Milos Kovacevic’s report on the 2nd Annual SALTISE Conference
Combining practice and research: An ongoing mantra of success!
Gauging from how far the SALTISE conference has come from its humble beginnings just last year, the notion of starting from basics is an idea taken truly to heart. From an event centered on a single presentation by renowned Harvard professor Eric Mazur, it has mushroomed to include dozens of events packed over a full two days that aimed to bring together likeminded educators from a wide array of fields who practice, or are curious about, active learning.
To bring structure to it all, the first day was designated as a time for workshops showcasing practical, hands-on concepts. These events animated by several of our keynote speakers who took the opportunity to introduce their ideas more fully to the lucky workshop attendees; and, our very own pedagogical innovators who generously donated their time. The interactive, group-oriented exercises also served as icebreakers between the more than the hundred and twenty plus individuals who signed up to participate, and fostered an easygoing environment perfect for exchange and exploration. (See the conference program
for specific names and details).
“It’s wonderful,” says Manu Kapur, researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore. “Here are people who actually practice what we study.” Singapore’s (and Asia’s) conservative teaching style, he says, is slow to change and firmly hierarchic, where teachers expect to be obeyed and are loathe to update practices they see as having inherited with a long history of success. Another structural difference is the people studying learning and teaching, like himself, aren’t teachers, but researchers. This limits the transfer and application of their results into the practices of normal classrooms.
“In university we have this schizophrenic situation where we normally do research on a topic, and we teach on another topic. Normally the research world is totally separated from the teaching task. Your promotion and your recognition is based on how much you publish. This mixture of practitioners and researchers was really nice. [A] very interesting experience,” says fellow presenter and researcher Yannis Dimitriadis of Valladolid University, Valladolid, Spain.
For both Kapur and Dimitriadis, the conference has provided the opportunity to see just how the various ideas they investigate in their day-to-day research pan out in the real world. They were clearly enthusiastic and encouraged by the initiatives of SALTISE members.
Besides being invited to present, Dimitriadis says he came here to see how the role of technology in education, a passion of his, is changing pedagogy and being changed by it. “I was amazed that [the workshop participants] came out with some designs that were especially sophisticated. This showed they were working on these things in practice, so it was natural,” says Dimitriadis.
This very idea formed the backbone of his workshop where the idea of orchestration – integration of technology in the classroom – was explored with help and input from the audience. With their help, Professor Dimitriadis is staying ahead of the ever changing curve. “There is no way to keep up, even if you are a specialist. [I am here to] try to find out some of the common practices.”
For more information on this editorial, contact Milos Kovacevic.