Thursday, August 4, 2016

Conference Blog

Photo Credit:  Marie Louise Kold

This blog is to share my experiences at the International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education (ICICTE) in Rhodes, Greece July 7-9, 2016.  The purpose of my trip was to
1.       do a research project
2.       write a scientific report
3.       present to international audiences on an Educational Technologies (EdTech) topic
4.       discover EdTech trends being discussed at a conference
5.       engage with fellow delegates to move topics along
6.       apply lessons learned from my research project
7.       innovate with my students to impact their digital literacies
8.       begin the process again or start a new research topic.
To help achieve these goals, I am grateful to have received funding from my employer:  the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) School of Computing in Academic Studies (SoCAS).

Conducting Cutting-edge Research

My research project was entitled, “Perceptions of Anonymous Peer Review using Cloud-based Software”.  I undertook a research project to ask what students’ perceptions were of doing and receiving peer review on the writing of their scientific report activities for the Communication Course I had taught last semester.  This project afforded me the opportunity to set up a research study, get ethics approval, conduct a survey, do regular peer review activities in class, but I also added in a twist.  In order to perpetuate the reputation of being an “early adopter”, I used cloud-based software for the students to conduct their peer reviews anonymously.  I learned a lot about research design and discovered that the students didn’t know of the value of doing peer review for others as much as they expected being peer reviewed would help them.  Another finding was that students agreed more that being plagiarized could be a factor in being part of a peer review activity.  A picture below shows four students engaged in the peer review task using cloud-based software, particularly Google Docs.

As a result of my findings, I will keep doing meaningful front loading of the rationale for my teaching methodologies so that students appreciate the reason and benefit for how their classroom activities will help them increase their digital literacies.  One last observation was that by the end of the study students agreed more that they were comfortable sharing their work online.  This result made sense because I shared conversations about what privacy entailed with my “millennials” for whom social media is an essential part of their lives.  I was able to introduce the concept of what exactly privacy entails when a student is online.  Transferring these discussions on privacy can relate to other parts of their professional academic lives should they continue to research in their fields and where copyright is becoming a trending topic in education.  A copy of my paper is available at .  I will continue to do peer review activities with my students in the future.

Writing a Scientific Report
Since my Fish, Wildlife, and Recreateion (FWR) students at BCIT learn to write scientific reports, I wanted to become competent and knowledgeable in the process to build my credibility and experience. I was mentored by a woman at the ICICTE conference, Linda Miller, Adult Development Associates, Portland, ME; USA.  I have become so grateful for Linda’s mentorship and she has become a good friend now as we got to spend time together during the confernce and attended each other’s presentations.  Here is Linda pictured below:

Upon reading my scientific report, Linda suggested I get more support on my results section, and I met with a mathematician from our BCIT Math Department who guided me in the  necessary statistics formulae I needed to make sense of my results.  I learned how important it is to have a team with specific skill sets involved in a research project.  I am very grateful for colleagues to step up and help others learn, not only the students, but also each other.  Having a mentor in the conference domain really helped too, and ICICTE is special in that way because of its size.  Rich, one-on-one exchanges are possible at ICICTE as we can run across each other frequently during the three-day event, and by returning year after year.  Each person’s specialty becomes easy to find and synergize with.

Presenting at International Conferences

Getting experience as an international presenter is different from lecturing at a post-secondary institute.  In class, we work to become a competent and knowledgeable lecturer, but preparing a research project that evolves from the literature review done to build a background scenario is another opportunity.  Where we may not practice our presentation before we lecture, practicing is certainly done before presenting at a conference. 
And I was lucky enough to consult a friend who is active in Toastmasters who watched my presentation early on and make suggestions to remind me about my audience.  My friend suggested I keep in mind the following questions:  “What’s in it for them”  “Why should they care”, and “What are the takeaways from the presentation”.  She had another idea where I prepared an introduction and close by someone who invited me onto the stage.  That piece was invaluable and really helped me focus on the audience and remind them of their takeaways.  I always record my presentations and keep using them as a learning opportunity to note where audiences laugh, or where I may have made some idiosyncratic gestures or sounds.

