ADFI wins $4.4 million to help students without internet access

August 13th, 2013

Helen Farley

Helen Farley

Congratulations to Dr Helen Farley, Dr Angela Murphy and Joanne Doyle who have secured $4.4 million worth of federal funding to support disadvantaged students across Australia with limited or no access to the internet.

The funding comes from the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program and will  provide opportunities for remote and incarcerated students to further their education through access to a stand-alone version of the Moodle Learning Management System.

The project partners include Queensland Corrective Services, Serco Asia Pacific, Careers Employment Australia, Salvation Army, Bendigo Tafe and the Open Educational Resource university.

Read the full article on the USQ News website

Classrooms of the future

August 9th, 2013


The RUN partners will develop a Maths and Science Digital Classroom for school children

Sharron Dove writes:

In May 2012, the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC, released the report Mathematics, Engineering, and Science in the National Interest.  The report recognised that over the past 20 years, Australia has experienced a significant decline in the proportion of students taking advanced mathematics and science related subjects in year 12. During that same period there has been a downward trend in the proportion of university students enrolled in maths, science and engineering courses.

The Australian Maths and Science Partnership Program (AMSPP) was announced in the Federal Government’s 2012 Budget as part of a broad package of measures to address this trend and improve outcomes in the learning and teaching of maths and science. The Regional Universities Network (RUN), of which USQ is a member, successfully applied for a grant to the value of $898,880 to deliver the “Regional Universities (RUN) Maths and Science Digital Classroom”.

ADFI is developing new directions and platforms for engaging students in innovative learning pathways.  The Institute will work with the RUN partners to deliver a Digital Classroom for primary and secondary school students.  This will include Science for Growth Awards for year 9 and 10 students at 20 secondary schools, online science and maths sessions, and professional development for teachers, focussing on maths and science professional development.

Image credit: Abacus by Kinchan1 used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.

Interactive Technology in Education

August 5th, 2013

View from Circular Quay

View from Circular Quay

Associate Professor Shirley Reushle writes:

Last month I attended the ITEC 2013 Interactive Technology in Education conference hosted at the Sydney Opera House and supported by Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet).

For this conference, the term ‘Interactive Technology’ included a range of content, collaboration and remote instrumentation platforms such as telepresence, High Definition video conferencing, remote labs, augmented reality, robotics, software services and tactile toolsets. Delegates from cultural institutions, libraries, museums and galleries, and policy makers and educational practitioners came together to participate in a kaleidoscope of presentations, demonstrations, debates, and panel discussions focused on innovative applications of technologies in a variety of learning contexts.

Key speakers introduced a range of topics including Dr Kate Cornick, General Manager, Health and Education at NBN Co, who discussed the impact the National Broadband Network is having on the health and education sectors and services. Of interest is the report, 21st century teaching strategies for a highly connected world  prepared by Ideaslab, NBN Co.

Graham Smith, an inventor, university researcher, entrepreneur and artist spoke about the work of WebTeach that has enabled more than 800 students who are homebound to stay connected with their school environment through the WebChair device.

Aaron E. Walsh, Director of Immersive Education (iED) and known for coining the term “immersive education” was another key speaker. iED has an impressive footprint in the virtual worlds and mixed reality spaces and provides a learning platform that combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat,  webcams and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms.

Of greatest interest was the creative and innovative work occurring in the museum and library spaces and the intersections between these organisations and k-12 schools. Deborah Howes revealed some of the online art activity at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, New York in the form of free professional development on Art and Enquiry for primary and secondary teachers through a MOOC (delivered via Coursera). A significant source of diverse information can also be found in Deborah’s MoMA blog called Inside/Out

Sara Cousins from ABC Splash explored the power of technology as an enabler and the advances ABC has made in terms of moving broadcasting to live interactive activities that demonstrate the value of high bandwidth educational service delivery.

Other initiatives worth mentioning are Mr Bassett’s Schoolroom and Willunga State School, Patrick Spiers and the Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre [link] and its Connected Learning Program, Culture Victoria’s History In Place project … and the list goes on …

This conference opened my eyes to the innovative work occurring at the school level and the wonderful collaborations between schools, universities, museums, libraries, galleries and service providers like AARNet and Questacon. Worth mentioning, too, are those dedicated individuals and teams who are making these creative things happen, often on a shoestring budget fuelled by bucket loads of determination and goodwill!

