Monday, October 24, 2005

Northern Exposure

Last week we attended the annual conference hosted in Oslo by ITU - The Network for IT - Research and Competence in Education, where we presented the opening plenary address on Digital Literacies: Policy, Pedagogy and Research Considerations for Education. It was the usual routine of nerves, sleepless nights before the event, and the same old 'why did we ever agree to do this?' angsting we've come to know so well. The same old 'This is going to be the last talk'.

And the same old experience of all the nerves going and the fun beginning as the first slide hits the screen and the sound system proves to be as good as one could possibly have hoped for. The paper actually works for this audience, even though we have worried beforehand that the stuff will be as old and familiar to them as it is for us.

Scratch a plenary, I guess.

And, of course, as soon as it is over you know you are really glad to be here. The audience has been receptive, the hospitality is overwhelming, the papers are interesting, and the participants are doing things you wish you were part of yourself. New opportunities open up for research and publishing collaborations. And you get that sinking feeling that you probably would do it again. Well, maybe once more. Definitely not more than that.

Seriously, it was a great week, for all sorts of reasons. It was a real privilege to hear Avril Loveless and Lawrence Lessig present their papers, and to find out about the rich cutting edge work being done by ITU researchers. It was particularly interesting to experience the ITU phenomenon: a research institute established to produce work that policy makers actually listen to and take some leads from. The week before the conference we were archiving Jim Gee's paper on 'the projective stance' in digital gaming for an upcoming issue of E-Learning. In this paper Jim talks about how certain games provide players with opportunities to players to enact the projective stance of an ‘authentic professional’, thereby experiencing deep expertise of the kind that so widely eludes learners in school. The following week we learn of a game developed at ITU and currently being trialled in France, whereby players enter the professional world of biotechnology, and resolve to check it out with Jim's argument in mind.

Flying over I read a small article in the Wall Street journal about Norway's new centre-left government that had just taken office the day before, and how one of its first measures was to announce the withdrawal of Norway's troop participants in Afghanistan and Iraq. That generated an upbeat mood ahead of the work ahead. But what I found most intriguing was the experience of flying to Europe for a conference from the circumstance of being a northern hemisphere 'resident'. It was the first time I had ever done that. I was knocked over by how easy it seemed. Well, I had flown from Montreal, so there was not the same kind of 'security experience' one endures out of major US airports. So that made it quick and easy at the front end. And en route itself there was the ease of 'moving through' the EU. Into Paris and a 5 minute breeze through Immigration. Walk a few hundred metres to the next terminal, then walk directly onto the flight through another very short security queue. Onto the plane, 2 hours to Oslo, no immigration or customs, out the door and onto the express train -- well, there was a 5 minute wait.

For anyone who has spent their life flying anywhere from the Antipodes, the ease of such passages must seem as amazing as it did to me. I mean, you can't even get to Singapore from the Antipodes in that time. And you'd typically only be going there in order to be going somewhere else that will take a further 12-15 hours. To say that I had to wrestle with something of a 'ripped off' feeling would be to put it mildly. Coming back there was barely time to watch the Bob Dylan DVD (2 disks) and Pearl Jam's New York Concert from last year's tour, and it was all over.

Mind you, it's a kind of 'truncated inconvenience' one could easily learn to live with.

What would doubtless be more challenging lay in the fact that yesterday was 23 October -- and it was snowing en route to the airport. And while Oslo's exposure is a little extreme, there is a lot of the North that still finds it a good idea to freeze for 4 months of the year.

Which is one reason I'm kind of looking forward to that flight to Cairns at the end of the month ...

Oh, to be in the jet set! Sounds like you're having ... fun?
I wouldn't call it exactly fun, Scott, but it's never less than interesting. I hope to get a chance over the next while to write a bit about Lessig's talk -- and his interesting use of a rapid fire click click click slide show.
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