SITE 2017 – Austin, Texas, 5–9 March

Last week I attended the 2017 international conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) with support from the USQ Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts where I work in the School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood. I’m thankful for that support and for the patience of students in my classes who may have experienced oddly time-shifted responses to queries resulting from the time zone differences and long haul flights.

With my retirement locked in for 31 December this year and accumulated leave to be taken from early July (77 working days to go) I anticipate that this will be my last visit to SITE and likely my last conference in any working capacity. I’ve attended SITE each year since 1998 (20 times). It has been my core professional community and a major benefit in my work as an academic. Whether I would have the motivation and fortitude to attend a conference beyond my years of paid employment remains to be seen but I’m doubtful.

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SITE 2016 – Savannah, Georgia, 21–25 March

I attended SITE 2016 with financial support from the Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts. I’m grateful for that support and for the patience of students in my classes who experienced slower than usual responses to queries via email and the LMS. While at SITE I was involved in four presentations and a couple of organisational meetings as well as informal interactions with colleagues from around the world.

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SITE 2015 – Las Vegas

I spent the first week of March (1 – 6) attending the 26th annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) in Las Vegas. That was also the first week of semester so, when I was not at the conference, I was kept busy responding to students in the course discussion forums. I’m grateful for the support of my School and Faculty to attend, including partial financial support. I’ve attended SITE each year since I first attended in 1998 and have always found that it is the most useful conference for me in terms of interest in the papers presented and connections with colleagues. This year was no exception.

I had booked my travel in mid-2014 and expected to arrive in Las Vegas on the morning of Saturday, 28 February, before we left Brisbane according to the clock and calendar. As it happened there was freezing weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and our 9:20 am flight from LAX to Las Vegas finally departed at 5:30 pm after the plane was thawed and able to depart DFW. I had hoped to use the time on Saturday to arrange an excursion to the Grand Canyon on Sunday but that didn’t happen. Instead we spent Sunday exploring The Strip and I eventually booked for a conference excursion to Red Rock Canyon on Monday. That trip did yield some interesting landscape photos to complement some from Las Vegas itself.

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Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014

This time last week I was in Adelaide to attend the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC2014), the once annual but now biennial conference of the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE). ACCE is the peak national professional group for those interested in ICT in education. It brings together state associations like the Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE) and EdTechSA, which was the host on this occasion, and is the national affiliate for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The members of these associations are predominantly K-12 teachers but also include teacher educators with interest in the field. That makes their conferences, and especially ACEC, interesting as sites where academics and teachers come together with research papers mixed with presentations with a strong classroom focus. ACEC is a rare opportunity for interactions across the school-university spectrum.
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SITE International Symposium – University of Canterbury

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the SITE International Symposium 2014
Future focussed teacher education: Inspiring with digital technologies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am grateful for support of SoTEEC and FoBELA for financial and logistical support for my attendance.

This was a small symposium with just 2 keynotes, 17 refereed presentations, and some posters and panel sessions. The proceedings will be available soon in EdITLib. My own immediate reflections on various presentations are recorded in my Twitter stream with the #SITENZ hashtag.

Most of the attendees were from New Zealand but there were 3 from Australia, and one each from Fiji, USA and UK. The small attendance made for focused conversation around the various presentations.

I presented a refereed paper, Pre-service Teachers’ TPACK Confidence in a Regional Australian University, which was an updated version of one that I had presented at SITE in 2012 using data from the first national survey conducted as part of the Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) project. This paper was able to include data from the second national survey conducted as part of TTF. The instrument used for TTF was based in part on one developed by Romina Jamieson-Proctor that was used by USQ and Griffith to collect data in 2009 and 2010. That allowed for longer term comparisons of USQ student responses on some sub-scales. On the first national administration in 2011, USQ students scored significantly higher than the national average on the measures of TPACK confidence and it was clear that there had been significant increases across the period from 2009 to 2011. As happened nationally, USQ had a further increase between the two administrations of the survey in 2011attributable to the TTF intervention but the major increase for USQ students had occurred prior to TTF implementation. The most likely explanation for the difference is the restoration of the ICT Pedagogy course (EDC3100) beginning in 2010 and the cross-program adoption of online and blended approaches from 2009. Exposure of students to explicit teaching about pedagogy with ICT and to its frequent application in their own learning appears to have increased their confidence for working with ICT in their own professional practice.

