Monday, August 09, 2010

After the conference: Back in Mexico City

The conference in Aguascalientes was one of the "best feel" conferences we have ever attended. It was as though everyone there had a mind to celebrate their shared interests and to actively seek to build in constructive and expansive ways on what was being presented. There was an excellent diversity of papers and the setting was excellent. The Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes provided extremely generous support for the conference. In his contribution to the opening session the Rector of the university identified literacy as a foremost equity issue, and it seemed clear that his university's support for the conference was grounded very much in that consideration.

Our second keynote on the theme of digital literacies and learning grounded in research mediated by Web 2.0 resourcesseemed to be well received and conversation went on a long time after we had finished. There was also some pleasant book signing to be done, and then it was into the final session, ahead of a wonderful paella meal, and then the jaunt to the airport and the 50 minute flight back to MagicTown -- this wonderful chaotic city that keeps you on your toes.

Our presentation included some examples of student novice media production. We were describing how we introduce learners organised in teams to conducting research by getting them to create a digital media artifact from scratch in an area they have no knowledge of. Basically, they are on their own, with help from the internet and a few recommended resources. Their task is to get a sense of what insiders to the practice in question identify as good artifacts of that kind and to work out how to conceive and create such an artifact. They learn "hands on", and have a week (30 face to face connected hours, plus whatever they get done in the evenings) to learn how to do it and to generate their artifact. All the while they are doing this they are simultaneously learning in a hands on way how to collect good quality observed, written and spoken data about their learning. This generates a data set which they subsequently analyse within the process of writing a formal report of their research, assisted by various templates, other "on demand" resources, and collaborative writing using google docs (and with continuous feedback from us while they are doing their writing).

The talk included presentations of some of the media creations, as well as indicative visuals of pages of colour coded field notes, pages from written reports, approaches to organising and analysing data, stretches of collaborative writing and so on.

For me, one of the best moments in the talk came from watching the audience appreciation of a sand animation (a stop motion video animation made using sand and lights) created by one of last year's groups in response to a poem written by one of the team members. None of the group had any prior experience of sand animation, but in a week of sustained work were able to put together a short work -- The Escape -- that came across beautifully on the big screen.

The next task will be to write the talk up as a book chapter, and that will keep us off the busy streets for some time.

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