Those initials stand for Canadian Network for Innovation in Education; this conference was held in Saint John, NB, this year. It's not geared towards language learning or ESL specifically; the focus, using technology within education has a wider interest. It's an interesting conference because although the focus is technology, the information is presented in ways that allow anyone with a general interest in the subject to understand the sessions. Usually, presenters highlight the way in which they are using a particular application in their own practice. The first keynote speech (Daniel Peraya) summed up a lot of this for me with talk of the inherent conflict (at least for many of us) between technical knowledge and ability and how to teach with technology. Within this conflict the role of the teacher usually changes from the traditional one--often we end up as co-investigators with our students.
Other important points made were the technology does modify teacher behaviour, it does have an impact on our students, and the teacher is usually part of a team that helps to bring the technology to the teaching situation. As with any teaching, however, it was reiterated that we need to participate in reflective behaviour--what works in our particular situations and why? And just as importantly, what doesn't work for us or what could we do better? Finally the point was made that most of us need training in order to embrace the technology that is out there.
Some of these points came up again in a presentation by Albert Johnson entitled Students' Perception of Effective Teaching in Higher Education. Johnson used a survey to compare important characteristics in face-to-face teaching and distance education. It was interesting that although the characteristics remained constant (repectful, responsive, approachable, communicative, organized, engaging, professional, and humorous), the order varied. For distance education, all of the other characteristics were dependent on and related to responsiveness.
We have all heard of Prensky's concept of digital immigrants and digital natives, so it was interesting--and somewhat of a relief--that reseachers in BC (BCIT), Regina, and Catalonia found that this digital stereotyping didn't hold.. The important thing for students was what they used technology for--if it was mainly social usage as opposed to academic usage then the students were not as adept at using it.
In case anyone is interested, next year's conference will be at McMaster University.