The first keynote on Monday morning was presented by Dorothy Burt, who is the eLearning team leader at Pt England School in Auckland and the facilitator of the Manaiakalani cluster of schools. The schools in that locality are mostly decile 1, that is, they fall in the 10% of NZ schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. A large proportion of students are from Maori and Pacifika background and average household income is as low as $19000 pa. Despite the challenges the schools have embraced a 1:1 digital technologies program following work that established $3.50 per week as an affordable cost for devices. The use of social networking and other approaches that open up learning to the community have been a good match for the cultural background and there have been substantial gains in learning for students in the schools. As the NZ assessment authority plans to move toward digital administration of tests the students from these schools may be ahead of the trend for once. Among the issues raised by Dorothy was the challenge of finding teachers with the appropriate preparation to work in the digital environment especially with students who have been working that way for a couple of years. Current approaches to teacher education are not ensuring that all graduates are prepared for working in that mode. The same challenge exists for us at USQ as more schools move toward 1:1 programs for younger children.

The second keynote on Tuesday morning was presented by David Gibson who is Director Learning Engagement at Curtin University. David is founder of simSchool, a simulation for teacher preparation, and spoke about games and simulations in teacher preparation. He began by presenting some material about the work he is doing at Curtin using cluster analysis with large data sets brought together from various university systems to investigate patterns with the immediate aim of reducing student attrition. That provided a basis for discussing the value of computer based games and simulations for collecting data that can be used to guide learning and teaching. There are certainly possibilities worth investigating in our programs, both for use directly in teacher education and for preparing our graduates to work effectively with games and simulations as they become more common in classrooms.

The other sessions also provided insights into how teacher preparation is being approached in New Zealand and prompted thoughts about what might be applied here and how.

A piece of news that may be of interest to colleagues is that the 17th Biennial ISATT Conference will be held at the University of Auckland from 13-17 July 2015.

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EDUsummIT, NTLS, and SITE Executive

From September 29 to October 7 I was in Washington, DC, where I participated in a series of meetings associated with my involvement in the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE) and my role as Editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE). EDUsummIT ran from Monday, September 30 until Wednesday, October 2. The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) followed on Thursday, October 3 and Friday, October 4. SITE Executive met on the morning of Saturday, October 5.

EDUsummIT <http://www.edusummit.nl>: EDUSummIT describes itself as a global community of policy-makers, researchers, and educators working together to move education into the digital age. It seeks to engage educational leaders from across the world in conversations framed around issues and challenges facing education today and through that dialog, develop action items that are based on research evidence. The first EDUsummIT meeting in The Hague in 2009 emerged from the group of editors responsible for the International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education. I was involved in preparations for the second EDUsummIT held in Paris in 2011 and, although I was unable to attend due to teaching commitments, contributed to an article which has recently been published in a special issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

The theme of EDUsummIT 2013 was Research-informed Strategies to address Educational Challenges in a Digitally Networked World. I was a member, with colleagues from Belgium and Israel, of a small team that facilitated Thematic Working Group 3 on Teacher Professional Development. We developed a short briefing paper prior to the meeting and will collaborate on development of a paper for a special issue of Education and Information Technology. Our briefing paper and those prepared by other groups are available from the EDUsummIT website <http://edusummit.nl>.

The EDUsummIT activity began with meetings of the theme leaders on Monday afternoon and ran until Thursday morning when there was a joint session with NTLS. The welcome reception on Monday evening was held in Madison Hall at the Library of Congress. Tuesday sessions were to have been held in the same building but were moved to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, because of the shutdown of government facilities including the LoC. Wednesday sessions were held on the campus of George Washington University. Most of the summit time was spent in thematic working groups where the aim was to identify  issues related to the theme and develop plans for future action. Those discussions were punctuated by plenary sessions that shared progress across the working groups. I also participated in an additional working group of editors that was formed to develop plans for dissemination of EDUsummIT outcomes.

NTLS <http://www.ntls.info>: The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) is an annual meeting of representatives from SITE and the major subject area teacher associations in the USA with additional representatives from related organisations and editors of educational technology journals. It was held in the headquarters of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) over Thursday and Friday of the week. I was assigned to a group working on a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education activity. The impulse for that focus was the new USA science standards that include engineering and the perceived challenges for science teachers who typically have little or no engineering background. We worked to develop a working model of an electric motor and explore some implications for inclusion of engineering in the new science standards. I also participated in a meeting of editors and was a member of a panel of editors that led discussion on the final afternoon around strategies for stimulating further discussion of the science and engineering links.

