Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Thank you EDEN Bloggers!

The 2008 EDEN Annual Conference was again rich in content achievements. EDEN is most grateful to the keynote speakers who opened eyes and gave significant orientations in the major conference themes, their presentations will soon be uploaded to the EDEN web.

The conference blog gives interesting and intensive feedback on the event. It is a great pleasure to read a more personal look and feel of the event, thus: thank you, conference delegate bloggers!

We also appreciate highly the valuable support of the host institution, Universidade Aberta. Their TV production team prepared an excellent video composition of some enjoyable moments of the conference, and recorded interviews with keynote speakers.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

See you in Gdansk

In my mind I say good-bye to Lisbon, to the people, to the conference. In my mind I reflect on the lights, the food, the sight, the thoughts, the speeches, the discussions.
It was a great pleasure a fantastic location, and always an eye-opening experience. Thank you and see you all in Paris, this year or in Gdansk, next year!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Over my shoulder

Time to reflect on the conference, and looking back over my shoulder, what will I remember?

Firstly the city itself.... what could be said that hasn't already been said? Complex, colourful, aromatic, noisy, spectacular, manic, steeped in culture, ultra-modernity, ancient and bold. All of these describe beautiful Lisbon, but none of them can quite encapsulate its unique atmosphere. I vow to return one day.

Secondly, there were the people. I have renewned some old friendships this week, and made some new friends too. All of the following I shared taxis, trams, buses and metro cars with. We spent time together talking seriously about e-learning, our families and homelives, and a lot of time laughing and joking, simply having fun. These guys helped make EDEN 2008 memorable. I met Dianne Conrad (Athabasca University, Canada) on the first day at breakfast - Gila Kurtz (Bar Ilan University Israel - pictured with me above on the first day of the conference) introduced us, and I'm glad she did. Dianne has a lot of energy and is committed to excellence in e-learning. It was a pleasure to spend some time with her. I also met Dirk Schneckenberg (Rennes, France) at the same breakfast meeting, and spent a great deal of time with him and his colleague Ulf-Daniel Ehlers (University of Duisberg-Essen). We will definitely collaborate together on some projects in the near future. We have already agreed it. Finally, there was another new friend, Mirjam Hauck (UK Open University). She was my partner in crime on the EDEN blog - in fact Mirjam had the idea originally to set up a blog for the conference - I am sure we will be doing the same thing again next year, but better! It was a real pleasure to spend time in such inspiring surroundings with such smart and passionate people. Thank you all!

Finally there was the conference itself - not always what one expects it to be. The papers were sometimes surprising, sometimes disappointing, sometimes inspiring. All shades of academia (and sometimes none) were represented at the conference in the paper sessions. I turned up late for my own session, due to a miscalculation with the time (I was struggling with the conference blog and the wireless connections at the time). I managed to put one presenter's little nose out of joint I hear, but we all got our 20 minutes, so no damage done I suspect!

To all who made the conference and the social events memorable, my grateful thanks. Here's the next year in Gdansk!

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow Learning with 'E's.

Invitation to Gdansk - EDEN 2009 and photo albums (14/06/2008)

Dear EDEN Friends, see you all in Gdansk in 2009.

1. Magazine Factory Workshop
2. Session H1 - Virtual Mobility
3. The last walk in Lisbon

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Summing up

Home again I'm thinking about this year's EDEN conference. We talked about it over dinner yesterday and waiting for the plane this morning - this year there were less practical examples than last year and more room for meta perspectives and reflections. Both on elearning, web 2.0, how the student feel about being elearning students and the new roles of teachers and students.

What also struck me is the role of the library. I'm thinking about the library more than I ever did before. The library used to be a place in the outskirts, somewhere I went for information, now (and maybe also before but I didn't see it then), the people working at the libraries are actively taking a role in facilitating learning. There was this excellent presentation by Non Santlebury from the Open University of UK. It got me thinking of how we should include the library and other "support" units besides regular teaching when planning the learning spaces and the learning paths. I predict that the next phase in the elearning development will be the phase of the libraries. And if next year will be at learing and workplace, maybe EDEN 2010 should be about libraries and other not central (but not peripheral neither) learning places and facilities.

