Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Conferences "Down Under"

I am now stateside, after spending more than two weeks in Australia, ending with the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Auckland. The ASCILITE conference in Brisbane was an interesting experience. I led a "Learning Circle" at the end of each of the first two days of the conference, focusing on ePortfolios and Digital Storytelling. We asked the participants on the first day to do a "fast write" with their reflections on the conference themes. After collecting their brief jottings, a few came up right away and audio recorded their reflections. The next day, we shared what had been collected so far, recorded a few more, and talked about illustrating the reflections with images. On the last day, we recorded the last of the audio clips, gathered as many images as we could, and then constructed most of two different digital stories in about three hours. In the plenary session on the last day, I showed both stories, even though one was not quite complete. While not the way I would prefer to put together digital stories, I learned what could be done under pressure!

On the following two days, I led workshops at QUT, including a half-day digital storytelling workshop. I was surprised that quite a few of the participants developed one-to-two minute stories that they recorded, after our very short hands-on activity. At least eight people had time to write a brief story and have it recorded.

On Monday, I was in Auckland, providing the opening keynote to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference. This meeting was organized by Eifel, as an extension of their conferences in Europe and last year in Melbourne. Although there were about 60 participants, and the conference only lasted a day and a half, it was a very good conference, one of the best ePortfolio conferences that I participated in. I thought there was a lot of opportunity for dialogue, built into the program and during breaks. On the second day, I shared a session on Digital Storytelling with a professional developer from Australia.

We decided to make the session somewhat interactive and hands-on. After demonstrations of a few digital stories, we asked the participants to spend five minutes doing a short reflection on the conference so far. We then had about a half hour to record their reflections. I have five people who recorded 30 second to one minute reflections. The other person recorded directly into PhotoStory. We played the clips at the end of the conference in the plenary session.

I was skeptical when we planned the ASCILITE activity, but it worked so well that I did a briefer version at the ePortfolio conference. Now, Eifel has some audio to add to their website about the conference. I think it also helped the participants see how the process works within a reflective portfolio framework. Oh, yes, and my new microphone was a great hit and worked beautifully with Sound Studio and with the one Windows computer I hooked it up to during my hands-on workshop in Adelaide. However, it did not work with my version of Audacity for the Mac. Hmmmm....


artichoke said...

I am interested that your tightly scheduled reflective time produced such empathic and connected digital stories. Do you think that we give too much time over to reflection or digital story making, in our classrooms - that perhaps there might be no direct relationship between the time given to the activity and the quality of the digital reflection.

Perhaps Socrates' "The unexamined life is not worth living" has become "The examined life is not worth too much classroom time" in the context of the digital story. With the rider that we are judging the value of the activity through the digital product constructed.

eportfolios said...

Keep in mind that these were highly motivated adults, who wrote very brief reflections, and only a small percentage were actually recorded. In the ASCILITE example, we recorded only a small number of the total turned in. I believe we do not give enough time to reflection in our classrooms, perhaps because so few teachers know how to facilitate it well. I think the value is in the process, not in the product.

artichoke said...

I think the value is in the process, not in the product.

Think you are right Helen, but a helpless predilection for product over process, sees students/ parents and oftentimes schools seeking product for a validation of the time spent. Suspect this might be behind some of our current affection for story telling in a digital context.

You travel and connect with educators across the world - I am interested in what think will be our next (e)muse - our next use of ICT as a trigger for enhancing reflective thought - will it remain through narrative?