A Domain of “Our” Own

“Clarysse” By Sofie Muller flickr photo by cogdogblog https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/35013345241 shared into the public domain using (CC0)

From the first sip of coffee on Monday morning my brain was in put into high gear and stayed there except the brief hours of sleep in between. It’s Thursday and I still feel it. Words have been difficult to find – a feeling shared by many others who attended. For me it comes from not knowing what to call something new.

This is something new

Domains was the first conference where I felt a real connection – to the people, purpose, content and in a strange way the location. Having Domains at the 21C Museum Hotel was a masterstroke. The eclectic mix of art, installation and industrial rehabilitation was an amazing backdrop to the themes, practice and issues being discussed over the two days. (I’d love someone to write a post matching the artworks to sessions if anyone needs a prompt). That deep connection across those elements is something new.

Conferences don’t usually feel like that, they don’t engage with you on that level, they don’t give you energy. They’re usually draining events – both physically and mentally. You get stuck in sessions that a boring, you try and make space for yourself by skipping out and retreating from the crowds. That wasn’t the case at Domains 17. I went to everything, I sucked up every opportunity to learn more, I felt invigorated to go back and get more the next day. Even today I’m hanging out to find out other peoples impressions, to read their reactions and responses. That is something new.

It was a great thrill for me to connect with people in person. Finally catching up with people you’ve been circling for years, connecting with new and old friends and being in the presence of such a diverse group of amazing people is worth all the time and effort to fly halfway round the world. As someone who struggles to define my role and place in the world I felt more at home professionally than ever before. That’s something new.

There was a tangible sense of community at the event too, bought about by something that I think Kate Bowles would appreciate – hospitality. There was genuine care and concern demonstrated in the practices, decisions and choices on display – from the organisers through to the presenters and attendees. The whole event kicked off with the Domains Fair – a chance for people to share their practice and with time to engage, converse and discuss. This set the scene for the whole event. We were all there to learn from each other. No one was trying to sell us anything, make us feel stupid or inadequate, pull the rug out from under us, bring up petty differences or reignite long held rivalries and arguments. There was cohesion, attention and dialogue at the heart of everything across the two days. Even the failed attempt to do Karaoke. That was new too.

I’m not sure that this “newness” is a shared phenomenon – maybe it;s just my antipodean experience and naiveté – but those that I’ve spoken to have seem to have a shred enthusiasm for it. They too have been uplifted by the event and inspired to push themselves forward – ready to adopt new ideas, work hards to make improvements and are returning home with sack full of new knowledge and ideas from some of the best practitioners on the planet. I’m just a little flummoxed about where to begin, but beginnings are often the hardest part. That part’s nothing new.

Feature Image: “Clarysse By Sofie Muller” flickr photo by cogdogblog https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/35013345241 shared into the public domain using (CC0)


ascilite 2013 Conference Notes

Be aware that these are notes – not transcripts of talks. I tend to think about quite a lot during a good presentation (I don’t do “passive absorbtion” and I’m always processing and questioning as I go). The notes reflect this space that my mind operates in and should never be seen or treated as a transcript of an event

The Great Debate: The Dream of Technology-Assisted Learning Has Been Realised

I didn’t take too many notes from the debate – but I liked this line:

Technology seduces us like a medusa and pedagogically we turn to stone – Gregor Kennedy

Innovation via a thin LMS: A Middleware Alternative to the Traditional Learning Management System

Marc Wells, David Lefevre, Fotis Begklis

  • like the thin LMS concept
  • developed a hub for each “programme” – csu term = course or degree
  • first iteration was communication based
  • 2nd was integrating 3rd parties
  • 3rd fully replaced the LMS
  • thin LMS a middle ware solution
  • Integrates college systems & best in class technologies
  • student record
  • based on WordPress for the win!!!

