Registrations now open!

The Organising Committee is pleased to announce that registrations for ASCILITE 2017 are now open!

Find out more about registration options.

Please note that early bird registrations close 1 October 2017, but we encourage you to register early to secure your place.

Registrations are being managed by the Association for Tertiary Education Management (ATEM). Any questions about the registration process should be directed to Leah Boucher at ATEM (email: leah.boucher@atem.org.au; phone: 02 9351 9456).


Two weeks to go! Submissions closing 5 June

As the extended due date for ASCILITE 2017 submissions draws nearer, I asked one of my colleagues, Henk Huijser, an educational developer at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in the People's Republic of China, why he keeps coming back to ASCILITE each year. Here's what he had to say.

ASCILITE has developed into the main educational technology and blended learning conference in Australasia over the years, and it has also developed into one of the most social of conferences.

These are the two main reasons why I always want to attend ASCILITE whenever I can. Not only are the key figures in blended and technology enhanced learning and teaching usually at this conference, and you can get details on the main trends, but it is also a great conference to present at, as there is a real ‘community of practice’ feel to it. In other words, the content is broad enough to be inclusive of many researchers’ and practitioners’ interests, but not too broad to become too unfocused. This is further helped by the yearly theme of the conference.

The social element is partly due to the timing of the conference, and the organisers usually put a lot of effort into this. The conference is always in early December, when most of the attendees are winding down towards the end of the year. This affects the atmosphere at the conference and everyone tends to be up for a good time and ready to have a bit of fun, which is important and usually makes it a memorable conference.

In short, if there is one conference to choose from the many available, then ASCILITE is an excellent choice, both for professional and social reasons.

The ASCILITE 2017 call for participation closes on Monday 5 June 2017. You've got two weeks to get your submission in! Check out the call for participation for all the details.


My top 5 things to do while you're in Toowoomba

Think Toowoomba's not the most exciting place to visit for a conference? Think again! Over the next few months, we're going to share with you some of the things we love about Toowoomba, to help you with planning your trip.

My early memories of Toowoomba are of a loveable, sleepy country town. But, the “Garden City” has long outgrown this image, boasting a revamped and relaxed CBD, craft beer houses, music, art, modern dining and the hub of a region that has so much to explore and enjoy.  If you have 1 or 2 days after the conference, consider exploring the National Parks, historic farms and eateries in the Darling Downs… It’s so difficult to choose but my 5 top things to do while you are in the Toowoomba region are:

1. Eateries and Bars

Melbourne-esq style eateries

Toowoomba city has followed in the footsteps of Melbourne and is embracing the trend of laneway eateries. Locals start their work day in the city with a caffeine hit, or two, from Ground Up Espresso Bar. This little laneway café is all about perfectly brewed coffee, amazing baked treats, a trendy outdoor setting and friendly staff. It’s also a perfect starting place for a lazy weekend spent wandering through the streets of the city discovering the magical wall murals hidden throughout the streets (mentioned in Carmel’s post). When your legs need a rest, and you need a treat, stop in at Hello Harry for a gourmet burger (and some chips, and a shake!) and wash it down with an ice-cream made using liquid nitrogen at Nitrogenie. The ice-cream menu changes weekly so you never know what to expect – except that the ice-cream is always perfectly smooth and creamy.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat that is a little bit healthier, I like to frequent Full of Life Organics for a fresh juice and a salad packed full of the latest super foods. This café is a quiet place to relax with a shaded outdoor seating area, perfectly located in the CBD for a spot of ‘people watching’.

A short distance from the CBD, but still in easy walking distance is Railway Street - aptly named as it runs beside the railway line. It offers numerous café choices – Ortem, Engine Room café, Homegrown Health and Inbound Brasserie. I tend to gravitate towards Ortem for its delicious fresh foods. Its menu is an ever-changing choice of edgy takes on classic dishes. This place is seriously cool, and loved by Toowoomba locals.

International cuisine

Personally, when travelling I like to try something a little braver. Kajoku Korean & Japanese Cuisine hits the spot every time with its diverse menu. If you have never been to a Korean restaurant this is a great place to expand your culinary horizons. The wait staff are very polite and helpful and will happily show you how to barbecue the meat on your table. If cooking your own meat isn’t your thing (you have to do that enough at home!), I recommend trying the yakisoba or the hot stone mixed rice. Of course, if you decide to enjoy some sake, then you might want to try out their karaoke room after your meal.

