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.

The first presentation on Tuesday was a 2 hour symposium in which we presented outcomes from EDUsummIT 2015, which I attended in Bangkok last September. EDUsummIT comprised 9 working groups. Jo Tondeur (Belgium), Alona Forkosh-Baruch (Israel), and I were responsible for leading TWG3 on professional development for technology enhanced learning. Alona was unable to attend SITE this year and Jo was busy with another presentation at SITE so I presented on behalf of the group. Jo was able to participate in the discussions in the second hour. Our presentation was a short summary of the report produced for the EDUsummIT eBook.

The second presentation was of a paper co-authored with doctoral student, Wu Ting, and members of the RALfie group about the potential of remote access laboratories (RAL) for alleviating pre-service teachers’ anxiety about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The slides for the presentation are available on Slideshare.

The third presentation was part of an international symposium arranged by Jo Tondeur with presentations from Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, and Australia. My offering, Walking the talk: Going online as a trigger for more authentic use of ICT in teacher preparation, looked at the changes in outcomes for undergraduate pre-service teacher education students at USQ from 2009 until 2011 and considered the possible causes and implications. The slides for my presentation are available on Slideshare and Jo has put the full set of presentations on ResearchGate.

My fourth and final presentation was co-authored with David Jones and Amanda Heffernan. Our paper, Mapping the digital practices of teacher educators: Implications for teacher education in changing digital landscapes, investigated our different approaches to working with ICT tools in our teaching practice at USQ. That paper won an award from the TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) SIG, which was presented during the SIG meeting in the Tuesday lunch break. David has uploaded the slides for the presentation on Slideshare.

The keynotes at SITE 2016 were interesting, relevant, and sometimes provocative. On Tuesday Marc Prensky, best known for the long discredited digital natives/immigrants metaphor, spoke about his views on how education should change from Plan A to Plan B for a better world. On Wednesday Larysa Nadolny from Iowa State spoke about game-based learning. The Thursday keynote featured Bob Hirshon from the American Association for the Advancement of Science on how universal design principles can consider variability rather than disability and improve access for all. On Friday Yuhyon Park spoke about a digital citizenship initiative being rolled out in Singapore, Korea and more widely. In addition to the keynotes I attended a variety of other sessions. My succinct reactions to the various sessions I attended can be found in this Storified version of my Twitter stream.

What does any or all of that mean for our work at USQ? Prensky’s meme about digital natives and immigrants based on age differences has been shown to have no basis in fact and there appears to be no real evidence that the brains of young people are being ‘wired’ differently by exposure to technology though all of us are probably more distracted than we used to be. Rather than natives and immigrants, David, Amanda and I drew on the digital residents and visitors idea (and on some ideas about digital renovation) that David and I have played with. What Prensky had to say about Plan B for education with focus on bettering the world through accomplishment rather than achievement has some appeal but is essentially a repackaging of ideas dating back at least as far as Dewey and represented in project based learning, challenge based learning, and similar movements. There is value in those ideas and some shift in that direction might be considered in our current work on program revisions. Game based learning is another pedagogical variation that should receive attention in our program, both for the contribution it might make in teacher education and its potential for use by graduates in their own classrooms. The ideas from the other keynotes, universal design and digital citizenship, should also be considered in our program design to enhance the quality of the program and to develop necessary capabilities in our graduates.

My own presentation in the symposium arranged by Jo Tondeur presented evidence for a marked improvement in our PSTs preparation for working with ICT that occurred as we reintroduced an ICT pedagogy course (removed in the 2003 reaccreditation) and took the program online. It is arguable how much of the improvement stemmed from one or the other change but the evidence should give us pause when considering program design. Some of the specialisations are proposing to drop the ICT pedagogy course in favour of integration, a strategy that even proponents of the 2003 removal now accept might have been flawed. If we do go down that track then there will be a need to develop effective strategies to ensure that the integration of ICT occurs in practice and not just in theory. One path to that might be to adopt the Teacher (Educator) Design Teams approach promoted by Jo in the same symposium. The ideas shared in the presentation with David and Amanda are also worth consideration in our program development work and we intend pursuing those further over the coming months.

There is probably much more that we could glean from the presentations at SITE 2016. The proceedings will soon be available on LearnTechLib and would repay a quick search on key words of interest.

On the Tuesday I attended the meeting of the SITE Consultative Council which comprises (former) SITE presidents and (former) editors of SITE publications. I was pleased to accept nomination to the newly established International Advisory Board for the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education for which I was Editor from 2012 until 2015. I was also appointed to an ad hoc committee which met later in the week to consider some ethical issues. That work is ongoing for now.

I arrived in Savannah late Saturday night to discover that the city was crowded with visitors celebrating St Patricks Day. That early arrival allowed me some time to get around the city on Sunday and Monday, absorb enough sunshine to adjust my body clock prior to the conference, and capture some photographs of the historic and charming city. I have shared some photos in an album on Flickr.