See you hopefully next year!

Impact, interaction.... and irony

Well, it's all over bar the shouting (which will happen during the post luch Annual General Meeting of EDEN - look, I'm only joking,OK??) The foyer downstairs is bare and few people remain. It's a little like Second Life (Now I am being serious)

The social web has had a huge impact on the way we see the world of education, and business. In his keynote today, David White from the EU commission used the analogy of Amazon.Com which encourages online book reviews. He says this has changed the business model for book selling, and that education needs to undergo a similar transformation so that the needs of lifelong learners and e-learning in particular can be addressed. He doesn’t know a great deal about e-learning but he does know a little about the lumbering edifice that is Europe. Europe consists of its people and the task in the European Union (and supposedly its governments) is to create the space, provide the instruments and give the support that liberates and sustains social and individual talents that make us all human. Europe has within it a wealth of culture and a creativity of spirit that is second to none and the challenge here is similar to those working within e-learning and distance education on a global basis. Our aim must be to encourage and support every individual as they realise their self potential so as to enable them to collectively contribute toward the common good. This was certainly Euro-centric and rejoiced in the unity of the continent and its potential to participate on the world stage. Delivering this speech directly in the wake of Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty yesterday, took some courage. It is rich indeed, and as his speech was actually given in Lisbon, with David hailing from Ireland, it certainly has a delicious irony.

Marci Powell, who has replaced John Flores as the new president of the United States Distance Learning Association, examined the interface between academia and industry. USDLA did a survey of 431 human resource directors in the USA. She concludes that the future workforce is here, now, but it is ill-prepared. The 3 R’s are not enough - a new digital literacy is needed, and there is also a new set of interactive skills (in what I will call the 4 ‘C’s) – collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication that is required. The problem is that the technologies children will work with probably haven’t even been invented yet, and we need to prepare them for this. This is an impossible task. The impact of Globalisation on jobs is severe, and competition is fierce. E-learning has created an open field of opportunity where the traditional catchment areas of student populations have been eroded. State funding is gradually draining away for universities, so the established institutions will need to be creative and innovative to survive. This will involve clear and open negotiation with the corporations to discover what new skills and knowledge they require us to deliver. This is the task set before distance educators. One of the answers is to connect people of all cultures through the global meeting place – the Internet.

These were at times controversial and thought provoking speeches, which reveal the complex problems of living and learning in a connected world. David White may have misjudged the mood o the conference. Marci Powell on the other hand tapped into our expectations. More problems were offered than solutions, but the EDEN crowd are pragmatists and didn’t really expect to have any real answers delivered on a plate. It may be a brave new world we inhabit with many problems to address, some of which appear to be intractable. New learning cultures are emerging which bring with them new sets of problems we didn’t anticipate. Education is not cheap to deliver, and e-learning is only a part of the solution. Yet it is a necessity for global well-being. If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance...

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow Learning with 'E's.

Hot tools, hot topics

Entitled ‘Technological Culture: Web 2.0 tools and social media’, this was the last parallel paper session before the final plenary event at EDEN – day 3. The session should have been less well attended than previous ones, because traditionally most people begin to leave for the airport around this time. It’s difficult with last day sessions – often known as the ‘graveyard’ slot. Most of the presenters also had to dash away early to catch their flights. Yet there was a very healthy turnout, with an almost full room which is a testament to the fact that Web 2.0 is a red hot topic at this conference.

The first paper with the somewhat impenetrable title ‘Web 2.0 environment with workflow language’ – was presented Pritt Tammets from Tallinn University, Estonia. He talked about visual language and visual thinking which tap into the intuitive and emotional learning. Tammets’ aim was to develop a suite of visual language tools that could integrate into Web 2.0 applications such as wikis. This is a tool for designers, but became a little too complicated, he reported. Results were mixed and the system didn’t work for large scale delivery.

