Friday, May 02, 2008

2008 Pacific Northwest Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2008 PNHETL Conference in Spokane. George Seimens was the plenary speaker. It was really good to hear him speak. It cleared up a lot of questions I had about his book. He had a section that talked about objects containing knowledge. And now I think he means the information in context of the objects use. Our philosophy instructor who came with us was politely quiet on the subject. I think Seimens is one of the most important writers in education right now because the field has gotten pretty calcified. He is a revolutionary and a catalyst. He eschews the typical layers of research references (although I consider him widely and well-read in the field) and actually gets down to describing what is happening in people's lives in our relation to information and what is happening in education.

Like his fellow Canadian, Stephen Downes, Seimens seems uncomfortable with virtual worlds. In his opening plenary, he made comments about how SL was "empty"; there is no one there. Downes also makes this comment. If you come to a brick and mortar college at 8:30 P.M. on a Friday night, it too will be empty, but we don't get rid of the school. Second Life is only really useful when there are people there. That is the whole point: it is actually a suite of communication tools that allow people to interact with one another and their environment in some very significant ways. His closing plenary included the statement "We do not need Second Life to provide games in the classroom" misses the point of using SL entirely. Educators in SL, and yes, there are thousands, do not see it as a game, but as a way to increase the interaction between the instructor and students, students with one another, and the students with the content of the course. Seimens did call it one of the more innovative uses of technology at the conference. He also called for administrators to support the innovators on campus and to reward their failures (that is authentic attempts to move technology and info management forward that do not always have buy-in).

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