MELBOURNE, MARCH 26 - 28, 2002

In all honesty, for me there was very little that was new. It was great to see a lot of people again - there now really does seem to be an Australian WebCT 'community' in feeling and not just a coincidental group of users. People now seem to be consolidating what they already know and improving existing product and services, and concentrating on blended learning. While not terribly exciting (the significant shift away from 100% remote online learning was already apparent last June in Vancouver) this may be a good sign; far more people now seem to be more aware of what constitutes good elearning design and practice.

Keynote speaker Dale Spender thought she was being quite 'heretical' but drew little response from conference participants. I had the feeling this was because she was preaching to the converted and many present actually agreed with what she was saying and weren't particularly challenged by her notions of student centred learning.

Day 2 Summary

The day began with Dale Spender eloquently urging us to ensure that our use of the new technologies is student focused. Or as one delegate not quite so eloquently expressed it in another session later in the day: "Using traditional models of delivery with new tools is just dumb." It's time to put technology in the background she said. She asked if learning should be fun, or a discipline, and was suggesting I think that if want to be successful as a secondary school teacher these days you need to have a mobile phone that vibrates. Knowledge is no more best kept in your head, so soon does it becomes out of date, and there is simply too much of it. The shelf life of content today is reduced, and yet many schools still insist on everyone doing the same thing at the same time with content 150 years old.

But certainly not all schools. Sitting in on the session on The School of the Air I realised that the School of the Air had become the virtual school of the air - a crazy notion really and it made me think. School of the Air was always virtual. Radio has always been one of its tools, but it was never thought of as cool, or virtual.

In the following session I learnt what Dale Spender really meant about keeping technology in the background. It was simply impossible to have a debate when a line of pc's prevented us seeing people on the other side of the barrier in the room next door. A useful discussion on virtual classrooms nevertheless.

The cheeky Peter Robertson from Kangan Batman TAFE began his session on Developing Online Communication support by blithely asserting that Flexible Delivery is just another name for Online Learning. There was much shaking of heads in the audience but Peter ignored them. By his own admission he would rather teach monkeys than teachers anyway. Peter had recently been bush and brought back the news we all needed to hear. Aboriginal Australians had told him that we're all just pushing another tool (that is, the Internet) that will perpetuate inequality. Maybe Toolboxes is what they need Peter??? However, WebCT staff will be pleased to know that Peter announced that the state of Victoria is now wedded to WebCT. Perhaps that's why this conference was moved east this year………

Like the School of the Air, Sevenoaks Senior College in the West is another institution answering Dale's call for more student based learning. Students there have flexible t/tables, and the school is fortunate to have a pc to student ratio of 1:2.

Like Dale Spender, John Hibbs seemed to be inviting us all to be something more than teachers passively accepting traditional ways. He urged us to aim high. Stand tall. Be as big as Russell and Nicole even and aim for our own Oscar awards in education. Let Global Learn Day be our world stage he said.

Later I sat pondering the curious course title of Human Science Movement in Phillipa Sturgess' session on Problem Based Learning. I think that's the thing that used to be called Sport. Once I'd sorted that out, I realised that here was yet another course that was responding to Dale's early morning call to student centred learning. So Dale, all is not despair. After yesterday, the educational world doesn't seem to be in too bad a shape actually. So much so that I think I might just give myself a break when I get home tonight and spend the evening in front of the box watching some Human Science Movement.


Before things got too serious...........

The night before things got underway a few of us went out to dinner in St Kilda. Dan Volchok (WebCT) was here on his first trip to Australia. Amonst other things, this night he told how his father's work (his father has been dead 15 years now) is now appearing on the Web. Next to Steve Roberts, WebCiTe founder, and one who needs no introduction in WebCT circles in Australia.
Michell Lamberson (WebCT) was back again for her third trip out to Oz.
John Hibbs, founder of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education, and one of the movers behind Global Learn Day, looks relaxed and unconcerned about the complications of the following days.
Yours truly obviously enjoying himself. Barbara Ross (WebCT Chief Operating Officer) sits next to Michael, and Dr Midi Cox (also from the Benjamin Franklin Institiute of Global Education) on the other side of the table in blue.