Helena Song writes
On the morning of the 20th November, I was pacing up and down the R113 lecture hall at USQ, praying that everything would turn out fine. Many thoughts were running through my head but one thing that struck me hard was that this workshop was the final countdown … my final countdown! It was 6 months ago that I travelled over 6000 kilometres from Malaysia and first stepped foot in Toowoomba.
It was 6 months ago when I started my research work with ADFI as a visiting scholar and UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi research fellow. It was 6 months ago that a couple of people present in this same hall were once strangers but are now close colleagues and personal friends. It was 6 months ago when I thought that this big event was in the distant future. But there I was, 6 months later, just moments from the final task that would mark the end of my time with ADFI.
My final task was to organise a mobile learning workshop together with Dr Helen Farley, project leader, and Dr Angela Murphy, post-doctoral research fellow, of the Collaborative Research Network (CRN)-funded project: Developing a Mobile Learning Evaluation Framework. This workshop also doubled-up as a part of the research activity of the Australia-Malaysia Institute research project: Connecting and empowering institutional leaders and educators to champion mobile learning in higher education institutions.
We had an exciting workshop agenda lined up for the whole day with plenty of nibbles along the way. Those who attended could readily testify to that! The highlight of the sessions prior to morning tea was, I have to say, the panel discussion chaired by Professor Mike Keppell, Executive Director of ADFI. As the focus of the discussion was on building international collaborations, we were honoured to have a diverse panel of speakers from various disciplines including Associate Professor Dr Norazah Mohd Nordin from the Mobile Learning Association of Malaysia, Dr Tek Narayan Maraseni from the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments, USQ, Dr Charlotte Brownlow from the School of Psychology, Counselling and Community, USQ and Associate Professor Brad Carter from the School of Agricultural, Computational and Environmental Sciences, USQ. Evidently, all of the panel speakers had vast experience in international collaborations and had much to share. The most pertinent word that I took out of this panel session was “respect”. When Mike asked the panel to choose one word that best describes “collaboration”, Associate Professor Brad Carter said, “Respect” without any hesitation. The word struck a chord in my heart and in the hearts of many others as well!
The workshop continued with several informative presentations on mobile learning initiatives from around the globe. Helen and Angela reviewed and shared current trends and research results on mobile learning across Australia and a whole host of other Asian countries. Our guest speakers from Malaysia, Dr Norazah Mohd Nordin and Dr Koo Ah Choo, presented interesting research findings on mobile and ubiquitous learning from a Malaysian perspective. I conducted the final presentation in which I shared the preliminary results from the Australia-Malaysia Institute research project, which focused on the Malaysian higher education educators’ perspectives on using mobile devices in their courses.
The second half of the workshop consisted of group discussion and reflections that required active participation from the workshop attendees. When asked to choose one word that best described this session, I chose “authentic”! The camaraderie among the participants during the hands-on activities was amazing and totally unexpected. If one has conducted workshops before, getting a group of strangers to participate in live discussion and activities is no easy feat and a constant source of anxiety is that participants feel and look disengaged. That was not the case with the group to my relief.
The participants were totally engaged and contributed richly to the discussions and reflective activities led by Helen. The session featured a strong flow of opinions, ideas and reflections from the participants and our fears that we had allocated too much time to the session were groundless. I was thoroughly enriched by the active and frank discussion that took place and it was a truly authentic learning experience for me. I certainly hope it was the same for everyone else attended the afternoon session.
After the workshop, as we gathered around the computer workstation at the front of R113 lecture hall for an unplanned post-mortem session, Helen said, “Considering we had three introverts organising a workshop; I think the workshop went very well. I think we did a good job.” Well, I have to agree … I think we did great job! For some reason, “The Final Countdown” song played over and over again in my head as I spent my last few days in Toowoomba. Thank you everyone at ADFI for making me part of your family for the last 6 months!
Jumpa lagi! 再见! Till we meet again!