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Following my visit to the University of the Western Cape I returned to Johannesburg to continue our research in the socially disadvantaged schools in Gauteng and Limpopo Provinces.

During this trip we installed the latest updates to the 3D virtual learning environment that we have been creating, which is based on the South African national curriculum standards. We also ran teacher training and briefed the education department staff who will be undertaking the testing of children’s progress on the research protocol.

Here are some screen shots from the developing 3D virtual learning environment we have created for the schools:

The initial orientation trail children encounter when they log into the 3D virtual learning environment

The initial orientation trail children encounter when they log into the 3D virtual learning environment

Children can rent their own virtual land and house in the virtual world where they can furnish their house and grow virtual vegetables to sell to the market

Children can rent their own virtual land and house in the virtual world where they can furnish their house and grow virtual vegetables to sell to the market

Children can visit the market and shops in the township to buy food and learn how to manage their virtual money

Children can visit the market and shops in the township to buy food and learn how to manage their virtual money

Children can go on safari trails in the 3D virtual world where they solve numeracy and literacy problems and answer quizzes about science in an exploratory environment

Children can go on safari trails in the 3D virtual world where they solve numeracy and literacy problems and answer quizzes about science in an exploratory environment

Children can also travel to the moon in a virtual rocket and then enter a plantarium to learn about the solar system

Children can also travel to the moon in a virtual rocket and then enter a plantarium to learn about the solar system

Children can fly to the moon to learn about the solar system in the 3D virtual world

Children can fly to the moon to learn about the solar system in the 3D virtual world

 Children can travel underwater in a submarine to view underwater life and answer quizzes about marine life

Children can travel underwater in a submarine to view underwater life and answer quizzes about marine life

Each adventure trail includes interactive boards providing children with the opportunity to solve numeracy and literacy problems in a fun like environment

Each adventure trail includes interactive boards providing children with the opportunity to solve numeracy and literacy problems in a fun like environment

Children enrolled in 5 basic schools in Gauteng and 5 in Limpopo Provinces, as well as children attending 3 special schools will be commencing trials of the platform within the curriculum in term 2 and we will monitoring their performance in terms of development of numeracy, literacy and life skills as well as changes in motivation and self esteem over a three year period to determine the impact of this kind of learning environment on learning outcomes. I will be updating progress on the project periodically in the coming months.

You can learn more about the project via our Let us Learn project site: http://let-us-learn.org/

 

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UniSA is a supporting member of the newly established Young and Well CRC.

I had the privilege of attending workshops and the official launch of the YAW CRC in Melbourne on the 9th and 10th December, 2011 with UniSA colleagues Annie Campbell, Sue Luckman and Barbara Spears. I also caught up with co-researcher, Pammi Raghavendra from Flinders University and met Stefan Schutt from Victoria University, who is doing some fabulous work using digital technologies with young people who have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Following is a photo I took of the Indigenous Hip Hop dancers who performed at the CRC workshop held at the State Library of Victoria on the 9th December:

Young and Well CRC gathering at the State Library of Victoria on the 9th December 2011

Young and Well CRC gathering at the State Library of Victoria on the 9th December 2011

You can view more photos from the workshop and the launch the following day via the YAW CRC Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/yawcrc

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In between ASCILITE conference presentations, Julie Willems and I took some time out to go for a long walk and we were given a rare opportunity to tour the anti-whaling ship, Sea Shepherd, which was docked in Hobart at that time. We met several of the Sea Shepherd’s volunteer staff who told us the ship was on standby, ready to set sail to intercept Japanese factory vessels in the Southern Ocean.

The Sea-shepherd docked at Hobart

The Sea-Shepherd docked at Hobart

We subsequently heard that the Sea Shepherd crew had gone to the aid of one of their scout ships, the Brigitte Bardot, which was badly damaged in the Southern Ocean while pursuing a Japanese factory vessel on the 30th December.

You can read the full story in  the Australian article, “Sea Shepherd anti-whaling ship damaged by rogue wave in Southern Ocean”  posted online on the 30th December.