Keynote – Learning from the Past

Professor Kay O’Halloran

  • Early definition of a computer was the person who made the calculations. Then It went on to become a tool. – Like the idea of people “being” the computer rather as a tool we use.  Performance of people becomes increasingly more important when calculating effectiveness of the technology!
  • software is a way of being
  • Computing has become about communicating, not calculating.
  • ‘World is awash with data – what’s lacking is an understanding of how we make meaning of it’
  • Technology should allows us to focus on the learning rather than the individual.
  • Side note – is there space for learning outside of research in #highered? Overwhelming focus on data & analysis – not experience
  • Edtech needs groups of experts working together. We can’t do it alone! Or is it multiple cultures rather than expertise? Kind of like cultures – it’s encompassing of a world view not just a job

Keynote – Understaing our Present

Gregor Kennedy

  • Learning is a social process. Interactions between people and artefacts.
  • Learning (regardless of theory) … results in cognitive change.
  • Current use of edtech usage matrix

  • Why teaching matters? Here some research perspectives. Bloom & Hattie

  • While teaching practice has become more student centred, #edtech usage is much more teacher centred.
  • Teachers don’t just put information in someone’s head, but based on that we emphasis Learning rather than teaching – Peter Steele
  • Interesting Model – Sage on the Stage > Guide on the Side > Plebs on the Web
  • Power of learning analytics is in improving teacher/learner and learner/learner interactions.
  • Thinking back the interactions Gregor mentioned – don’t think there was learner/data – should there be?
  • READ – Rod Sims – levels of interactivity 1994 & 1997

Symposium – How Open and Collaborative Can We Be?

–  Implementation challenges for open collaboration challenges
–  The semantic structures within institutions vary so much they are truly a language problem.
–  Do we need an academic equivalent of Esperanto to deal with collaboration?
–  Alignment and compatibility problems include credit levels and teaching periods too.
–  Institutions want to bottle content and own their students. Great point! Pity they haven’t realised theres no value in that! Value is in the ability to produce knowledge
– Openness is seen as a risky shift
– IT security is a huge issue – but perhaps open standards LTI could come to the rescue
– Openness tends to question what is valuable within an institution?
– Need to ensure you’re sharing the rationale – why are we doing this? What is the purpose?
– Another plus 1 for middleware to enable openness
– One core component of openness needs to answer the question – What is the purpose of the course? Extrinsic motivation – ie grades aren’t a good enough motivator for authentic or proactive learning.

Learning: Maˉori Advancement at AUT University

Associate Professor Pare Keiha

  • Getting the balance right in education. Balance in Education
  • The Maori notion of Ako. Ako
  • What if students produce assessments for their own communities, even their university, rather than the ephemera of a grade?
  • Awesome advice for those working in education – “start running now!”

Session – Re-imagining the university: Vibrant matters and radical research paradigms for the 21st century

Reem Al-Mahmood

  • The idea of the university ideological, specially and ethically has shrunk – Barnett
  • The holistic/relational nature is missing
  • Emerging ideas of the university Emerging Ideas
  • Utopian ideas of university Utopian Ideas
  • Ecological universities: one of one of my fav concepts Ecological Ideas
  • Would be interesting to see which of these fall into  administration, faculty and student categories or points of view.
  • equality of funding is the wrong starting point, we need to equalise access first.

Imagining the Future

Mark Pesce

  • It’s difficult to stop sharing and learning once you’ve formed that connection.
  • The new culture of shared knowledge – a good explanation of the present state
  • Sharing includes the good and the bad. That means sharing knowledge and stupidity.
  • The aakash tablet will provide a rich, connected and shared learning experience …. for $29
  • The educator is embedded in the environment. Not off to the side or in a bubble somewhere else.
  • Quality of education institutions will become dependant on the networks they can help their students build
  • Been thinking about this for a while – Student need to become a node supported by the  network they build
  • Networks tend to start from intent. They may grow and change but there is purpose and drive.
  • Connect. Share. Learn. Do.

Conference Snapshots

Some interesting ideas that came out during the conference.

Universities need to provide opportunities for academics to have informal and formal conversations about technology – @LucyArthurMQ

Can we stop lying – there is no “digital native”. There’s a skills deficiency, which can be remedied with gasp education. @timklapdor

Wonder if we can relabel this Conference Program > Conference Attendance INformation vs Knowledge

Mobile has become an appendage rather than a technology. @timklapdor

Love the idea of a senior manager being a groupie for their staff! 🙂 @debbiweaver
*about Pare Keiha’s approach to management

This was my favourite twitter exchange from the conference!


Finally links to some of my work related to the conference.

Presentation on our work on The Adaptive Digital Publishing Engine.

The related examples: COM123 web version, Proof of Concept web version  and the downloadable PDF and ePub files.

Presentation on the lessons learned from University wide iPad Trials

You can download the papers from the conference– including those related to the presentations above!

Find out more about the mLearn project and all the related documentation here: bit.ly/mlearnV2 or check out some of the [documentation on slideshare](http://www.slideshare.net/mlearn

Other Accounts of Ascilite

Sheila MacNeill has a couple of posts here and here

Andrew Spencer shared his ascilite experience here.

