Tag Archives: Academic Staff

Are you using this technology? Innovative online symposium

Is anyone else doing this?

Una Cunningham of Teacher Education and Jeanette King of Aotahi convened the Third UC Intergenerational Transmission of Minority Languages Symposium: Challenges and Benefits, which opened on 11 December 2017.

The symposium was entirely online and asynchronous. Presenters send in pre-recorded video presentations which are uploaded to YouTube and Figshare (so each presentation gets a doi number). The understanding is that uploading implies consent to having the material available under a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC BY 4.0). Then each presentation has a page on our Learning & Teaching Languages Research Lab WordPress site  with the name and affiliation of the author(s), the abstract they submitted previously, an embedded link to the YouTube version of the video file, and information about how to cite the presentation including a mention of the symposium and the doi number which links back to the Figshare version of the file (generally in the less compressed version supplied by the author), which in turn also links to the symposium WordPress page. The comment function is enabled, but moderated.

The format attracted presenters from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Italy, Taiwan, Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, Qatar and Brazil as well as Australia and New Zealand. Presenters had the opportunity to share their work indefinitely, with a very wide audience, and to receive comments and enter into discussion with others, inside and outside academia, without any kind of paywall.

We haven’t heard of this being done elsewhere, but we would love to hear about it if someone at UC is doing this too or knows of anything similar. Please take a look at some of these presentations and let us know what you think!

Christchurch Graduation Ceremonies December 2017

Please find details of the Christchurch Graduation Ceremonies December 2017 below.

  1. General

Graduation Ceremonies will be held on 13 and 15 December 2017 in the Horncastle Arena as follows:

Wednesday 13 December 2017


Colleges of Engineering and Arts. Speaker James Addington, UCSA President.


College of Education, Health and Human Development. Speaker – Dr Therese Arseneau, Chair of Council, Ara; and Chair of The Board of  Directors, Christchurch New Zealand.

 Friday 15 December 2017

College of Science. Speaker – Professor Wendy Lawson, PVC Science.

College of Business & Law.  Speaker – the Right Honourable Sir John Key, recipient of a DCom (honoris causa).

   Council members are encouraged to attend any or all ceremonies and staff are also encouraged to attend the ceremony connected with their own Colleges. They may of course attend any as they wish.

All University of Canterbury staff are invited to be part of the Platform Party and there will be ample room for those who wish to participate.

Full academic dress will be worn. Hire of this should be arranged through departmental offices. Hired regalia may be collected on the day before Graduation from Graduate Women Canterbury (formerly Canterbury Branch NZFGW) at 9 Creyke Road, Ilam. Please note that the GWC hold very limited stocks of Waikato PhD regalia so, where applicable, prompt ordering is advised.

Printed programmes will be provided in the Arena. All those joining the Platform Party for any ceremony are requested to inform Karen Reynolds (ext. 8981) (karen.reynolds@canterbury.ac.nz) that they intend to be present, not later than 4.30pm on Wednesday 29 November. Staff are reminded that seats may not be available unless there is prior notification.

Admission for the General Seating in the Arena will be by ticket only. Members of Council and staff requiring ticket(s) for a family member or friend for any ceremony should advise Karen (ext. 8981) not later than 4.30pm on Wednesday 29 November.

 In the case of staff, tickets will be forwarded by internal mail before the date of the ceremonies unless a request is received to forward them elsewhere.


  1. Arrangements for the ceremonies at 10.00am on Wednesday 13 and Friday 15 December

All members of the Platform Party are requested to assemble near the sign-posted area on Twigger Street, directly down the path from the main entrance to the arena, by 9.20am.

Arrangements for the ceremonies at 2.00pm on Wednesday 13 and Friday 15 December

All members of the Platform Party are requested to assemble near the sign-posted area on Twigger Street, directly down the path from the main entrance to the arena, by 1.20pm.

In the event of wet weather, please assemble on the landing of Stair 1 directly opposite Gate 1.


Jeff Field
University Registrar | Pouroki
November 2017


The Bakhshali Manuscript: the world’s oldest ‘true’ zero?

It may be elementary maths, but the concept of zero has given rise to many an existential, intellectual debate over the history of zero, with much musing over nothing.

An international group of academics, including a UC mathematician, is challenging Oxford University’s recent findings about the use of zero in an ancient Indian manuscript.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford University last month issued a press release and YouTube video announcing that a Sanskrit manuscript housed in the library for the last century had been dated using radiocarbon techniques. Contrary to existing proposals, which dated the manuscript to sometime between the eighth and twelfth centuries, Oxford’s radiocarbon dating laboratory announced that three of the birch-bark folios of the Bakhshali Manuscript could be dated to roughly 300 CE, 700 CE and 900 CE.  Oxford’s announcement was widely reported in the international media.

The key result, the Bodleian Library said, was that because of this early date of 300 CE, one of the manuscript’s leaves contained the oldest known written zero. 

The Library also announced that the zero in the manuscript was not a “true” zero, in the sense that it functioned only as a marker showing an empty decimal place, and not as a fully-fledged number that participates in calculations.

However, an international group of historians of Indian mathematics is challenging Oxford’s findings, stating the zero in the Bakhshali treatise is younger, but more important than Oxford claims.

The team, which includes scholars from universities in New Zealand, the United States, France, Japan and Canada, has published a peer-reviewed article that refutes several of the Library’s key assertions. 

The scholars, including UC’s Associate Professor Clemency Montelle, Mathematics and Statistics, argue that the work written on the leaves of the Bakhshali manuscript is a unified treatise on arithmetic that must have been written at the time of the latest of the manuscript’s leaves, not the earliest.