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ASCILITE 2011

Following the AARE conference I moved hotels to the Wrest Point Casino Hotel to attend and present at the ASCILITE 2011 conference.

The conference theme for ASCILITE this year was Changing Demands, Changing Directions, with three sub-themes: equity of experience; engagement; and evidence-based practice. The conference was preceded by workshops on the 4th December followed by the opening of the conference on the 5th December 2011. Professor Gilly Salmon, former Executive Director of the Australian Digital Futures Institute (University of Southern Queensland) presented an inspiring opening address.

Water side view from my hotel room at the Wrestpoint Casino Hotel, venue for the 2011 ASCILITE conference, Hobart

Water side view from my hotel room at the Wrestpoint Casino Hotel, venue for the 2011 ASCILITE conference, Hobart

I co-authored two papers with two of my PhD students. The first paper, titled “Facilitating the ability of graduates to articulate their employability skills through the use of a 3D virtual learning environment“, was co-authored with Frederick Stokes-Thompson (PhD candidate) and Sheila Scutter who is also a co-supervisor of Frederick’s PhD research.

I presented the second paper on behalf of my PhD student, Amal Hanna. This paper, based on one chapter of Amal’s thesis, is titled ” Bridging the gap between OER initiative objectives and OER user needs in higher education” and presents a framework for considering the differences between open access and open content educational resources.

I also had the pleasure of participating in a lively panel presentation with Sue Gregory, Scott Diener, Brent Gregory, Suku Sinnappan, Lisa Jacka titled Myth busting education in a virtual world – changing demands and directions. You can download the presentation from the ASCILITE site if you are interested in viewing our Powerpoint show.

Sue and Brent did a wonderful job presented another paper on virtual worlds, of which I was one of several co-authors, titled How are Australian higher education institutions contributing to change through innovative teaching and learning in virtual worlds?

I finally got to meet my ASCILITE mentee, Maria Spies, who presented a very well attend paper title Engaging the online learner: Student reactions to the use of audio podcasts in off campus courses and also co-presented with me at the Community Mentors’ Symposium.

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I flew to Hobart in late November 2011 to present a co-authored paper with Susan Luckman, Kerry Green (UniSA colleagues) and Pearl Panickar (Research Assistant) at the 2011 AARE International Research in Education Conference, which was held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart from Sunday 27 November to Thursday 1 December, 2011.

The conference theme was Researching Across Boundaries and our paper titled “Traditional and new media influences on attitudes to higher education participation in Adelaide’s northern suburbs”, focused on research we are undertaking in South Australia, which is exploring the influence of both traditional and digital media on the higher education aspirations and attitudes of high school students in the northern suburbs. The findings from our research will be used to help inform strategies that can positively impact upon the educational aspirations and attitudes of school-leavers from Adelaide’s northern suburbs. The findings will be applicable to students from other socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart - venue for the 2011 AARE conference

Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart - venue for the 2011 AARE conference

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October through to December was a very busy period, so I am only just now catching up on the backlog of outstanding posts!

Rolda Rapotu (Limpopo) and I presented a co-authored paper on the work we are undertaking in special schools in the Limpopo Province at the 8th World Assembly of Disabled People’s International (DPI) in Durban, South Africa from the 10th to the 13th October 2011.

The conference was held at the Inkhosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Center (DURBAN ICC) and included the Opening Plenary sessions on the first day, followed by two days of parallel working groups and  a final closing plenary session on the  13th October.

The conference was well attended with a range of papers addressing the UN Convention on the Right’s of Persons with Disability. Our paper focused on strategies for addressing Millennium Development Goals through the use of accessible information and communication technologies in South African special schools.

Opening Ceremony at the DPI Assembly, Durban on the 10th October, 2011

Opening Ceremony at the DPI Assembly, Durban on the 10th October, 2011

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I discussed our research in South Africa (see also preceding post) with Peter Greco on the Radio 5RPH Leisure Links segment last Saturday.

You can download the interview from here: rph-29072011

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