Upon reviewing my presentation, I was pleased to see the strengths of my presentation, and feel confident that I am giving my students and my international colleagues a quality experience!

Discovering EdTech Trends

A summary of some of similar new trends that were covered at both EdTech conferences were as follows:
-          the use of analytics to gather data about students use of technology
-          issues of copyright since many people are  sharing materials online and accessing information from others as well
-          gamification for millennials who have grown up with access to games and prefer them as a learning style.

Analytics is something I have not made the time to use to inform me of what’s happening with my students.  Instead I use reflective practice, but I can see how quickly I could get information from our Learning Management System (LMS), and some of my colleague are already accessing this data about their students’ activities in their Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs).  Namely at BCIT we are using Desire2Learn.

The issue of copyright was most applicable for me of the three trends, and I learned more about these topics from the AACE conference I attended in Vancouver in June.  I have made some specific references to presentations and links in my other conference blog available

An interesting observation about gamification, furthermore, is that the research is being done primarily by “graduate students” in PhD programs -- millennials for millennials.   This topic is not so relevant to me, but I am aware that by teaching millennials, I need to find ways to engage them, and last year, I was introduced to the Google App called Kahoot! ( which I use to review each of my lectures and the students ask me each and every week to start lessons with “Kahoot!”  I noticed at my tour of the Learning Spaces at City University in London, that they are engaging their students by having them going around using QR codes to do their Week 1 scavenger hunt activities --so great to meet international colleagues who are innovating!

Engaging with Fellow Delegates

One of the magical parts of ICICTE is the engagement of delegates.  Workshop time is built in to get people talking and building knowledge.  On the last day of the conference every year, we hold a circle time called the “Philosopher’s Café” where ideas are exchanged and conference themes are highlighted.
Another special feature of the conference is the presence of workshops.  Last year, my BCIT colleague, Lisa O’Neill and I hosted and workshops and this year, one of the workshops I attended was facilitated by my writing mentor, Linda Morris and her international colleague, Marcie Boucouvalas.  The title of their workshop was ICT’S ROLE IN REACHING THE UN’S 2030 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDG).  Linda and Marcie introduced me to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable development goals (available at, specifically the 4th goal for education: to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.  

The discussions addressed the change of the instructor over the years from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”, and Linda suggested the new function being “assessor, critiquer, and advancer.  Linda mused that lifelong learners won’t have a teacher forever, so teachers need to give the skills for student learners of any age to access information.  We agreed that although technology doesn’t change how people learn, ICT is needed for the dispersal of information.
Another delegate I met at ICICTE 2015, @DomPates, Educational Technologist at City University in London continued our friendship throughout the year, and while he was unable to attend ICICTE2016 this year, on my journey back to Vancouver, I stopped in London and had a tour of his learning centre.  My blog on that tour is available HERE.  Links he has since sent me are as follows:  YouTube video: Centre promo - the dept I'm part of
Reflecting on Implications for Learning
Doing a research project on my own was a daunting task with a steep learning curve.  I had mentoring supports along the way from like-minded conference delegates.  We also had time to sit and brainstorm ideas in EdTech that we all shared in common.  On the last day, we put together global partnership who will be using cloud-based writing tools to create a research project and look for grants from funding bodies such as “Erasmus+” (available at  The initial notes are available in a Google Doc available at Applying skills that I am teaching in my courses will show students of their relevance and use in industry as they are heading off and looking for jobs in their fields.  The new 21st-century learning models embody teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving skills that I can demonstrate to my students that I am working on as a lifelong learner myself.
ICICTE is like a family of caring researchers who come back year after year and learn and grow and share.  What a wonderful conference with caring participants I have found! 

Photo Credit:  ICICTE 2016  Available at

Oh, and the Greek joie de vivre is never far away!

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