SITE 2009

From 28 February – 8 March I travelled to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend the 20th International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). With around 1100 delegates representing at least 40 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, 3 March and ran until Friday, 6 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 12 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.

The presentations that I was involved with were scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. I presented a refereed paper co-authored with Jay Wilson of University of Saskatchewan and based on his EdD project which I had supervised. The second 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 good. Cristin Frodella (Product Marketing Manager, Google) spoke about “Erasing the Lines: Cloud Computing and the Digital Natives” with a focus on how applications on the network rather than individual computers can contribute to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Her presentation provided evidence of some of the new capability when, because snow prevented her making it to Charleston, she presented via Skype from her apartment bedroom in New York. Tom Carroll (President, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future) spoke on “Pathways to 21st Century Teaching” emphasising the need for teacher education to respond to an environment of continuing change by shifting from teacher preparation to education workforce development. He suggested that, of three things necessary for 21st century organisations, schools are good at cultural transmission, poor at adaptation and hostile to innovation, and noted that despite evidence in popular culture (such as the evolution from the solo Drs Kildare et al to the teams of ER et al) of a move towards working in teams as the norm, teaching remains largely standalone. Aaron Doering (University of Minnesota) spoke about “Designing for Learning: Engaging Students and Teachers from the Arctic to Australia” and demonstrated the benefits available from what he has styled as “adventure learning” with learners following the activities of expeditions around the world. Niki Davis (Professor of E-Learning, University of Canterbury College of Education, New Zealand) spoke about “The Co-Evolution of Information Technology and Education – It has to be Taught!” and presented an ecological view of the adoption of ICT in Education.

Other sessions of note for me covered such topics as 3D virtual worlds and simulations (relevant to my work on the ALTC grant), Web 2.0 tools in education, ePortfolios, digital storytelling, and online communities in teacher development. Each of these helped to fill in gaps in knowledge and/or identify new ideas that I need to consider more carefully.

The key ideas that I brought away from SITE that might have wider relevance for the faculty were mostly based around the keynotes delivered by Tom Carroll and Niki Davis. The first emphasised the need to shift our perspective from preparing teachers who may not remain in the profession with what we think they might need and towards ongoing development of the educational workforce as it responds to continuing change with a focus on working in teams rather than as individuals. The second emphasised 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.