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22 March 2013
Authentic Learning Colloquium

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted an Authentic Learning Colloquium at the university's Life Sciences building on Friday 22 March 2013, as part of the NRF Project on Emerging Technologies to improve Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. This conference provided the opportunity for educators from universities across South Africa the opportunity to showcase research on authentic learning, cultural historical activity theory and emerging technologies. Papers delivered showed instances where learners and educators (and even the wider world) become partners in knowledge generation and sharing through the use of innovative learning methods and technologies.

The aim of the colloquium was to showcase research that explores practical applications of authentic learning, emerging technologies in authentic learning, and activity theory which relates to authentic learning, and there was much fruitful discussion surrounding opportunities for learning afforded by 3D virtual worlds, possibilities for mobile learning in a country where most people are connected to the net through cell phones, the use of free and open-source software, the theory of authentic learning and its use in emerging education systems.

Professor Vivienne Bozalek, Director of Teaching and Learning at UWC and principal investigator of the NRF Emerging Technologies Project, opened proceedings, welcoming attendees and briefly introducing the concepts underpinning authentic learning. The keynote talk was delivered by Professor Jan Herrington of Murdoch University, Australia, widely acknowledged as the foremost expert on authentic learning. Prof Herrington could not be physically present, but, appropriately for the subject matter, provided a lively and well-received video presentation entitled The misapprehensions of authentic learning: What are the critical characteristics?

Plenary talks were delivered by Professor Alan Amory of the University of Johannesburg – whose talk on Technological tool mediated authentic learning highlighted the role of new tools in real learning – and Professor Denise Wood, Associate Head of School: Teaching and Learning at the University of South Australia and Extraordinary Professor of Education at UWC, who explored avatars and simulated worlds while discussing The affordances of 3D virtual world as authentic learning environments.

UWC educators from a variety of faculties and departments gave presentations on a range of innovative methods employed in education. Physiotherapy lecturer Mike Rowe spoke about using Google Drive to facilitate a blended approach to learning (only two days after being awarded his PhD at UWC's March Graduation ceremony); Dr Richard Knight of the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology department discussed authentic learning in 3D virtual worlds and role-play; School of Nursing lecturer Lorraine Fakude explained how she employs blogging as a tool to enhance reflective practice in nursing education; and many other lecturers from UWC and other South African universities (including the University of Cape Town, University of Johannesburg and UNISA) explored the use of emerging technologies for authentic learning in the South African context.