Saturday, June 09, 2007

Technologies, learning and understanding

Well, our 5th Annual Conference on Teaching & Learning in Higher Education seems to have passed off relatively successfully. I've been busy blogging away on the conference site ( for the last few days and hence the absence here.

The keynotes and presenters in the parallel sessions touched on a wide range of issues around the broad theme of "Learning Technologies: from Pilot to Mainstream" which included all the 'usual suspects' of Web 2.0, Second Life, YouTube, etc, but also the linking thread was about what can be done in practice and hence the workshop sessions (provided by Netskills) and the focus on discussion in corridors and small groups around the coffee and posters.

The keynotes took a variety of perspectives, with Ray Land (Strathclyde) discussing the wider cultural context of 'fast time/slow time' and where learning and understanding fit into this new complex technological environment. Michael Kerres (Duisburg-Essen, Germany) gave us an overview of what is happening in some German universities where there is still a strongly traditional pedagogical approach that is potentially being challenged by technology, but where the uptake in mainstream terms is still rather low. Bill McDaniels, a technology enthusiast, if ever there was one, took a walk through some of the tools that are around the corner and in the process gave us a vivid picture of his own personal approach to technology, including its potential to check on whether his tenants are maintaining his swimming pool!

On day 2, Prof. Wim van Petegem (KU Leuven) who is the Chair of the Coimbra Group (of which NUI Galway is a member) Learning Technology Taskforce spoke about his own internal institutional structures, and very briefly highlighted the underlying educational philosophy of Leuven which is based on 'Guided Independent Learning.' His talk complemented that of the Director of Computer Services who introduced and chaired the session and allowed some focus on matters of operational service provision. In the afternoon, following a delayed flight and a nail-biting wait for a taxi, we were entertained, stimulated and enlightened by Prof. Stephen Heppell and his random walk through magnificent examples of technological innovation in education, with children designing their own schools, producing their own 'TV' stations and challenging preconceived notions of success and achievement. An excellent way to round off the event.

We'll pop the recordings we made of the keynotes online shortly, along with hosting extended discussion and debate on the conference blogsite.

In the meantime, here is an interview/discussion I had with Ray Land during one of the breaks in the conference in which he expands a little more on the ideas of 'threshold concepts' and 'troublesome knowledge'.

Click To Play
Links to issues Ray and I discuss

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