Electric Dreams - 2013 ascilite conference, Sydney Australia, 1-4 December

Keynote Speaker Abstracts

Kay O’Halloran Learning from the Past Mon, 13:00 - 14:00
Gregor Kennedy Understanding our Present Tues, 09:00 - 10:00
Pare Keiha M-Learning: Māori Advancement at AUT University Tues, 14:00 - 14:45
Sorel Reisman Educational Technology:  The Impossible Dream? Wed, 09:00 -09:45
Mark Pesce Imagining the Future Wed, 13:30-14:30

NB: All keynote papers are delivered in the main conference venue, the Macquarie Theatre.

Kay O'Halloran Learning from the Past

Kay L. O’Halloran
School of Education
Curtin University of Technology

To view Kay's biography, visit the keynote speakers page.

While Electric Dreams [movie] may be more memorable for the music at its core, it remains a time capsule of a society that was on the verge of a technological revolution, but not entirely sure what that would mean yet. (http://www.thereelbits.com/2011/09/16/80s-bits-electric-dreams/)

In this presentation, I examine the relationship between computers, the individual and society, reflecting on how our lives have changed as a result of the advances in digital computing and the subsequent onset of the information age. Such technological advances have also had a significant impact on tertiary education, which is now positioned as a major player in the global corporate market. From this perspective, what lessons can we learn from our recent past, and what are the implications for tertiary education?  In attempting to answer these questions, I draw upon my experience as the Director of the Multimodal Analysis Lab1 in the Interactive & Digital Media Institute at the National University of Singapore. The research program in the lab aimed to develop software and computational approaches for close multimodal analysis (of language, images and audio resources) in different media and automated analysis of large cultural data sets for mapping socio-cultural patterns and trends. The research projects necessarily involved close collaboration between social scientists, scientists and computer scientists, resulting in the development of digital approaches to multimodal analysis and multimodal literacy. Based on the experience of integrating “two [or more] cultures” in one lab, I explore the ramifications of dividing “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” into the sciences and humanities (Snow 1959), a legacy that still exists today, despite the evident need to overcome this divide to solve problems in the world today. The question remains how the vertical knowledge structures of the sciences and the horizontal knowledge structures of humanities (Bernstein 1999) can be integrated, or whether we need a new approach capable of addressing the problems and challenges facing us today.


Bernstein, B. (1999). Vertical and Horizontal Discourse: An Essay. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20(2): 157-173.

Snow, Charles Percy (2001) [1959]. The Two Cultures. London: Cambridge University Press.


1. Multimodal Analysis Lab: http://multimodal-analysis-lab.org/

Gregor Kennedy Understanding our Present

Gregor Kennedy

University of Melbourne

Pare Keiha M-Learning: Māori Advancement at AUT University

Associate Professor Pare Keiha
Pro Vice Chancellor for Māori Advancement
Pro Vice Chancellor for Learning & Teaching
Tumuaki/Dean, Te Ara Poutama/Faculty of Māori Development
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

To view Pare's biography, visit the keynote speakers page.

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.”                                               Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Imagine a future in which we had a commitment to reduce the opportunity costs of higher education to our students. 
Imagine a future in which we had a commitment to reducing the mechanical transfer of content to our students, while at the same time increasing the depth of their understanding.
Imagine a future in which our teachers were more like composers than conductors; where teaching was more about coaching, mentoring, facilitating, or designing.
Imagine a future in which our students could regularly complete a programme of study sooner rather than later.
Imagine a future in which our students create futures for themselves.
Imagine a future characterised by a new order of things.
That future is a reality for Te Ara Poutama, the Faculty of Māori Development at the Auckland University of Technology.  The faculty has developed a reputation for innovative, creative and technologically advanced digital learning resources. Importantly those resources have recognised the creative potential of Māori language, custom and culture as a source from which the faculty’s staff and students draw inspiration.  Such inspiration has been set against the opportunities created by the relationship between technology, pedagogy, content and, last but not least, options to reduce the opportunity costs of higher education.  Central to this new future has been the incorporation of mobile devices to enhance the student learning experience.  The notion of the Digital Native is re-examined albeit in a Māori context.  The initiation of this ‘new order of things’ has not been without its challenges.  Undaunted the faculty, and indeed the university’s Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLAT), has developed strategies to dampen the incredulity of those of a previous order and these are shared with a view that they may provide encouragement for those who do imagine a new order of things.

Sorel Reisman Educational Technology:  The Impossible Dream?

Professor Sorel Reisman
Faculty Member
California State University, Office of the Chancellor, MERLOT

To view Sorel's biography, visit the keynote speakers page.

The modern era of educational technology is about 50 years old, and with each historical ‘breakthrough,’ technologists have claimed incredible solutions to longstanding problems in teaching and learning.  And every claim has appeared to fail to deliver on its promise.  In fact, in the face of such disappointments it might be argued that educators have continually lowered the bar regarding what can be considered a failure or a success.  For example, we have strived for decades, or perhaps even centuries to define learning effectiveness metrics for our always-emerging teaching and learning technologies and methodologies.  But often, subject matter experts’, instructors’, and/or learners’ opinions become synonyms for effectiveness metrics. 

This presentation will touch on some of the ‘breakthrough’ educational technologies of the last half century and will show how they weren’t failures, but instead provided ‘scaffolding” for subsequent technologies that might begin to address the learning effectiveness of different instructional treatments.  For example, the notion of adaptive learning, so popular in many environments today, in fact is a derivative of early aptitude-by-treatment interaction work done in 1960s and 1970s.   But adaptive learning should not and cannot claim to be a solution to the matter of measuring teaching effectiveness.  There are newer developments associated with the phenomenon of ‘big data’ that could move us closer to our goal of identifying and utilizing learning effectiveness data.

The presentation will examine a few ‘historic’ educational technologies, and show how they provided scaffolding for subsequent developments in the field.  It will discuss some current metrics used for the assessment of online learning materials, and show, while these kinds of metrics are useful, in the era of big data and MOOCs, we should be able to do a much better job in the future, of reporting on the effectiveness of alternative instructional technologies.

Mark Pesce Imagining the Future

Mark Pesce