SAFFIRE Festival
UC, March 18 – 19, 2013.
DVC(Education) Nick Klomp launched the Festival in the morning and announced the creation of a common first year unit from 2014.
The project manager, Jonathon Powles, presented a rather scary vision for the future of the university sector, using the decimation of the live music industry in the 1930s as an analogy.

I attended two virtual presentations. The first was from Helen Keegan, University of Salford, Manchester, UK.
She managed to construct an entire 3rd year media unit around the idea of a game that you dont know you're playing (like the TV show "Lost").
The final assessment involved having the students' short videos played on a big screen in the main square of Manchester.
I found it both amazing and invigorating to see assessment items so overtly displayed.
But lurking in the back of my mind were a few concerns. Is is sustainable? Is it scalable? Is it feasible at first year?

The other virtual presentation I attended was by Megan Collier, Stanford University, USA.
Her talk was about a project to "deconstructing disengagement" in Stanford's MOOCs.
Four categories of engagement were identified: sampling, auditing, disengaging and completing; in approximate percentages of 50, 30, 20, 10.
It struck me therefore that these results were very similar to the 80/20 rule generally proposed for academic effort
– that 80% of your effort goes into 20% of the students.
Each UC faculty had a half hour slot to present their current activities at the cutting edge of teaching technology.
My Faculty, ESTeM, used four presenters. Christine Kershaw on a very student-centered social and environmental education unit;
Thomas Nielsen on teachers aiming to move from telling and explaining to demonstrating and hopefully inspiring;
Roland Goecke on the artifically intelligent robot her uses in Software Engineering classes;
and Jim Woolnough and Tamsin Kelly demonstrated the clickers they use in introductory science.

Faculty of Business Government and Law speakers  talked about social media, WIL projects in North Queensland and country New South Wales, and a green screen for video lectures.
Mitchell Whitelaw from the Faculty of Arts & Design talked about visualising complexity, distinct from graphing it.
His projects included visualising 700 images of historic Manly in their public library, and visualising census data in conjunction with NATSEM.

At that point I had to go staff a drop-in Stats help session (what! Face-to-face interaction with students!) so missed the rest of the day.

On Tuesday I heard the first part of a presentation from Pauline of Box Hill Institute, Victoria. They are Very happy about the iPad rollout
and other projects they have undertaken. But the main focus of Tuesday was the "jam", a fastpaced day aimed at developing four or five projects to start work on right now.
Silly hats were the order of the day, to encourage a joyful atmosphere where ideas both silly and serious could all be aired.
After the usual sort of group activities dispalying diverging thoughts then converging them,
six themes could be discerned: technology, future learning, culture, educating to inspire, pace of change, sustainability.
A team then gateherd around each theme to thrash out a possible project that could use SAF funding.
I lost the plot at this point a bit becasue I had to give a lecture (how old-fashioned!) and run a tutorial (how 20th century!) so was dipping in and out of the sessions rather than being a continuous participant.
It will be interesting to see where the ideas head over the next 12 months.

The virtual presentations are apparently available on UC's Youtube channel. There was a Twitter feed with tag ucsaffire (I'm not really into Twitter).