The second paper in the session was also focused on the use of wikis to support the learning of English as a foreign language. Igor Balaban (University of Zagreb, Croatia) borrowed Gilly Salmon’s ‘e-tivities’ concept to characterise student engagement with wiki tools. Wikis are good for interaction, collaboration and to share content with a wider audience he said, but in second language learning they are considered less useful. The EngWiki project aimed to discover how they could be optimised so his team developed a taxonomy of wiki activities (a bit of an anachronism perhaps when the chaotic and folksonomic nature of wikis is considered) to support the learning. Igor presented some very interesting wiki activities such as analogies, vocabulary trees, narratives and role playing. The results were very positive showing that students engaged more actively with the course. I will definitely be in touch to discuss their research.

The third paper, ‘A wiki as an intercultural learning environment’ was the result of collaborative research between Spanish and Australian universities. Presented by Guzman Mancho (Alcala University, Spain) the project highlighted problems with learning English through technology. Making two different semester structures coincide between the Spanish and Australian universities, assimilating the culture of the other university and overcoming lack of funding were all issues addressed. Collaborative editing was required so an ‘institution free’ wiki – MediaWiki – was selected. Students practiced collaborative writing in English which had very useful outcomes, with most producing useful content and completing the course successfully. However, there was lack of interaction between students, difficulty in assessing the degree of intercultural ties and many students lacked experience in wiki use.

The final paper, entitled ‘Disrupting the technological culture’, was presented by Stella Porto of the University of Maryland, USA. She focused on staff support (the majority are part-time professors) to train their online tutors. Social software tools are overwhelming in number and scope, but applications are becoming friendlier and can be used to build communities. Scalability was an issue – providing training and support for 2500 teaching staff was difficult. Many teachers had no technical background and some were technophobic (not recommended for online tutors). The university is now trying to bring the open social tools under their control (happening in many other universities probably because they are scared of being left behind in the technological flow) which challenges the question of ownership of content (e.g. e-portfolios) access to materials (e.g. e-portolios), and interoperability across platforms (e.g. e-portfolios!). When we are using social software, who needs protection?

Hot tools and hot topics, yes, but still so many questions to answer....

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow Learning with 'E's.

Another day in Paradise

The EDEN conference is coming to an end and with one more day to go, it is almost time to reflect on the event. I will do so in more detail when all the usual detritus of winding down from a conference ... the hotel check out, travel home and unpacking etc ... have been dealt with. I will be home for only one day before flying out again on Tuesday for my next engagement as keynote speaker at the Polish Virtual Universities Conference in Warsaw. I have already spoken to Albert Sangra (Universidade Oberta Catalunya) who is the other keynote speaker for the event. He is also here at EDEN.

The EDEN conference blog is a great success with a growing repository of comments, posts, pictures and hyperlinks in its pages. Do have a look and comment when you have time. It is another day here in Paradise, with the sun shining and the purple blossom of the Jacaranda trees sharply contrasting with the red and yellow of the older buildings in Lisbon. It has been quite an experience here, and has lived up to every expectation I held about the place. I would like to thank the organisers of EDEN this year for their attention to detail. Apart from the unreliability of the wireless network (which everyone seems to be complaining about) there are no grumbles. Only good memories, excellent contacts with people doing real research, and a sense of satisfaction.

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow Learning with Es.

Friday, 13 June 2008

When the last poster session happens

presenters are willing to answer all questions although the conference dinner is coming soon.
Some photos are there.

Where learning happens

Whether it happens or it is made to happen; whether it is e-, open, flexible, technology-enhanced, ubiquitous, on-demand, collaborative, personalised, face-to-face, blended, experiential, experimental, individual, social, action; whether it is formal, non-formal, informal, in-service, vocational, lifelong, lifewide; whether it is intercultural, intergenerational... it is all here: in the session rooms, in the foyer, in front of posters and during coffee and lunch. It is when You read the post of my fellow bloggers. It is what conference participants, what you do in this very moment. It is what I do now, when I write my second contribution ever to a blog. I learn blogging. Here. Now.