Image credit: Shirley Reushle

Utilising digital curation platforms in higher education

July 26th, 2013

Sample scoop from Griffith university student

Sample scoop from Griffith University student

Dr Amy Antonio writes:

“Digital curation” is not simply the latest educational buzz word, although its integration within higher education has increased exponentially in recent times. Digital curation has been defined as:

An active process whereby content/artefacts are purposely selected to be preserved for future access. In the digital environment, additional elements can be leveraged, such as the inclusion of social media…the ability for other users to suggest content…and the critical evaluation and selection of the aggregated content
(Antonio, Martin & Stagg, 2012)

There are countless Web 2.0 tools laying claim to the digital curation label, including, Storify, Pinterest and to name a few. Storify is a digital storytelling platform that allows the user to draw in content from disparate sources in order to construct a narrative. Pinterest is an image and video sharing curation tool, which enables users to post content onto virtual ‘pinboards’. let’s you easily publish gorgeous online magazines by curating content on a particular topic. Each of these tools has broad application in an educational setting. Below are some examples of how these tools are being used to create more engaging and interactive learning experiences for higher education students:

At Berkeley, Storify was used for a journalism class researching environmental justice issues. After visiting a residential greywater system, the class members shared their experience on Twitter and encouraged others to join the conversation by using the hashtag #kuh20. Similarly, students at the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Canvas described the experience of their media class via tweets. The students examined how to disseminate messages of diversity and inclusion in storytelling practices through the use of social media.

At both Yale and Duke University, Pinterest is being used to promote the students’ work. ‘Treasures of Yale’ houses a selection of YouTube videos featuring the University’s art collection and ‘Duke research’ has been created to highlight the University’s key research areas, particularly the work currently being undertaken by the medical school students.

At the University of Southern Queensland, in collaboration with Griffith University, is being used to increase student engagement and to cultivate digital information literacy skills among a cohort of first year ICT students. An assessment task using was designed and embedded into the curriculum. The students were required to create their own pages on an area of ICT they were interested in pursuing as part of their careers. In addition, the students had to justify the content they included on their pages, the purpose of which was to determine whether or not they could determine the credibility of digital information.

The assessment task was received positively by the students, who reported that they were more motivated to invest greater effort into the task than they would have been by a traditional essay. Moreover, they appreciated the opportunity to engage with technology and the opportunities this enabled to improve their digital literacy skills. The preliminary results of the study further suggest that while some students are comfortable assessing the credibility of web-based resources, there are others who are uncertain about how to use and cite non peer-reviewed materials.

Given that ICT students are pursuing new and emerging areas of technology, peer-reviewed materials are quite possibly out-of-date. However, higher education institutions continue to mandate the exclusive use of peer-reviewed resources in assessment tasks, to the detriment of blog posts and social media sites, which are more likely to contain the latest information. In order to ensure that universities produce digitally information literate graduates, this is an issue that must be resolved.

Antonio, A., Martin, N., & Stagg, A. (2012). Engaging higher education students via digital curation, Proceedings ascilite Wellington 2012.

New tools for digital storytelling

July 17th, 2013

Google Glass

Will this help us tell new stories?

Neil Martin writes:

The ability to tell stories is fundamental to the human condition. We have been creating stories throughout human history, initially as an oral tradition (which is still strong in many cultures), and more recently through visual and written narratives.

The arrival of the web, particularly web 2.0 technologies, has seen an explosion in the area of digital storytelling. A range of new media tools, such as blogs, video streaming services and podcasts, have allowed anybody with an internet connection and access to a camera or smartphone to tell their story:

Dear Photograph, for example, explores the emotive power of old photographs and their relationship to memory and nostalgia. Utilising the Tumblr blogging platform, contributors take a photo of their hand holding up a photo of a place from their past that is important. This example  published on September 11 2011 shows a chilling picture of the Twin Towers in New York a few moments after the terrorist attack ten years before. A simple comment conveys the shock

“Dear Photograph, I was astounded, but I hadn’t had time to consider what I was seeing”.
Mark Yokoyama

Comfort Enough is a short film created by a QUT student utilising still photography with the “Ken Burns effect” applied and audio narration.  The narrator tells a personal story of family tragedy and outlines how she is responding to the loss.