Developing a responsive regulatory system for Australia's small businesses,
Victoria University, Melbourne, 28 September 2012.
Michael Adams "Does global governance trickle down to Australian SMEs?"
A great presentation, suggesting that trickle down does not really occur.
Kumi Heenitigala "What does governance mean to Australian small businesses?"
Concentrated on the role that boards play in governance.
Yongqiang Li "Board size and performance of small firms: a meta-analysis"
An excellent meta-analysis of 28 papers.
Alice Richardson & Phil Lewis "Developing a responsive regulatory system"
The ten areas of regulatory difficulty in the survey we analysed came from in-depth interviews in the frst phase of the research.
Andrew Clarke "Profiling small corporations: governance and regulation changes"
An insightful look at the data we have, but it would be great to have more.
Yongqiang Li "Barriers and opportunities for small business in China"
Report from Li's recent trip to China with the Victorian Government.
WCC Congress, Brisbane Convention Centre, 23 September 2010
SV Raghavan, India (plenary)
  • Spoke about the Indian National Knowledge Network (a bit like our NBN)
  • Liked his statistic of 50,000 units per hour being delivered by Indian HE institutions
  • Also liked the notion of e-quality
Stefania Montani, Italy
  • Discussed case-based reasoning as opposed to rule-based or model-based
  • What on earth is synteny?
Po-Chi Shin, Taiwan
  • Florence Nightingale would have been pleased, as he discussed standardisation of hospital forms into a singe database
  • Questions about the back-up and recovery systems of his package
Eisuke Hanada, Japan
  • Discussed wireless LANs in hospitals
  • Overcomes issues with mobile phones and medical equipment
Marcus Watson, Australia
  • Gosh these NICTA guys are doing great work
  • Discussed TextNav, a Youtube (?) package to analyse conversations
  • Also used Leximancer
Neil Burdett, Australia
  • Introduced MILXView, a free package to view medical images
  • Questions about adding a decision support system
Golam Sarwar, Australia
  • The dreaded straight-after-lunch slot
  • His multi-agent system looked like it was trying to replace the act of picking up the phone …
Rudi Harmse, South Africa
  • Consumer focus, on Asperger’s syndrome
  • Referred to Tantam (2006) Opportunities and risks in e-therapy
Penny Sanderson, Australia (plenary)
  • Fantastic presenter, not hiding behind the lectern
  • Make it OK for the user to finish the design
  • Consider how work should work (normative), does work (descriptive), could work (formative) and will work (projective)
Poster session
  • I was here to present on behalf of Brett Lidbury, Fariba Shadabi and myself
  • A small group of attendees moved from poster to poster, listening to 5 minute talks from the presenters of each poster
  • I had not seen this very structured poster session format before
ASEARC conference, Uni Newcastle, Monday 7 December 2009
Mike Camden, Statistics New Zealand
  • Noted that teachers love three aspects of R: local, visual and _R_ _ (can you fill in the gaps?)
  • Recommended the use of hot topics in class e.g. climate change, research topics in John Harraway’s videos (
Kaye Marion, RMIT
  • Interesting assessment technique in a 3rd statistical consulting class: ask students to give verbal explanation of statistical concepts without prior preparation
James Baglin, RMIT
  • Statistical thinking is too hard to convey in one semester
  • Will drop ANOVA to fit in new assessment of attitudes towards statistics, self-efficacy etc
Peter Howley, Uni Newcastle
  • Uses a series of questions to the class to get them to describe concepts, and seeks confirmation at every stage
Anthony Bedford, RMIT
  • Plug for 10th Australian Conference on Mathematics and Computers in Sport (
  • Mentioned computer labs with 48 labs in a room (!) but Jennifer Brown, Uni Canterbury, said they have 60 (!!)
  • Expressed concern that the web-based labs in a service unit may not extend the good students
  • Jennifer Brown saw it more as students having the opportunity to select their own pace (able to demonstrate competency very quickly)
Alice Richardson, UC
  • Questions and discussion revolved around what we really want students to remember 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years after their Intro Stats unit
Paul van Staden, Uni Pretoria
  • Fantastic applet for showing kurtosis: exactly what James Neill asked for months ago (I need this applet!)
Bernard Ellem, UNE
  • A more mathematical talk on curvature in linear models
Jennifer Brown, Uni Canterbury
  • Extraordinary difficulty in counting penguins in Antarctica
  • Spatial variation is more important to assess than temporal
Noel Hansen, Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • The dreaded after-lunch talk, so no report
Thomas Suesse, Uni Wollongong
  • Mathematical models of social networks (who talks to whom)
George Sofronov, Uni Wollongong
  • Uses ABARE data on farm income (a good source to pursue)
Anna MacDonald, Uni Canterbury
  • Uses MCMC in Matlab
James Dawber, Uni Canterbury -> Uni Wollongong
  • Gosh Jennifer’s graduate students are good presenters!
  • Probability models of food poisoning (great for my Nutrition students)
Richard Ryall, RMIT
  • Modelling rest day effect in AFL
  • I agreed with Lorraine, DPI, that he needed to take account of non-random allocation of treatments a la Freedman