This week colleagues Tanya Rose, Chris Froissard, Vanessa Todd and I travelled up to picturesque Toowoomba to attend the ASCILITE17 Conference (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education), hosted by the University of Southern Queensland. What really stood out across the 3 days were the concepts of simplicity, humanity and connection. While this conference is about educational technologies and initiatives at the forefront of the sector, despite the new players, devices and platforms, enduring principles remain at its heart – putting students first, technology to serve great pedagogy and making sure we’re not losing the humanity within digital discovery. The theme for the year was ‘Open’, with Retain, Reuse/Repurpose, Revise, Remix and Redistribute being the touchstone principles (as well as the inspiration for the conference dinner attire!).


James Arvanitakis keynote address

Day one’s key note address was from Professor James Arvanitakis, whose main proposition was “education is always about good pedagogy and technology is there to support that, it does not lead it” – any new technology being introduced is there to serve a connection between “humans sharing an experience of discovery”. He outlined the concept of behavioural pedagogy – coming to understand the psychological, social, cognitive and emotional factors that impact the learning choices of students, which can inform the delivery of teaching. The bottom line is

“the educator needs to want to be there”

in the teaching and Arvanitakis suggested some guiding conditions to improve digital engagement with students:

  1. Make it as interactive as possible – ask questions, make it a requirement for them to engage and participate.
  2. Build student networks – invite the students to join you in designing and creating the content, understanding what are the types of things that work for them.
  3. Improve design – it has to aesthetically appeal – students are used to beautiful design. (Work with the talented learning designers across the MQ L&T community to tweak interfaces, assessments, links, navigation, bit by bit).
  4. Teaching is driven by pedagogy, not technology. Technology is there to assist what you want to do with the pedagogy.
  5. Be creative and make it fun – storytelling is the most powerful cultural element in every society across the world, so tell great stories.


Marita Cheung, 2012 Young Australian of the Year, founder of Robogals and technology entrepreneur was day two’s keynote speaker. What impressed me about Marita was her resilience, her ability to keep going after a series of knock backs and her humanity in developing technology to help where it’s needed most – she makes simple robots and artificial intelligence and AR to help increase mobility and ease for people with disability.


Amber Case Keynote Address

Day three’s keynote was Amber Case, a cyborg anthropologist who unpacked the concept of Calm Technology. Tanya Rose will expand on Amber’s talk in next week’s Teche edition, but for me, I was struck by her statement “technology shouldn’t require all of our attention, just some of it, and only when necessary”. The best technologies are those that empower the periphery and should be understandable, simple and well-designed, particularly using the senses for signalling (think about the efficiency of a traffic light). Ed Tech is about amplifying learning and the humanity within that learning.


Chris Froissard at Ascilite17

A major theme across the conference this year was Learning Analytics. Macquarie Faculty of Arts Senior Learning Designer Chris Froissard presented on the MEAP pilot and there were at

Vanessa Todd presenting her poster

least 9 sessions covering the various aspects of gathering and using student engagement data meaningfully and effectively. MQ Learning Advisor Vanessa Todd also presented a poster on Studywise Intensive, an online module supporting students struggling in their studies, designed to revise key academic literacy skills and habits of mind.

(a reflection on the overall conference experience)

What’s so great about coming together at conferences like this is that it made me appreciate more fully the Herculean effort so many educators, learning designers, learning advisors and myriad L&T professionals put in to ensure educators and students engage meaningfully and effectively with Ed Tech. Chris Froissard reflected, “ASCILITE17 reminded me that we are all struggling with the same challenges in education, engagement, feedback and a host of others, and that there is a body of educational professionals that are willing to share their insights and creative solutions. We should reach out to other professionals beyond the walls of Macquarie to improve teaching and learning”

Check out the Twitter feed #ascilite17 for great insights, links and discussion threads, explore the conference papers and posters and reach out to the authors and contributors of these papers – all those I met are keen to collaborate, discuss, debate and consolidate effort to achieve our shared aim – to deliver outstanding teaching using technology and tools that best serve the current student and their environment.

[On a side note, I was very pleased to have won the conference “Click Game” (and thanks to conference organisers for the cool Go Pro Hero 5 – which I will certainly put to good use!). The game was to snap 122 images across the 3 days based on various stimuli, e.g. photos of “You with a student volunteer”, interpretations of the 5 Rs, visualisations of the “Internet of things”. It was a great way to foster engagement and collaboration through the conference and a great way to meet people!]

Geraldine and student volunteers

Batmobile, made out of 3D printed materials

Geraldine and James Arvanitakis, who incidentally, taught me in my undergrad at UTS

presentation on Learning Analytics

Posted by Geraldine Timmins

I was Communications and Engagement Lead for the Learning Innovation Hub 2017 - 2018 and Teche Editor during that time.

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