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Published August 23, 2019 | Multidisciplinary

A Star-Studded Program of Keynote Speakers at SALTISE Conference in June 2019

From learning analytics and virtual reality to artificial intelligence, this year’s SALTISE conference definitely explored new frontiers of learning.

The conference was held at Dawson College on June 3 & 4, 2019 on the theme of Promoting Deeper Learning: From Analytics to New Strategies.

The rock-star (each in their own their field) keynote speakers had one objective in common: to encourage further exploration by the higher education community of the opportunities and issues related to the use of emerging technology in the classroom.

Alyssa Friend Wise

Alyssa Friend Wise, an Associate Professor of Learning Sciences and Educational Technology is also the director of LEARN, NYU’s Learning Analytics Research Network. Learning analytics is a promising technology that allows educators to analyze data traces left by students in order to improve learning. For example, a teacher might wonder how students are engaging with a flipped class video. By analyzing the number and type of “clicks” a student made, the teacher can discover patterns that could optimize learning.

Learning Analytics allows educators to analyze data traces left by students in order to improve learning. Photo attribution: Photos for Class.com

Alyssa Wise observed that students who play the video, skipping, seeking and scrolling forward could be perceived to be disengaged whereas students who pause, seek and scroll backward appear to be tussling with the content to clarify an idea. Making sense of this data, teachers can plan a pedagogical response and encourage students to be metacognitive about their learning. Learning analytics can help students realize what they are doing and potentially learn more in the future.

Olivier Palmieri

Olivier Palmieri is the Director of L’Atelier XR Ubisoft. He created “Eagle Flight” the first virtual reality game developed by Ubisoft. He strongly believes in the pedagogical potential of a set of technologies called extended reality (XR). XR includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).

Virtual reality devices can immerse students in a 3-dimension fictional or real world. Photo attribution: Photos for Class.com

VR devices place the user in the center of the action so instead of looking at a screen the user is immersed in a 3 dimensional world. Using VR for instance, science students could experience landing on Mars or tourism students could walk through the Amazon rainforest. AR overlays virtual objects on the real world. Pokémon GO is probably the best-known example of AR. Teachers could use the technology to make images and further information “pop out” of a textbook or worksheet. MR, or mixed reality, combines real and virtual world and it is interactive in real time. Students in technical programs could get practice and hands on experience in their field and could train for dangerous parts of their job without any risk.

New and more affordable XR technologies, such as Google Cardboard Virtual Reality kits, will provide limitless visual and immersive learning opportunities, offer more vivid learning experiences and extend the learning environment of the classroom of the future.

David Usher

Best known as the lead vocalist of the Canadian rock band Moist, David Usher describes himself as a geek passionate about artificial intelligence, or AI. In addition to his 4 Junos and 1.4 million albums sold, he founded Reimagine AI, an artificial intelligence creative studio that focuses on building interactive artificial intelligence technology.

In the not so distant future, David Usher is convinced that artificial intelligent beings will be able to provide interactive experiences in the classroom. Instead of a theoretical history course, why not provide students with the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with an AI historical figure?

Photo attribution: Photos for Class.com

David Usher also addressed several of the ethical issues surrounding AI. Artificial intelligence works by gathering unimaginable amounts of data and combining this data with intelligent algorithms that enable computers to learn automatically. Why does this matter? Computers could automate jobs and replace the workforce. Think of how self-driving vehicles would replace all truck and taxi drivers. AI can be used for surveillance. China already has a huge system that includes facial recognition that it uses to identify criminal behaviour. Remember though that humans who could have included a bias against certain races, created the algorithms that run the system.

AI is a scary proposition but also an incredible opportunity” – David Usher at SALTISE Conference.

In conclusion, AI could benefit humanity in as much as researchers, citizen advocates and governments frame policies that govern the development of the technology.

Trends Reshaping Learning

Of course, the 2019 SALTISE Conference was much more that just the excellent keynotes. There were talks on maker spaces, active learning, assessment in higher education as well as several post-conference workshops. Several articles relating to these topics will be published in Profweb in the upcoming year.

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