May while the editor is unavailable due to health issues. On Wednesday I presented a paper co-authored with Romina Jamieson-Proctor and Glenn Finger (Griffith) with a focus on assessing development of preservice teachers’ TPACK confidence. Attendance was disappointing because it had been scheduled against TPACK presentations by Punya Mishra (one of the originators of the model) and Judi Harris (another high profile presenter) but the other presenter in the session was engaged in similar work and we made a useful connection. On Friday I presented a paper based on the work of my doctoral student (Kitty Ho) on Home Economics teachers in Hong Kong.
The four daily keynotes comprised 2 individual speakers and 2 panels. On Tuesday Allison Rossett of San Diego State spoke about the challenges she faced in her switch from face to face teaching to teaching online. The take away message was the way in which reconsidering her courses revitalised her teaching. On Wednesday Erin Reilly of University of Southern California spoke about remix culture with numerous examples of tools and techniques used by the younger generation to express themselves using remixed media and how we might respond to that in our teaching. My Twitter stream included these points: “remix requires considering original source in relation to a new context”, and “remixing is not a solitary occupation, community, collaborative, hunter-gatherer, remix for learning”. The Thursday panel presented international perspectives, mostly from Asia, on the adoption of ICT in schools and the Friday panel looked at the ‘E’ (for engineering) in STEM. All were thought provoking.
The highlight for me was probably Chris Dede’s (Harvard) presentation on Teaching and Assessing 21st Century Skills. My Twitter stream from that presentation summarised the main points for me as: “Chris Dede 45 sec version of his message – ICT is changing life, education? not so much”, “people better than machines at problem solving expertise & complex communications”, “teacher preparation must include opportunities for creativity and collaboration”, “new literacies are not technical but 21C – collective intelligence, play, networking, etc.”, “problem finding before solution, team comprehension, meaning from complexity”, “teaching through situated learning and transfer”, “apprenticeship, legit peripheral participation, hifi not important unless essential for task”, “immersive interfaces – MUVEs, VR, ubiquitous computing – Science Jan 2009”, “assess sophisticated performance using rich observations not paper & pencil tests”, and “schools resist evolution, requires transformative approaches or disruptive innovation”.
Other sessions of note for me covered such topics as TPACK (Charles Graham & colleagues on measurement and Judi Harris & colleagues on the Learning Activity Taxonomy which promoted a “Shift in use of technology from affective to intellectual engagement” (Twitter stream)), EduSummit Call to Action in which Chris Dede noted (from my Twitter stream) that “evidence of effectiveness is not in top 3 reasons for adoption of innovation” and “top 3 ease of use, trusted recommendation, cost” and Don Knezek (ISTE) commented that “it may be more important for students to see teachers engaged in learning than demonstrating existing competencies”.
Among all that intellectual activity there was time for fellowship with colleagues and “Dinner at Indigo Grill http://bit.ly/bUMEVg“.
The key ideas that I brought away from SITE that might have wider relevance for the faculty were mostly based around the work on 21st Century Learning, TPACK, especially the learning activity taxonomy, and some ideas for courses I am preparing – EDU8111 Emerging Environments for Learning (S3 2010) and EDP4130 Technology Pedagogy and Curriculum (S1 2011). As in 2009, there was an emphasis on the need to see ICT, and other aspects of teacher development, as part of an ecological system in which the various components interact in complex ways rather than exist as standalone changes.