23 January 2012

Augmented Reality and my friend Matt

Today I had lunch with a friend, who is working on an amazing project with the InSPIRE Centre at the University of Canberra.  Matt Bacon is working on a project to investigate the educational value of augmented reality (a-r) technologies with a group of equally talented people - Robert Fitzgerald, Anna Wilson, and Danny Munnerly.  Wow.

He's already planted an a-r forest in the foyer of Parliament House in Canberra, and has promised to put something in the corridor outside my office. Augmented reality gives anyone with a viewing device access to information overlays of the world around them. These overlays contain information in the form of images or video or text, e.g. newly created objects or tags made up of data pulled from the Web. The overlays are being created willy-nilly by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.

So, say you are sitting at a cafe on the campus of the Australian National University, and you want to know if anyone nearby is tweeting. Using the augmented reality viewers on your iPad, you can see where the tweeters are. If anyone has taken photos nearby and made them public using something like Instagram, you can see them using the a-r viewer.

Or ... say you are viewing Canberra from the Mt Ainslie lookout and you are wondering what it looked like before Lake Burley Griffin was full. If someone had built the 3-D image and uploaded it, you could hold your smart phone up, and see this alternate view.

I'm pretty sure we are going to hear more about this.

Oh ... and if you are in the foyer of the Australian Parliament House, and you want to see Matt's forest, you will need a smart phone or a tablet loaded up with the appropriate viewer (Junaio or Layar). Once you have opened the app on your device, search for AR Studio. Let me know what happens if you get there before me.

02 January 2012

The scholarship of teaching (as research)

I've long admired Rick Reis's newsletter from Stanford, Tomorrow's Professor. He is alert to important trends, drawing our attention to and providing brief but powerful analyses of key issues. His recent post on "the scholarship of teaching and learning as 'research' " is no different. This issue has been of concern to academic and educational developers for some time, and it is good to see the evidence Reis provides that this concern is seeping into the disciplines.

His latest post draws heavily on the work of Mary Taylor Huber, one of the best-known Americans writing on the topic, but his comments will resonate with Australians who have engaged with the conversations here about the implications of TEQSA and discipline-based standards documents, as well as those who have ever put together portfolios for promotion that include evidence of excellence in teaching, or prepared paperwork that includes written learning outcomes for courses or programs.

Read the full posting at http://derekbruff.com/site/tomprof/. Reis introduces the posting with this:

The good news is that disciplinary cultures themselves have become friendlier to pedagogical concerns over the past twenty years, with scholarly societies devoting more air-, column-, and cyberspace to teaching and learning in their conferences, journals, and web sites. The sciences, especially, have been encouraged by National Science Foundation programs to strengthen science education. But other fields too—sometimes spurred by the drive from accrediting bodies to articulate student learning outcomes—have stepped up to the plate.
In the next 12-18 months, every Australian university will be paying much closer attention to the aligned curriculum, learning outcomes, statements of academic achievement, and every related issue. Will we also see a greater recognition of the time and attention these require when it comes time for promotion?  If not, I can see no way forward except a complete bifurcation of the academic life, with teachers on the one side and researchers on the other. This would, in my opinion, come at the expense of the richness and depth of academic work and of the learning experience Australia provides for its university students.  (That's not to say that at any one point in a person's career there might be a greater focus on one or the other - for example, PhD theses rarely get written by those who are focussing all their attention on teaching.) However, the truly interesting academics (substitute "lecturers" or "faculty" here, depending on your preferred country of residence), in my experience, are those who are equally interested in creating knowledge through their research, and in sharing the impetus for their research, their methods for creating that new knowledge, and the new knowledge itself, with both their peers and their students through both their writing and their teaching.

I think we at risk of losing something very important, so I hope posts like Reis's are being discussed across the country. Fingers crossed, eh?