Welcome to Pine Point explores memories of life in a now abandoned Canadian mining town through Flash-based interactive multimedia.  First-hand recollections are given through video and photographs, sound and interactive text to create a truly immersive experience

Beyond Web 2.0

In the last couple of years, rich digital technologies have emerged that facilitate novel ways to tell stories.

Geolocation allows the location and objects to be identified spatially and facilitates interactions based on this information.

The Silent History is a work of fiction that includes the use of geolocation information to allow people to visit specified places described in the text and download field reports related to the story onto their mobile device.  The idea here is that the book responds to the reader’s environment to add new layers of storytelling. This technique is in its infancy, but could be used in the future to tell localised stories that resonate with a range of readership demographics such as local communities, school children or tourists.

Storify is a digital curation tool that allows users to curate social media, video, and images to tell interesting stories. In this example, students of a Southern Methodist University in Texas go on a 9 day bus tour to explore key places in the Deep South that were important battlegrounds for the Civil Rights movement. The tour included meeting a former Civil Rights protestors to obtain their reflections on an important period of American history. The curated content drew on tour photos, Facebook, Twitter posts, Google maps and video archive to provide an enriching story.

HTML5 is a group of technologies that brings new levels of interactivity to the web.  Hollow is an interactive documentary and community participatory project that focuses on the lives of residents in McDowell County, West Virginia. Through a series of interactive graphics, maps, and video testimonies, the website builds a picture of modern rural America and the problems it faces. The documentary creators have added some clever features such as unlockable content and sharable material via social media that add to the appeal. The project was funded through Kickstarter and was launched in May 2013.

Wearable technology for first person narrative

The arrival of wearable technology will undoubtedly offer new opportunities for unique narratives.  Technologies such as Google glass, wearable wristbands and smart watches will potentially offer more contextualised narrative content. For example, a mountain climber could tell the story of a hazardous climb using wearable technology, which is small and functional in inhospitable places. The mountain climber may be wearing Google glass to offer first person perspective, and a wrist band that measures heart rate and surface body temperature, with microphones to record sound and narration. If done well, it could be a compelling story of a battle with nature.

A revolution in storytelling

Digital technology is revolutionising storytelling. New media and increasingly smart technologies can help anybody to create compelling narratives. All we need are great stories and plenty of imagination.

Image credit:  Google-glass 2 by giuseppe.costantino used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

ADFI’s first Research Colloquy

July 2nd, 2013

Dr Ann Starasts writes:

The Australian Digital Futures Institute held it’s very first research Colloquium recently and thank you to all three presenters.

The aim of this new monthly event is to encourage researchers to discuss their research areas and methodologies, and explore connections and linkages as well as ways of publishing and presenting.

Dr Angela Murphy presented her work as part of the Digital Futures Collaborative Research Network Mobile Learning Evaluation Framework project She is investigating Mobile learning trends amongst students in Vietnam and highlighted increasing ownership of mobile technologies and how the research was developing understandings of how some students were using them to support their studies.

Dr Helen Farley spoke on her research project, Taking eBook Readers to Prisons: A Tale of Two Projects which she will present at the 2013 Mobile and Contextual Learning Conference in Qatar in October. She and Dr Angela Murphy worked on the PLEIADES (Portable Learning Environments for Incarcerated Adult Distance Education Students) project at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre. PLEIADES involved developing a prototype version of the USQ Moodle StudyDesk supplemented with materials on eBook readers – as the correctional centre environment doesn’t allow for internet access.

Helen also talked about the common mistakes that presenters made during presentations and discussed her own presentation style. Helen discussed how she preferred to use lots of pictures in here presentations rather than big blocks of text. This enables her to be responsive to the mood of the audience. Helen’s presentation can be viewed above.

Ms Helena Song who is visiting ADFI for six months as a UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi research fellow spoke about her work as a Lecturer at the Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Multimedia University, Malaysia. She said she hopes that by taking the road less travelled during her short time here, it will make a difference for her and all she meets working in ADFI and beyond! Helena’s presentation can be viewed at:

The colloquy was facilitated by Dr Ann Starasts who thanked Associate Professor Merilyn Childs for initially proposing the idea for a regular research colloquy.

Thanks to ADFI’s Learning Technologist Neil Martin who planned and operated the interactivity and broadcasting using blackboard collaborate. Next month the group will continue with PechaKucha-inspired presentations.

