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.

My involvement in SITE this year was reduced in comparison to some previous years when I have been part of various committees. I’ve stepped out of those roles but was still involved in a few sessions.

I attended a series of 3 sessions related to the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies project for which I have been one of 18 members of the Delphi panel. That project was initiated at SITE last year and involved 6 rounds of responses for the panel to produce 12 competencies with associated criteria. They are now being passed through an open vetting process for feedback by a broader range of potential users.

I participated in a symposium related to the second edition of the International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education which is being prepared for publication in 2018. With Jo Tondeur from Belgium I am co-editing the 7 chapter section on professional learning and development of teachers. The symposium was intended to provide an opportunity for feedback from potential users of the handbook and for discussion among the section editors who were able to attend.

As a former editor and current reviewer for the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, I participated in a session run by current editor, Rick Ferdig, to assist prospective authors. It was well attended and should assist the journal by enabling authors to better uderstand and respond to the expectations of publishable papers.

My substantial presentation at SITE 2017 was the paper, Open educational practice and preservice teacher education: understanding past practice and future possibilities, co-authored with David Jones, Chris Campbell, and Janice Jones. The slides used in my presentation are available on Slideshare. Our paper received an award as an outstanding paper which was an especially gratifying way to finish my association with SITE.

I hadn’t planned to attend SITE in 1998 because my co-author on my first SITE paper, Ian Gibson, was living in the USA and was going to attend. That plan changed when we received the news that we had picked up an outstanding paper award and I hastily made arrangements to attend. I’m pleased to have bracketed 20 years of SITE attendance with award winning papers and to have collected 6 more along the way (1999, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016). 

As I have done for several conferences in recent years, I tweeted out of SITE as a strategy for remaining alert (mostly) out of my time zone and generating a record of attendance at sessions. That record is probably most easily accessed as my Storified version of my Twitter stream. It is a personal view of what I found notable so unlikely to be a thorough summary of any session but it may be of interest.

The keynotes at SITE this year mostly addressed STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in relation to education. The partial exception was the Thursday keynote from SITE President Elect, Denise Schmidt-Crawford, who encouraged us to look to teacher educators who inspire. She modeled that by sharing her keynote slot with 3 others who had interesting stories to tell about their work as teacher educators with technology.

On Monday, Leah Buechley challenged the inclusiveness of STEM by drawing attention to the preponderance of ‘rich white guys’ in most representations of STEM, including the Maker movement. She pointed to the rich threads of mathematical and other STEM knowledge in craft activities such as crochet and knitting and encouraged a broader view of what we value in relation to STEM which is all around us but selectively valued. She also challenged the STEM Monster, the misguided promotion of STEM over other disciplines, arguing that we need cultural connections to humanise STEM.

On Tuesday, Charles Miller recounted his personal experiences as an engineer, educator and designer. He began with comments about student voice and a video of kids talking about their experiences with technology. His presentation included a variety of memorable phrases: a motivated kid is a rocket, add fuel and wait; student voice continuum: inclusion, integration, transformation, empowerment; simplicity = subtract the obvious and add the meaningful. His major achievement/contribution is Flipgrid, which can be used by educators to support private discussion among groups with video clips and other media.

On Thursday, Troy Cline from the NASA STEM Innovation Lab presented about the experiences offered through that facility. He recounted some of his own life story realted to interest in space and demonstrated some of the interactive tools offered by NASA with some emphasis on viewing the August 2017 total eclipse as it crosses the USA. His description of that has me looking for a total eclipse that I may be able to access on my post-retirement travels.

SITE 2017 had a lot more to offer in ideas. These are a few of the highlights that caught my attention. There are some more in my tweets and the papers will soon be available online at LearnTechLib for those interested in knowing more.