Another favourite haunt of mine is Sofra. This is Turkish cuisine at its best and offers a very charming experience with an intimate atmosphere. Sofra is as much about the lively entertainment and over-the-top decoration as it is about the diverse menu and wine list.

Good ol’ country pubs

Toowoomba’s great food doesn’t stop in the city. The country areas around the city are filled with pubs offering deliciously filling, old-school meals. Take a drive past Highfields checking out the rural scenery and stop at Meringandan Hotel for lunch and a cool beer. This pub has a 41/2 star rating on Trip Advisor and deserves each of these stars for the huge homemade meals and friendly staff. Or there’s the Farmer’s Arms at Cabarlah - famed as the longest continually-licensed pub in Queensland (since 1863 the sign out front proclaims!).

Another pub offering a great meal, with a side of fascinating history is Rudd’s Pub, which was built in 1893 and originally known as the Davenporter Hotel. The name change recognises Steel Rudd– famous for the “Dad & Dave” stories.  The pub lets you “eat in a museum” – photographs and memorabilia covering the walls and ceilings telling stories of days gone by. The hardest task is deciding what to eat. With over 50 mouth-watering items on Mabel’s Kitchen menu it’s hard to pick: Dads Mighty Mixed Grill; Dave's Terrific T-Bone; Reef and Beef... and the list goes on.

Bars

A chilled night out in Toowoomba starts at Muller Bros rooftop bar in the Toowoomba CBD. This bar is the epitome of trendy with cocktails, nibble platters and live music all part of its appeal. I mean what could be better than buffalo wings, dips and cheeses with unlimited cocktails/wines/beers?! Muller Bros also offers a Brazilian BBQ restaurant (all you can eat).

2. Boyce Gardens

Toowoomba has many fantastic picnic spots. One of my family’s favourites are the Boyce Gardens – a heritage listed garden established between the 1930-1950s. We often visit the many areas of the gardens– the rainforest, the pine forest, marvelling at the roses, native orchids, proteas, ericas… before spreading the picnic rug under the 150 year old strangler fig.

3. Heritage Homes

No visit to Toowoomba is complete without seeing some of the stately homes that grace the city. These are some of my favourites but why not visit them all and decide for yourself?

My all-time favourite is Ascot House – one of the largest and most elaborate of all the grand Toowoomba residences. Built around the 1870s, Ascot was a single story timber residence set on 32 acres. The grounds now cover just 2 acres but the house also has a tearoom and museum.

The Grange has over 120 years of timeless elegance, so no wonder this home is a favourite for many. The traditional early colonial design includes wide verandahs, pressed metal ceilings, VJ walls, cedar doors and fireplaces.

Bishop's House was designed by the architect Henry Marks. Henry was well known for his inventions– see his pot-bellied ventilation flues and chimney shafts, windows and a walling system in this 1911 residence.

If you love old buildings then the Toowoomba Railway Station is not to be missed. Built in 1874, it was the centre of trade in Toowoomba for many years, welcoming many governors and royalty. Now the station is home to the Inbound Brasserie.

There are so many other majestic buildings to see while you are in town: the Empire Theatre, City Hall, Vacy Hall, St Luke’s Church… the list keeps going!

Toowoomba Railway Station, Qld - 1908 courtesy Aussie~mobs

4. The Bunya Mountains National Park

Need time to unwind away from the distraction of mobile devices? Then consider a picturesque 90 minute drive to the Bunya Mountains. The breathtaking views, native wildlife, and brilliantly coloured parrots make the Bunya Mountains an ideal destination for locals and tourists alike. Be dwarfed by towering bunya pines, stretching 25 metres high and listen to trickling waterfalls. I like nothing better than hiking one of the many walking tracks before relaxing at the Poppies Café with pancakes and bunya nut ice cream. Make sure you have time on your leisurely drive home to visit the historic Jondaryan Woolshed.

Interior of wool shed, Jondaryan, 2 November 1894 courtesy Queensland State Archives

5. Jondaryan Woolshed

The Woolshed lets you step back in time to the pioneering days of the 1850s. Take a self-guided tour through the historic woolshed and the original buildings in the museum grounds, watch the Machinery demonstrations and even pat the Clydesdale horses. The 90 metre shearing shed built in 1859 used 5000 sheets of the newly developed corrugated, galvanised iron and was boasted as ‘the finest in the colony’. A visit to the Woolshed is never complete though, without enjoying traditional damper and treacle, or perhaps the Ploughman’s Lunch. Why not immerse yourself in the rural experience by staying the night in one of the cabins – Wyona Cottage, Wainui Cottage or even a room in the Authentic Shearer’s Quarters?

