Now that I have been home a couple of days, I have reflected on what the ASCILITE 2007 conference meant for me. For one thing, it was very successful because it was a culmination of nearly a year's work with my mentor in which we wrote and presented a paper about designing an e-mentoring system. The other big stand out is that I caught up with a friend, and I learnt more about what it means to live in Singapore.
As for the conference itself, there was no one presentation that really stands out. The value of the conference for me was more about giving me time to reflect on my own teaching and research practice, and consider ways of incorporating e-learning into my teaching. The main thing that came across was that I should take every opportunity to research and evaluate all e-learning interventions that I use. This will be one way of increasing my research outputs without having to worry about getting involved with huge research programs - a cheap, convenient way of carrying out research. And, obviously it goes without saying that evaluation of teaching techniques is crucial to the success of an education program.
The key word of the conference was 'scaffolding'. This term denotes the resources and supports that are put in place to support students in their learning, and is key to e-learning techniques. The more scaffolding that is put in place, particularly with an e-learning activity, the more successful that activity will be.
A major theme of the conference which goes along with that of scaffolding is getting students to engage with e-learning in a meaningful way. Time and time again presenters said that the only way they could get students to engage with e-learning in a way that produced work of both quality and quality was to attach marks to the work. I find this really depressing - surely students enter higher education to learn, using whatever means is necessary? Having said that, maybe students are telling us that e-learning is not effective as it cannot attract student attention without bribing them? But thinking about face-to-face classroom teaching, do students not say the same - I have heard students say that they will only attend classes if they are connected to assessment. So what does that say about our education programs? Are students really learning anything? How can teachers overcome that attitude? How can we encourage the notion of lifelong learning to people who only see learning as a means to a certificate? Answers please on a postcard and send to......
So this begs two questions about my e-mentoring research: how effective is the scaffolding I have put in place and how can I promote the valuing of this means of professional development and learning when there is no discernible reward in the form of a certificate or qualification?
On a less serious note, I got to go to M&S which for an English ex-pat was a highlight. But my goodness, hasn't the price of knickers gone up (only ex-pats will understand the reference to M&S knickers)?!