Dunedin Press Release

This September The Future of Learning in a Networked World is well and truly in the hands of the people most affected by the issue.

Otago Polytechnic has initiated a traveling ‘open space’ conference designed to encourage open discussion and sharing of ideas based around the use of Information and Communication Technology in education.

In an open space conference the topics and agenda of the event are determined by the participants; not set in stone beforehand. This means that the content of the day will be driven by those stakeholders who have most to share and learn: teachers, students, academics, technical staff, designers, researchers, support staff and anyone with an interest in 21st Century learning.

A facilitator will explain the process at the beginning of the day and participants host their own discussion groups. Participants are free to move among the discussion groups. Each group records the conversations in a form (blog/podcast/video/audio) that can be used to broadcast the proceedings of the meeting to wider online participants.

“The objective of this event is to initiate and strengthen new connections (and thereby changes) in the New Zealand education sector. The key to meeting this objective is open participation,” explains Leigh Blackall, Programme Developer in Educational Development for Otago Polytechnic.

“The popularity of the ‘open space conference’ or ‘unconference’ has been growing in internet circles over the past few years. We see teachers step down from the podium and become part of the discussion group; it’s the responsibility of the people coming along to get what they need out of it. It’s really a whole (new) way of learning.”

While event organisers are keen to ensure the discussions are as relevant to the New Zealand context as possible, the conference has attracted a collection of international participants recognised for their research and innovation in the field.

Speakers include Stewart Chiefet, the San Francisco-based Director of Collections for the Internet Archive; a project that records movies, videos, television programs, music, lectures, radio programs, educational courseware, and software collections as a resource for future use. His project is described as “something every school should be aware of.”

Another speaker, Teemu Leinonen (Finland) has worked to develop a programme connecting mobile phones with information-source ‘Wikipedia’ for people without ready access to the internet.

The international speakers will arrive in Dunedin on September 18, visiting Otakou Marae for an over night welcoming. The open space wll begin at 10am on the 19th of September at the Hutton Theatre of Otago Museum. The next day discussions continue on a Taieri Gorge Railway excursion. The group will then travel to institutions in Christchurch, Northland, Waiheke Island, Auckland and Wellington to discuss the topic with local participants.