As you can see you will need to stay a while to enjoy all Toowoomba and the Darling Downs has to offer…

Make a compelling case to your organisation to fund your trip to ASCILITE in Toowoomba this year - get a paper on the program! Check out the call for participation now!


Opening up ASCILITE: a call to action

I’m involved in in what I would call a deeply enviable space for learning and teaching.

"How university open debates and discussi" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by opensourceway

Open education, whilst certainly not a new concept, is starting to gain traction across the Australian and New Zealand higher education sectors (to varying degrees), and the attention it receives makes for interesting and exciting times. There are big issues that challenge practitioners such as institutional and national policy, the business case for open education, promoting and rewarding open educational practice, and even finding ways to recognise that many educators are already teaching openly. The possibilities for collaboration – both nationally and internationally – are extremely promising, and the potential impact on Australian students is positive. Reduced costs that lower barriers to education, better access to resources, more flexible pathways for study and recognition of prior learning, and opportunities to be engaged as co-creators of knowledge are all achievable in an open environment.

However, when we discuss openness, the most common foci are textbooks and learning resources. Why? Perhaps it is because replacing the textbook in a course with an open counterpart can be relatively simple. Repositories exist purely for the purpose of disseminating free and open texts. There is a defined cost associated with publisher texts, and it is easy to demonstrate student savings. Learning resources are already created for courses, and most universities have a repository for Learning Objects. Again, it can be an easy discussion.

The harder side of openness is practice, not resources, and as John F. Kennedy said ‘we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard’. Recent workshops at the University of Southern Queensland led to very interesting debate on the value of resources for learning and teaching for the contemporary university. Are resources why students engage with a university? Do they select a higher education institution for the quality of the resources? Or is it perhaps something else?
The workshop conversation spent a lot of time on the notion that it is interaction and engagement – not resources – that represent the best value proposition for the student. The chance to interact with lecturers and peers, to receive feedback, and to be credentialed; these were perceived as valuable.

It makes me think that conferences are not that much different.

"community" (CC BY 2.0) by mikemcsharry

ASCILITE, like other conferences, is dependent on content for the schedule (and we’re still taking submissions), but is that where the true value of a conference lies? Or, as a previous post stated, is it about the connections, the discussion, the open sharing of ideas? Is it about testing or reporting your idea through a session and then engaging in questioning and discussions? Perhaps the value of the conference lies in the quality of the coffee?

In previous years, ASCILITE has openly licenced the conference proceedings and made them freely available to world. We’ll continue that tradition this year. One opportunity though, is for open streams for the conference, and the opportunity for open practitioners to gather, discuss and disseminate open education initiatives from across the sector. Openness – like learning and teaching – benefits from a community, and I’d like to see more papers and presentations this year about open education in our region.

It may be your chance to test an idea, meet new collaborators, and make that idea just a little bit bigger.

Like I said at the beginning – it’s a deeply enviable space.


My top five reasons to love Toowoomba

ASCILITE 2017 is coming to my home town, and I couldn’t be more excited. I grew up on the Darling Downs, did my high-schooling in Toowoomba, but never actually lived “in town” until three years ago, when I moved back home with my young family. I moved for the free babysitting really, but I stay for a whole lot more than that. My top five reasons to love Toowoomba - both as a place to live and a place to visit (say, for a conference) are...

1. The foggy mountain top

Toowoomba is perched on the top of the Great Dividing Range. This means you can watch the temperature drop as you drive up that steep, steep highway from Brisbane. It also means that early mornings can be foggy at any time of the year. There is nothing more romantic than waking up to fog rolling past the window, or seeing fog settled on a lake on your morning walk. Sure, it can make driving home on a foggy night a bit of an adventure, but I still love it every time the fog rolls in.