SITE Executive <http://site.aace.org>: On Saturday morning I attended the SITE Executive meeting. Discussion ranged across activities of various sub-groups within SITE, the outcomes from EDUsummIT (for which SITE is a sponsor), outcomes from NTLS (also sponsored by SITE), the Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative (in which SITE is a major contributor), SITE governance, journal activities, and a proposal for a SITE Regional Symposium to be staged in Christchurch (April 28 & 29, 2014) in conjunction with the NZ teacher education federation (TEFANZ) and abutting the Distance Education Association of NZ (DEANZ) conference. The theme of that symposium will be Inspiring with digital technologies in 21st century teacher education. Readers who may be interested in attending should watch the SITE <http://site.aace.org>, TEFANZ <http://www.tefanz.org.nz>, and DEANZ <http://www.deanz.org.nz/> websites for further details.

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SITE 2013 report

During the week from 24 to 29 March I attended the 24th Annual Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) which was held in New Orleans. I was grateful for Faculty support, both financial and for time away to attend the conference. The necessities of travel resulted in some free time on the weekend prior to the conference when I was able to see some of New Orleans and a couple of nearby historic plantations. I have shared some photographs in a Flickr set for those who may be interested.

Despite my best intentions to prepare this report during the period of the conference and submit it by email on the way home that did not happen because I was busy during the conference and had a few other pressing tasks that needed to be completed before I returned to the office. I did manage to report on the conference as it happened by ‘live tweeting’ from the sessions that I attended. That material is conveniently collected on a website at http://eventifier.co/event/siteconf13/palbion and includes key points, images of key slides, and links to relevant sites. I find that live tweeting helps me to focus on the presentation and avoid losing concentration as a consequence of shifting timezones.

I was involved in 3 presentations during the conference. Re-visioning Teacher Preparation for Mobility: Dual Imperatives was co-authored with Romina Jamieson-Proctor, Petrea Redmond, and Wendy Fasso (CQU). It reported results from the DEHub funded project we completed last year and has been accepted with minor revisions for publication as one of about 25 chapters in the SITE Research Highlights book for 2013. A copy of the paper will be submitted to USQ ePrints but I am happy to provide a copy for anybody who wants one. The other two presentations were panels in which I participated in my role as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. In the first of those the associate editors of JTATE engaged in discussion with prospective authors about the journal focus and publication process. In the second I joined editors of other journals in the field for a short presentation and discussion with participants interesting in publishing work in the field.

In addition to presenting and attending presentations I was involved as JTATE Editor in meetings of the Consultative Council and SITE Executive and in a SITE Leadership meeting that elected the next President of SITE who will take office at the conference in 2014. I was also co-opted to assist with jading the poster presentations.

Each of the 4 days of conference began with a keynote. Day 1 was Milton Chen from the George Lucas Foundation who spoke about the issues addressed in his book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, primarily around the action that is needed for schooling to respond to changing times. The remaining keynotes all addressed global issues of equity from different perspectives. Paul Kim from Stanford University spoke about MOOCs from the perspective of the work he has done in developing countries and the MOOC he developed to around designing new learning environments to address some of the issues. Mariana Patru from UNESCO spoke about the developments in policy and practice required to build a digital-age teaching profession around the globe. Peter Dzvimbo from University of South Africa addressed the challenges for integrating ICT in teacher education and schooling in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the keynotes I was able to attend 2 significant invited presentations – one by former SITE President, Ann Thompson, about the past present and future of ICT in teacher education and another by Don Knezek, recently retired as CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, on the need for advocacy around ICT in teacher education.

Despite difficult economic conditions in the USA and elsewhere attendance at SITE was up this year with about 1300 attendees from 65 countries. Most of those had some involvement in one or more presentations so there were typically 12 or more choices available during parallel sessions. I managed to attend more than a dozen parallel sessions, each with 2 or 3 presentations. Topics included TPACK (measurement, necessary leadership conditions, video cases for development, development in secondary programs), mobile learning (mobile portfolios, mobile app for monitoring teaching practice), digital stories, action-oriented research, hybrid and online doctoral programs, and more. The full proceedings of SITE will be available through the Education and Information Technology Library database for those who may be interested in more detail. Expect that to take a week or two to become available.

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