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HELTASA conference – day 1

Today was the first day of the HELTASA 2011 conference at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.Before I post my notes, here are 2 suggestions for the organisers that I think are important:

  • Internet access is essential, not a “nice-to-have”. I know you have a wireless network that we can all connect to, but the wireless network isn’t connected to the internet. If you don’t understand the difference, you have a problem.
  • Coffee and tea shouldn’t only be available for 2 periods of 30 minutes during the day. Sometimes we don’t go to presentations because we want to chat with colleagues. Coffee and tea works well in those situations.

Having said that, the first day was enjoyable, even after a rocky start. Here are my notes.

The changing environment for higher education: going global-staying local
Prof Donald Hanna

All organisations are part of and respond structurally to their environment

Knowledge is dynamic and generative

Changing a curriculum / organisation is like trying to re-build an aeroplane in flight

Need to move from isolation of knowledge to integration

Since Gutenberg, learning has been about “place”. Since the 60’s it’s been about technology, now it should be about “networks” (or maybe “relationships”?)

Using clickers via cellphone (interactive workshop)
JP Bosman, Marinda van Rooyen

Stellenbosch University using a modified instance of Moodle to collect data from students via web interface, rather than buying clickers

Encourage students to use Opera to keep bandwidth requirements down (cost of one exercise is less than R1 per student)

Every student in the pilot projects had web-enabled phones (unlikely to be the case in most South African universities)

Surveyed students prior to the pilot projects to ensure that no-one would be disadvantaged during the process

Demonstrated back-end funcationality for administering the polls / surveys

Created landing pages so that students don’t have to navigate through full Moodle installation to get to the exercise

Students must commit an answer, then discuss, then resubmit

There is a cost implication if students are using 3G, so free wifi needs to be provided by universities (crazy that some South African universities don’t have free wifi for students)

The digital age: changing roles of teachers in higher education in South Africa
Dr. RJ Odora

In 2009 South African had 4.5 million internet users

More assumptions about how today’s students are “different”. Quoting Prensky, 2001?

Self-administered questionnaire asking lecturers about their own perceptions of the use of technology as part of their teaching. Also included interviews with participants

Half of respondents felt that they were proficient in the “use of ICT to support learning”, but no comment made on what the “use of ICT” means

New roles for educators:

  • Facilitators: encourage active learning
  • Lifelong leaner: need to learn from students
  • Mentor: guide students

Teaching to disrupt
Prof Jonathan Jansen

Trying to introduce “civility” onto the campus, greeting students, trying to get a sense of who they actually are

Calling for greater integration of research and teaching

If students can pass your class without attending class, you’ve failed them as a teacher

It’s your responsibility to create spaces that are interesting and which engage students

What are the kinds of things that students need to know about, outside of their disciplines?

What are the big questions that students need to encounter?

Main point: Educational institutional failures are at the root of our social problems, because we don’t change the way that young people think

“Grace” is not something that happens automatically. What kind of thinking does it take to feel what it is to be human?

“The answer is NOT important”

Teach in ways that don’t remove emotion and the human spirit from the interaction

ALL first year students must do the UFS101 course

In service of academic identity
Amanda Hlengwa

Call for more social responsiveness, a “re-insertion” of public good into the curriculum

A deeper enquiry into the core activities of higher education could yield positive public benefits

Service learning / community engagement is one way to achieve this

However, “community engagement” is poorly defined and different universities engage with the concept in different ways

Service learning = practical component integrated with theory, there is a balance between “service” and “learning”

Service learning is part of a new social contract between university and community (What is new about service learning? How is this different to an apprenticeship model?)

Service learning (supposedly) bridges Bernstein’s horizontal (informal) and vertical (formal) discourses

Sometimes the knowledge structure of a programme works against implementing service learning i.e. it is not a “generic good”

Professional development of postgraduate supervisors: opportunities for renewal and change
Eli M Bitzer

Supervising someone through the postgraduate research process is the process by which scholarship gives birth to scholarship (Andreeson, 1999). I’m not sure I believe that scholarship is purely the domain of academics / postgraduate researchers

The traditional apprenticeship model may not be the most efficient approach for the purpose of increasing the production of doctoral graduates in South Africa (I dislike the concept of “production” in education). How can the apprenticeship model scale?

Should recognise and reward diversity in doctoral programmes

Changing needs and challenges regarding supervision:

  • Changing power relationships between supervisors and candidates
  • Increases in supervisor workload
  • Cultural difference
  • Increased awareness of students’ rights
  • Changing levels of student preparation and expectations
  • Increased monitoring of research quality and reporting
  • Increasing emphasis on doctoral completion and throughput rates

Variation in supervision approaches:

  • Apprenticeship: isolated, distance is a problem, “Atlas complex” i.e. supervisor takes responsibility for the work, power relationships
  • Group: sense of community, distributed power, interaction relates to quality, enculturation and identity
  • Team panels: experience mix, flexibility, delegation and acquiring supervisory skills, management challenges
  • Mixed approach: variation in supervisory roles and responsibilities

 

Can look at the specifics of the particular research project, and choose a supervision model based on that

Tools for planning supervision (Bitzer & Albertyn, 2011)

Supervisors conceptions of research (Brew, 2001):

  • Domino: Structural elements that link together in a linear fashion (process of synthesising so that things “fall into place”)
  • Layer: Data contains ideas linked with hidden meanings (process of discovering, uncovering, creating new meaning)
  • Trading: Products, end points, publications, networks are grounded (a “marketplace” where products takes place)
  • Journey: Personal existential issues and dilemmas as well as the career of the reseacher is emphasised (personal journey of discovery)

See also Supervisors’ conceptions of scholarship (Pearson & Brew, 2002), and Possible developmental outcomes for supervisors (Pearson & Brew, 2002)

Students and supervisors often have different conceptions of what “research” and “scholarship” mean

Guide students with questions rather than providing prescriptive advice

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.