SITE 2008

From 1 – 9 March I travelled to Las Vegas to attend the 19th International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). With around 1350 delegates representing at least 40 countries, this was one of the best attended and the most international SITE conferences I have attended since my first SITE conference in 1998. I am grateful to the faculty for support to attend the conference and especially to my colleagues in the FOE1000 team (Catherine Arden, Henriette van Rensburg, Penny Green, Sarah Davey Chesters, Andy Yeh and Peter Evans) who kept the course moving along in my absence.

The conference proper started on Tuesday, 4 March and ran until Friday 7 March. My first involvement was with the executive meeting that I attended on Monday as a SITE Vice-President and Chair of a council that comprises 10 special interest groups. My executive responsibilities required me to attend (briefly) each of the SIG meetings held on Tuesday and Wednesday, chair the council meeting on Tuesday evening, and attend the leadership council meeting on Thursday evening.

All three of the presentations that I was involved with were scheduled for Tuesday, so that was a busy day. I presented two refereed papers. The first was based on some work being done in the ALIVE / Web3D Exchange project being undertaken at USQ with Carrick Institute funding. The second was co-authored with my daughter, Hannah, and was based on the project work she completed for her MEd at USQ. The third presentation was a session conducted with the editor and other associate editors of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education for which I am an associate editor.

The four daily keynotes this year were all very good. Barbara Means spoke about the analysis of instructional artefacts as a strategy for evaluation and professional development. She made some strong points about the advantages of authentic assessment as compared to sometimes facile pencil and paper tests and described approaches being developed to make such assessment more achievable. Gerald Knezek spoke as incoming president of SITE with a strong message about how teacher education needs to have a global perspective and how SITE might contribute to that agenda. The double act by Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler was the smash hit of the conference. Using their work on technological, pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) as background, they spoke about the “wicked problem” of teaching and the need for teachers to be creative in designing learning experiences. Their keynote is now available online and is worth viewing both for their creative use of the PowerPoint medium and the content, which is highly relevant to the development of our new programs. The final keynote on Friday was given by Antonio Battro from the One Laptop Per Child program and looked at the experience of the OLPC program which is now being rolled out in several countries. We in Australia, and especially in teacher education, need to give some thought to how education in our country might respond to developments in which, within a year or two, every school child in Chile will have a personal laptop from Year 5 or so.

Other sessions of note for me covered such topics as ICT standards (the revised ISTE NETS), e-portfolios, 3D online environments, and LAMS. Each of these helped to fill in gaps in knowledge and/or identify new ideas that I need to consider more carefully.

Key ideas that I brought away from SITE that might have wider relevance for the faculty were:

  • Comments from US presenters that their teacher shortage might result in effective out-sourcing of teaching by bringing in teachers prepared elsewhere. The Phillipines was mentioned as one prospective source where programs are already gearing up by preparing teachers to work in China with the US market seen as more demanding but achievable. Are there opportunities for us, direct into the US market or via partnerships?
  • The impact that technology (ICT), especially when it is ubiquitous as in the OLPC program, has on the nature of teaching and assessment and how our programs might respond.