Monday, 9 May 2016

Flexible Learning @ Middle Earth

Elf ears, hobbit holes, Gandalf and the launch of FLANZ...
As anticipated, the recent DEANZ conference was a great success, with record attendance, an inspired theme, smooth organisation, good humour and a whole lot of quality learning through a variety of keynotes, invited speeches, workshops, presentations, refereed papers, speed sessions, posters and informal networking.

Highlights included:

The opening keynote address by Professor Curt Bonk illustrated the changing realm of education, prioritising aspects of content creation and curation, creativity and the need for persistence and grit. Adventurous, personalised learning was to the fore, whilst the key challenges are around quality, copyright, plagiarism, and assessment.

To hear more from Curt, give this RNZ podcast a listen: "This is an age in which we blend" 

The Great Debate, on the moot: That online and face-to-face pedagogies are identical, was hotly contested amid generous doses of humour! On the affirmative side, the team argued for the necessity of key underpinning pedagogical principles that persist across online and face-to-face contexts: Relationships, feedback, effective design of learning opportunities - these are important whether one is learning online or face-to-face.

The negative team's stance presented the ideal of blended learning, contending that online and face-to-face pedagogies are different and can be complementary. Blending the best elements of both is the way forward for quality pedagogy, and it doesn't make sense to blend identical ingredients in any good cocktail.

To focus my experiences at the conference, I selected sessions related to ePortfolios and eMentoring in order to consolidate and grow my understandings around these learning tools and processes. It was exciting to learn of the application of these ideas to medical personnel - as eportfolios are used in nursing education, and rural doctors are collaborating throughout the pacific region. I learned about virtual mentoring occurring via the VPLD with teacher participants, mainly from the school sector. And my collaborator, Dr Richard Walker from the University of York beamed in for a presentation of our York-Waikato peer mentoring scheme for online teachers in the tertiary sector.

My favourite new insight came courtesy of Stephen Harlow's reminder that elearning is environmentally-friendly learning, due to the lower carbon footprint of students who study at a distance from campus.

In terms of practical takeaways from the conference, I'm off to play with eTV and Zaption next, and to review my new copy of Maggie Hartnett's book.

The conference hashtag ran hot, creating a vicarious learning opportunity for those who could not make it to middle earth physically.

The conference dinner at Hobbiton, combined with a moonlit tour of the shire was second to none.And here are some shots of that experience:

Awards were presented to ...
Postgraduate awards sponsored by Wilf Malcolm Institute of Education:

  • Amina Adam: Best postgraduate paper
  • Tahani Alahmadi and Steve Drew: Runner up postgraduate paper

Stephen Bright: Best refereed paper
DEANZ award winners:

  • Donna Dyer for a Mobile Builders - Carpentry App
  • Rachel Whalley for VLNZ (virtual learning network)
  • Lifetime DEANZ Award: Andrew Higgins
  • JOFDL best paper award went to Elaine Khoo

The poster award, by popular vote, went to this poster:

The conference signalled the end of DEANZ and the beginning of FLANZ...

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