This post from Goiânia Brazil where four of us Canadian Distance Education folks are presenting at a Brazilian-Canadian summit on Distance Education. Goiânia is one of those agriculturally based town in Central Brazil with 1.5 million inhabitants that few in North America have ever heard of. But the folks are friendly, the weather tropical, the food terrific and all and all an enjoyable few days.

I also had a great time at the Sloan-C conference in Orlando last week. This conference, in its 14 year, had about 1200 registrants and I was honored to be asked to do the opening keynote. My slides are posted and the presentation was a few rehashed “group-network-collective” ideas from Jon Dron and myself and some issues on Open Educational Resources and the challenges of adoption. The presentation  ended with some of the metadata results from Bob Bernard et al from Concordia University on effectiveness of Distance Education and a new meta analysis on impact of different types of interaction that is related to my 2003 articles on “Equivalency theory”.

The second keynote was by Curt Bonk, who overviewed the is new book the World is Open featuring ten things that are changing the educational world. As usual Curt did a media heavy presentation (but he only wore one pirate hat this time) and each of his many slides was packed with graphics and illustrations about everything wonderful about new web based teaching and learning opportunities. By contrast the closing keynote by Liz Burge was media free. She did a reflective participatory talk on engagement and ethical issues in distance education. The contrast between her and Curt’s presentations nicely illustrated the point that the message is as powerful as the medium. I was also intrigued by the awareness of how ethical issues are profoundly contextually bound and that the new context of the pervasive web makes some ethical issues even more important, while making others irrelevant.

I was most impressed with a presentation by Shannon Ritter who is the Social Networks Advisor for Penn State’s World Campus. I love her work title (we need a SNA at Athabasca!) and her slides were great. She is building a variety of sites on SecondLife, Facebook and Flickr that are designed to allow World Campus students to experience some of the excitement and identification with Penn State that accrues to campus students . There is nothing quite like actually being at a location in person, but that does not mean we cannot create some of the same sense of identification and fun using social software tools.