The Road Less Travelled: An intrepid account of the RLDP Program Day 1

June 18th, 2013

RDLP team

Research Leadership Development Program team

Dr Helen Farley writes:

I arrived in good time, ready to take the bus to Woodlands of Marburg for the first program day of the Research Leadership Development Program. I felt a bit like a cast member from The Right Stuff, one of a select few chosen to push the boundaries, but I soon found this was no Mercury Mission!

At some very early hour, huddled outside the Japanese Garden, we crowded onto the bus because it was warmer than standing outside! Even by that stage I could tell we were in for an interesting day. I tuned in and out of the conversations that were happening all up and down the aisle. From discussions around touch football competitions, upcoming funding rounds and speculations as to what the day held; there was much excited chatter, guffaws and earnest whispering.

It was with anticipation that we travelled down the range, through the big scar on the landscape, and through the endless road works. I wondered how I was going to survive the day without checking emails and messages on my devices – all strictly forbidden. Even so, I was quite excited at having some breathing space from competing work deadlines.

I could not have anticipated how beautiful the Woodlands of Marburg was: a beautiful two-story house with an interesting history and connection to the landscape I studied furiously from a plaque and soon forgot. The motley crew of seventeen plus helpers and mentors ambled over to a glass room with ample verandas where thankfully, coffee was served.

Many routes

We organised ourselves onto tables, furtively glanced at our iPads one last time, and chewed thoughtfully on a Mentos. Blah, blah – an introduction before we launched ourselves into introductions about who we are outside of USQ and what had brought us to this point. Some of us found it harder to surrender our ties to USQ than others. Chris Lee, facilitator for the day and for the program, was on the alert to references to our esteemed institution.

I knew, at least to some extent, everyone in the room, but was totally blown away by the circuitous paths people had followed to arrive here. Hidden depths were unearthed, secret passions shared (who could have known the depth to which Peter McIlveen loved dachshunds?) A few showed they had a talent for comedy (and Robert Mason, I’m thinking of you here!) And though we know Jon Whitty as an expert on project management without equal, we would never have guessed that he arrived at this spot via a stint in a bakery making tasty pastries before embarking on a successful radio career!

Stories and reflections

Though we laughed a lot through this session, it did make me think about how few people in the cohort had followed a well-honed plan with this destination in mind. And rather than diminish the value of the arrival, it augmented it. Everyone brought with them knowledge, understanding, insight and an intuitive grasp of what it meant to do research in our respective fields, but also how to enable others to do so too. With these stories still resonating, Chris led us through a reflective and collaborative exercise, teasing out the differences between management and leadership. Each is important and neither is exclusive of the other. It was easy to think lofty and visionary thoughts looking out over the rolling green hills, the rain forming a misty backdrop.

Communicating effectively

We were privileged to have Fulbright Senior Specialist Bob Jensen talk to us in the afternoon. When Bob is not on tour, he is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He chatted to us about handling media expectations and working together to ensure consistency of message. He has had quite some practice handling the media fallout from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (sold as the biggest clean up in history, not the biggest oil spill!) There was a lot to take away from this session: how to communicate our research simply, how to present a unified message and how to make social media work for you, not against you. He was very generous with his time and expertise, chatting to us through the (well-catered) break to make sure the material was relevant to us. I was relieved he didn’t recognise my name on some secret dossier from my early, militant days of Women’s Action Against Global Violence (or maybe he did and that’s why he was there!)

A good day

And so the first program day drew to a close with a few locally produced wines. DVC (R&I) Mark Harvey dropped in to provide some support and encouragement, as did ADFI Executive Director Mike Keppell, looking remarkably fresh after just getting off a flight from Hong Kong! I did survive the day without my devices though I must admit to checking emails sneakily once or twice through the day.

Guess what? The world did manage without me for those hours. I’ve thought a lot since that day about my own research and my own path and I must say I’m very excited by the possibilities! I’m really looking forward to the rest of the program and feel lucky to have the opportunity to get to know the rest of the cohort better. What a great crowd! And I’m feeling marginally more comfortable with the road less travelled, maybe the right stuff after all.