2. The laneways in the CBD

Toowoomba does this really, really well. It’s a gracious old country town, which has always been the hub for a very large agricultural area. As a consequence there are dozens of laneways in the city precinct. These are now adorned with fabulous public art, and populated by great quality cafes, small bars and restaurants. There are more than 80 urban artworks in a 2km radius, and more being added at this year’s First Coat festival (May 19-21). Some of my favourites are

The Walton Stores

3. The parks

Toowoomba is known as the Garden City for a reason. It has red volcanic soil that gardeners just love, and you can see the results everywhere you look. My favourite parks are

  • Ju Raku En Japanese Gardens at USQ. They are the largest and most traditionally designed Japanese Gardens in the southern hemisphere. My kids love to explore the “Remote Singing Valley”.
  • Laurel Bank Park is a favourite at Carnival of Flowers time, when the garden beds are designed to flower exactly on time, and planted to reflect a theme last year’s was a tribute to Disney musical theatre. All year round, we love the wisteria lined arches, the hedges clipped into a variety of shapes (a train you can sit in! A hungry caterpillar! A giant spider!), the lawns, the playground, and the scented garden designed by the Association for the Blind.
  • Picnic Point is the perfect balance of lawns and playgrounds and picnic areas, merging into bushwalking trails that encourage you to explore the hundreds of acres of escarpment bushland on Toowoomba’s doorstep.
  • Really, there are so many… Webb Park perched on the side of the mountain with a really long and fast slippery slide built into the slope, Queens Park on the main street into town, where festivals happen, and where practically all visitors stop on their way through town, Newtown Park, with its State Rose Garden and lovely old rotunda, Lake Annand which is connected by walking paths meandering through parks that line East Creek for kilometres… You’ll have to come and stay a while to see them all for yourself.
Picnic Point

4. The weather

Toowoomba is practically always cooler than Brisbane - usually by 5 degrees or so, and it rarely gets humid. We also have proper seasons. It gets cold in winter, and is glorious in both autumn and spring. Our summer has just the right balance of hot days (but not too hot) and nights that cool down and give you respite.

5. The Downs

I grew up on the Darling Downs, and I love driving out of Toowoomba through the farmland. There are so many great country drives out of Toowoomba in every direction, and the Darling Downs is a simply beautiful rural setting.

But don’t just take my word for it!

  • The Urban List describes Toowoomba as “the place to be” for fresh produce, fresh air, and a refreshing art scene.
  • Gardening Australia featured the Japanese Gardens in episode 5 this year - catch it on iView.
  • The Global Goddess calls Toowoomba a great city to get lost in, and a mini-Melbourne.
  • And on that mini-Melbourne note, check out the great street art around town that came out of the First Coast Festival.

Why I go to the ASCILITE conference

Each year from October onwards, I start getting excited about the ASCILITE conference happening late November or early December. This is a place where I can get together with my tribe, lament the institutional politics and hang with a group who are grappling with the same challenges that I am. Sometimes it’s a reality check: seeing where other institutions are up to, what other people at my level are doing, and catching up with what’s what in the sector.

I’ve been going for the last seven or eight years and the regulars have now become my friends. I look forward to catching up with those people who are working in a similar field to me. What have you found? What have you done? And wow, that’s so cool; maybe we should collaborate on that! The conference dinner is a way to let of some steam and embrace another identity through fancy dress. I’ve noticed that the dance floor fills early and stays full to the very end. Blue hair (Dunedin), pink feathers (Adelaide), and pointed ears (Wellington): this is how I’m remembered.

Beyond the social aspects, it’s a great way to present my research. The world of educational technology moves so fast that it can be too long a time from conceptualising a project, implementing it and collecting the data, to writing it up in an academic journal. And that’s just to get it to a journal. From there it goes out to peer review, changes made and so on. Presenting at the ASCILITE conference allows me to get my research out there faster. It also gives my colleagues a chance to look at what I’m doing, give me some great suggestions, and stop me from heading down some unproductive rabbit holes. These are also the people who will celebrate my wins!

There’s no doubt that seeing what else is happening in ed tech in the sector is worth the price of admission. This is how you see what’s going on, get new ideas, blah, blah, blah. But for me, the most important aspect of the conference is the networking. I’m now doing a funded project with someone I met at the Dunedin conference. I’m co-editing a special issue of the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET) with someone I only catch up with in person, once a year. (‘Sure,’ I said over a glass of wine: ‘how hard can that be!’) The person I write with most is someone I met at the conference (well her and about 45 of her closest friends!). The real value lies in who’s there with you.

So, please do think about coming along and please do come and introduce yourself to me. We could become co-authors, collaborators or just someone to chew the fat with once a year! There’s a nice vibe, a friendly atmosphere and always some laughs to be had.

There's no better way to get institutional support for your ASCILITE attendance than getting a paper on the program. Check out the call for participation or make your submission now!