Contrary to the different dates the radio carbon dating suggests, the treatise shows no signs of being a jumble of fragments from different periods, the academics say. Both the handwriting and the topic being discussed are continuous across the boundary of the first two dated leaves. It looks very much as if the scribe, who may have lived at the end of the eighth century, wrote out his treatise on a group of leaves that had been manufactured at very different times.

But of greater significance for the history of mathematics is the authors’ evidence showing that the Bakhshali treatise does indeed know the “true” zero, and contains calculations like long multiplication that would have necessitated using zero as an arithmetical number.

From various other features of the manuscript’s style and content, the team concludes that Oxford’s claims are implausible and do not fit with what has previously been discovered about the Bakhshali Manuscript. They urge further study of the radiocarbon dating procedures and the textual tradition of mathematics in South Asia to integrate the new findings with existing information in a way that will be historically consistent.

UC’s Dr Clemency Montelle says, “Radio carbon dating offers exciting new insight into historical documents, however the results must be carefully integrated into the other information that we know about the manuscript; that is, science can’t trump all.”



Source: Kim Plofker, Agathe Keller, Takao Hayashi, Clemency Montelle and Dominik Wujastyk. “The Bakhshālī Manuscript: A Response to the Bodleian Library’s Radiocarbon Dating” in History of Science in South Asia [Online], Volume 5 Number 1 (6 October 2017). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18732/H2XT07

Japanese speakers and lexical similarity

Recipient of the prestigious Canterbury Doctoral Scholarship Wakayo Mattingley from Yokohama, Japan, is seeking to understand how Japanese speakers deal with potential ambiguity introduced by lexical similarity in Japanese.

In linguistics, words which sound similar have what is called “lexical similarity”. For example, in English, a word like ‘cap’ has many other word pairs which differ only by a single sound, such as ‘cap’ vs ‘cut’ or ‘cap’ vs ‘tap’.

Existing research has found that words like this are likely to be pronounced more carefully because they increase uncertainty for the listener, so speakers alter their pronunciation in a number of ways, like emphasising the consonant or increasing the length of the vowel.

Wakayo, who is studying at the College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata  says  languages differ in many ways and have different rules for which sounds result in different word.

“The effect of lexical similarity has been identified in English. However, it is unclear whether this is a strategy applied by speakers of all languages or whether it may be specific to speakers of English or European languages.”

Wakayo is investigating what strategies Japanese speakers employ specifically.

She hopes this study helps us better understand how lexical similarity can influence speakers’ word production and processes of speech.

Her study combines a number of different and innovative methodologies, including such as a large speech data base(corpus) and laboratory experiments.

“I will combine insights from the data base of Japanese spoken language with speaker data collected in laboratory experiments (production and perception).  Traditionally, linguistics research tended to focus on either speech production (what was said) or speech perception (what the listener heard), but I believe it’s important to include the viewpoints from both speakers and listeners,” she says.

She already has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Master of Arts both from UC.

The title of her thesis is ‘Influence of lexical similarity on phonetic variability in Japanese. Her supervisors are Dr Kevin Watson and Professor Jen Hay.

Wakayo says UC offered subjects she was interested in studying.

“After starting to study at UC, I found that the staff and lecturers were incredibly helpful and approachable.

“In terms of linguistics, the department at UC has produced some world-renowned research. I found experts in my academic field and the relationships between the postgraduate students and faculty are excellent.”

“There are also many international students at UC, so I have enjoyed interacting with people from different cultures” she says.

Restoring Māori literacy narratives

Melissa DerbyRecipient of the prestigious Brownlie Scholarship Melissa Derby (Ngāti Ranginui) hopes that her research makes a difference in the lives of the children participating in her study. She also hopes they will find enjoyment in reading just like she did as a child.

A student at the College of Education, Health and Human Development | Te RāngaAko me te Hauora, Melissa’s whānau inspired in her a lifelong passion for reading which, in turn, means this project holds a special place in her heart.

Working with bilingual children – specifically te reo Māori and English – Melissa has co-constructed a literacy programme designed to support phonological awareness (the ability to hear and decode sounds in words) and vocabulary knowledge. Both skills are widely recognised as being key predictors of children’s later success in reading and writing.

With one in three children unable to meet National Standards for Year One reading and one in four unable to meet National Standards for Year One writing, Melissa hopes to give early recognition for those who may fall behind in order to give them the best possible start.

“Once children fall behind, it can be difficult to recover their skills, and this may have implications for their experiences and outcomes during their formal schooling and beyond,” she says.

“We know what skills children need to be strong in before they learn to read so I am very happy to be employing a strengths-based approach in my study, where I am working with pre-school children to develop their skills so that they start primary school with the best possible chance of success in reading and writing.”

“It is my hope that my research makes a difference in the lives of the children who are participating in my study, and that they will find enjoyment in reading just like I did as a child.”

“My thesis is also unfolding as a platform to promote global human rights and self-determination particularly of Indigenous groups. I argue that literacy is a human right that is key to accessing other human rights associated with health and wellbeing, community engagement, cultural imperatives, and lifelong learning.”

Melissa has given her thesis, which is part of the A Better Start National Science Challenge, the working title of Ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero: Restoring Māori literacy narratives to create contemporary stories of success.

Her supervisors are Gail Gillon and Angus Macfarlane, who she calls “the biggest draw card to UC” having long-admired his work in Māori communities and schools.

Prior to her work at UC, Melissa obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Māori Resource Management from Victoria University of Wellington, a Master of Arts in Māori Development (First Class Honours, Dean’s List for Exceptional Theses) from AUT University and she holds a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Studies from Columbia University, New York.