The Gates Foundation Funds MOOC Research Initiative

June 12th, 2013

Bill Gates

Bill Gates. Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Associate Professor Merilyn Childs writes:

The MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) was announced this week. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via Athabasca University, the MRI is “part of a set of investments intended to explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways” according to the funding website. The MRI is interested in providing access to postsecondary credentials to “low-income and disadvantaged young adult populations”. It is also interested in fostering research about “more affordable pathways”.

ADFI has a current Call for Book Chapters for Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies that offers an opportunity to scholars to publish about the relationships between open learning opportunities and formal credentialing. Some of the same authors may be interested in the funding opportunity provided by the MRI.

While institutions, designers and scholars argue, design, innovate, and publish in the context of cMOOCs, xMOOCs and newer designs like MOOPhDs, it’s good to step back and ask “What’s in it for learners?” After all, some MOOCs argue that their Raison d’être is to maximise student-centeredness, user-generated content, and socially connected learning in a digital age.

It’s time to consider MOOCs – whether open or commercial – from the perspective of a learner’s lifelong learning. MOOCs are one of many formal, informal and incidental learning opportunities that a leaner might utilise. A student’s journey may include a cMOOCs, xMOOCs, formal and informal workbased learning, non-accredited short courses, micro-credentials such as badges, formal enrolled studies (vocational and university), lifewide learning and so on.  Learners now have many opportunities to personalize and build evidence of learning of value to postsecondary credentials – but only if institutions develop recognition practices that value what they bring.

For this reason, we hope that some of the funding about MOOCS via the MRI will focus on MOOCs-in-context of the personalized learning journeys of individual students. This isn’t just a question about learning pathways. It isn’t just about “credit for MOOCs”. It isn’t about how a university might aggregate different MOOCs through a “bolting together” approach with a focus on course content. It is about the sector developing the capacity to focus on the learner-in-context, to interpret evidence in relationship to learning outcomes, and to articulate what “equivalence” means in the context of postsecondary credentials. This is very much an intellectual challenge about whose knowledge counts, where, and why; how it is evidenced; how institutions transform their relationships to personalized learning in a digital age.

Hopefully the following MRI focus question will generate research about MOOCs-in-context and lead to transformative thinking about the relationships between MOOCs (open and commercial); the many other forms of open learning; and credentials for learners.

  • What institutional, pedagogical, learning design, technological, and business models are currently employed and which have the most potential to have a positive effect for our learner population?

Image credit: “The Thinker” by Steve Jurvetson via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Open Learning and Recognition – Call for Chapters

June 4th, 2013

Open badges

Open badges are a potential tool to facilitate recognition of learning

The Australian Digital Futures Institute is excited to announce a call for chapters for a new book titled Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies [Eds Childs, Keppell & Reushle].

Academics, bloggers and tweeters have been buzzing with questions about the future of higher education now that open education practices and Open Education Resources (OERs) such as MOOCs have become a force to be reckoned with. Commentators have argued, for example, about whether or not MOOCs should be given credit. The conversation has at times been quite narrow and rather surprising – but also at times very creative. For example, the rise of micro-credentials, such as those provided via Mozilla’s Open Badges project, and Purdue University’s badge powered digital passport, continue to raise questions about the relationship between prior learning and formal University credentials.

Rather than thinking about “credit” in a narrow sense, the Australian Digital Futures Institute is interested in leading a wider conversation about Recognition Practices as an essential partner to the Open Learning Practices conversation. To this end, we are excited to announce a Call for Chapters for the Book: Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies [Eds Childs, Keppell & Reushle]. This new Book, published by IGI Global, will draw together international authors engaged in scholarship and innovation at the cutting edge of developments. The book will attempt to explore the philosophy, politics, theories, debates, curriculum models and assessment practices that characterise recognition practices associated with the development of formal credentials in response to open and lifelong learning.

To find out more about the Call for Chapters please visit the Open Learning and Recognition website or view the slideshare presentation from Associate Professor Merilyn Childs below:

Image credit: Untitled by Daniel Villar Onrubia used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

Digital Futures PhD Scholarships

May 30th, 2013

Are you looking to study a PhD?

The Digital Futures (CRN) program has a rare opportunity for students looking to progress their career by engaging in research in digital futures, one of the most quickly developing areas of social interaction and impact in society today. The successful applicant will contribute to the enhancement of world class research programs at USQ in collaboration with experienced, high quality researchers at ANU and UniSA.

Applications close 28 June 2013 – More information can be found at