Teaching with Conferences

I love conferences.  There is something so enriching about being together with a bunch of unique but similarly interested people. My mind is switched on and usually turned up to 11 as I try to take in every new idea, concept, data point or fact. It’s invigorating and exhausting in equal measure, but I look forward to it every year.

2012 was a great year and my conference experience was  enhanced because I got to share for the first time.  I got to write papers and  get up and speak. I got to share my experiences, ideas and learning and show off some of the slides I’d crafted. I got to experience another side of conferences.

Conference attendance usually comes under the professional development category, but presenting gave me another viewpoint – it’s profession development too. For a couple of days you get to come together and discuss your profession, what you do, how your do it and then you share that with the hope of making a difference, not to you – but your colleagues.

In the act of coming together you can put aside competition, ego and business imperatives to make working in that industry better. I came across the phase “a shared problem deserves a shared solution” last year and I think that’s what conferences can provide – a common space to share solutions. I’ve been to conferences where we keep talking about the problems too, but in coming together the solutions actually begin to form. You see the problem from a different perspective, learn new ways of doing things and participate in generating ideas over coffee, lunch and dinner.

Conferences are about learning.

So it leads me to wonder – why aren’t conferences replicated in education?

If every academic and staff member is keen to go to a conference as part of their professional development why don’t we offer that experience to students? There must be pedagogical benefits to a conference that makes them so affective. Is it the format? The structure? Is it being together and sharing a space?

Mark Boulton uses some really lovely language to describe the aim of conferences: Nourishment. His ideas around giving back and the opportunity to be and work together really resonate with my experiences and my ideas around what education should aspire to do.

At a time where we are discussing blended and flexible learning options I think we should be looking at proven models to enable this. Rather than residential schools that attempt to replicate the on-campus experience, what about running them like a conference instead?

Bring students together to hear keynote quality presentations. Participate in the discussion around their profession. Engage and network with their peers. Share solutions through collaboration and working together. Eat, drink and interact around the ideas – not just just professional development – but development of the profession.

It’s time for Output

I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of months and the discussions going on around Educational Technology in all it’s forms and facets. The debates around the LMS, MOOCs, mobile, BYOD, social media, badges and the like have really shown that if anything the education – right through K-12 to higher ed – is in a state of flux. Through the current discussions what is becoming clear to me is that education is demonstrating a willingness to participate in the change. In the face of disruption the education sector is actually engaging change unlike the music, publishing and media sectors before it.

It’s coming up to November and its conference season for me. This year is going to be interesting as I’m actually presenting at all the conferences. For the first time I am an active participant in change, innovation and development. It is extremely satisfying personally and professionally. By the end of the year I will have project managed  a highly innovative program in mobile learning, been published three times, spoken at three conferences and through this blog and twitter had some amazing interactions with interesting and knowledgable people across the world. ( A shout out to @djplaner, @dajbelshaw, @marksmithers, @sthcrft)

Over the last couple of years my life has been heavy on the input – reading, absorbing and trying to gain an understanding. The output over the last year has been probably the defining difference professionally as I have actually been doing things rather than being passive, thinking, planning and it has filled me with a real sense of purpose that has pushed me through one of the busiest, demanding and rewarding times of my life. There is great reward coming from my professional life which is only surpassed by the satisfaction of being a dad.

It’s now output time on a grand scale and joining the dots and the threads. The conference presentations are not on airy-fairy topics – they are reflections on what has been done and what has been learnt. Over the next few weeks I will be feverishly trying to put ideas down into text and then into slides. I want to share some of those here on this blog and I welcome your feedback – so critique, comment, discuss, tweet and interrogate what you see and read!

Oh and those conferences:

CSUED (Internal Conference)

  • Speaking – “How to use mobile technology for engaging and successful learning and teaching”
  • Speaking – “mLearn: Lessons through exploration”
  • Digital Theatre Presentation – “Understanding Mobile”

HTML5 Symposium

  • Speaking – “Standing on the shoulders of giants: Improving Existing Systems With HTML5″


  • Speaking & Co-Authored Full Paper – “Knowing, Doing, Being: Conducting and Reporting on Educational Technology Research for Institutional Impact”
  • Speaking & Concise Paper – “Mobility makes us Agile and Lean: A New Paradigm for Institutional Projects”

I’ll post links to presentations/videos/papers once they’re up online.