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.

No such thing as inherent promotion of intercultural learning

Sarah Guth's (University of Padova, Italy) observations were based on a blended English as a Foreign Language (EFL) course for graduate students in International Communication Studies. The course focuses on the use of Web 2.0 tools to promote language learning, intercultural learning and learner autonomy.

Her main point was that the increased contact with other cultures made possible by digitally networked technologies does not guarantee that intercultural learning happens. She quite rightly reminded us of the fact that it is the educators/tutors' responsibility to raise the students' awareness of cultural differences and similarities, and potential areas of conflict, and to promote discussion and reflection around those both f2f and online.

Sarah also stressed the fact that learners use Web 2.0 tools in their private/social lives does not mean that they are aware of how these tools can be/are used for learning. Again it is the tutors/educators' responsibility to harness the technology in motivating and learner-centred ways so that the students can step-by-step acquire the skills and competences they need to exploit them for lifelong learning.

More interesting stuff to be found here:


Restless digital natives

Colleagues from the University of Oslo led by Susanne A. Kjekshus Koch made the point that not all teenagers are digital wizzards and that not all parents and teachers are 'digital immigrants' (marcprensky) left behind by the rapid pace of technological change.

They also reminded us that the way most young people learn is quite different from what our educational institutions were built for and what our tutors and lecturers were trained for and drew on three examples to illustrate how radical the difference can be.

More here .....

The natives are restless

and here ...


Swordfish, sardines and minnows

As usual the sun is shining brightly and the water is glistening here in Lisbon where we are holding the EDEN conference on elearning and distance education. It is day two of the conference and I am sat in the morning plenary session to listen to the four keynote speeches. More of this later....but first:

Last night several of us stayed out until the small hours to sample the atmosphere in the middle of the mayhem, mania and madness that is the Feast of San Antonio. Parades, concerts and general merry making in the streets of the city are the norm and no-one is allowed to be unhappy. We arrived via the metro, which was our first mistake, as the entire platform and the metro train itself were a seething mass of humanity. (Hand on your wallet, avoid the elbows, and try to keep standing upright – if you start falling over during the sudden stops, you are finished). I admit I felt a little like the proverbial Portuguese sardines, with far too many people crammed into too small a space, yet in a strange kind of way, it was fun. We finally managed to reach the centre of old Lisbon and took the funicular up to the Bairro Alto, where all the best cafes and bars are situated. The aromas that assail the nostrils in the pleasantly warm evening air of Lisbon have to be experienced. Every step it seems brings new ones, charcoal burners, roasting meat, the scent of the flowers in the trees, and even some less savoury ones – all add to the ambience of this beautiful and captivating city. Walking through the back streets, you also see the less palatable character of Lisbon. I was approached by a rather unsavoury looking character who half whispered ‘Cocaine?’ ‘I’m sorry,’ I replied, ‘I don’t have any to sell you...’ He looked a little bemused to say the least.

The restaurant was excellent with a choice of several kinds of exotic sounding fish and meat dishes. I have now sampled swordfish, calamari and monkfish and am now looking forward to trying out some of the dishes I can’t even begin to pronounce. The service was excellent also, but the company at first was a little subdued, and for good reason. We had three Germans in our party you see, and we had just sat cringing in a riverside bar to witness their soccer team being defeated by the Croatian team, who until yesterday could best be described as ‘minnows’ in the Euro 2008 competition. My German buddies put on a brave face, and I tried to encourage them by saying that the Croatians had actually put the English team out of the qualifying round, so were probably stronger than we thought. At least the German team were actually playing I said. I don’t think it worked. They cheered up significantly when the wine arrived however, and a jolly good time was had by all.

Finally arriving back at my hotel at stupid o’clock, my pillow was a very welcome sight, I can tell you.

Questions, questions ...

How do we learn? Where do we learn? These were the questions addressed this morning at the EDEN Conference in Lisbon.The hugely impressive Grande Auditorio is the venue for the plenary sessions. It soars high above the audience and there are illuminated balconies rearing up four stories on both sides. It is an arena in which the invited speakers must attempt to set the tone of the conference and address the themes. Were they successful? Some of us are not so sure.

The first speaker, Anna Kirah, who is from ‘Future Navigator’ and based in Denmark, talked about exploring people centred concept making and was particularly scathing of existing education systems, because they stifle creativity. She made an appeal for schools to bring back the ‘why?’ in learning so children can see connections between what they are learning and what they are actually doing in real life. Where e-learning is concerned, she advocates that we should no longer be making content for people, but with people – which of course is a central tenet of the social web. Borrowing shamelessly from social constructivist theory, Anna boldly declared that e-learning which does not involve conversation is not worth the space.

Alan Tait from the Open University of the United Kingdom was more circumspect in his address entitled ‘Where do we learn? At work’. The title said it all really, and Alan dwelt on the idea that work is core to human experience and that it is inevitable for learning to occur at work. He wanted us to move away from competencies and skills to see learning at work as a part of the lifelong learning process and a means of managing one’s livelihood. Learning at work contributes significantly to personal well-being he said, and it is important to move beyond the fruitless distinction between training and informal learning.

Some people complained that there was nothing new in these presentations. Others were more enamoured with the content, but it is a decidedly difficult task to try to please all of the people all of the time. By far a more pressing question today is: are we going to have sufficient access for everyone on the wireless connection today. Probably not...

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

Shift happens again (and this time it's personal)

In the EDEN plenary session this morning, Lani Gunawardena talked about language, identity and gender in synchronous cybercultures. She's from the University of New Mexico and her research focuses on how students and the general public from two cultures, Moroccan (n=55) and Sri Lankan (n=50), communicated through live chat with people they didn’t know. Lani argues that identity plays a key role in trust building, self disclosure and the way language forms were used to generate a sense of immediacy. Identity she says, is expressed by age, sex and location. The continual shifting and malleability of personal online identities seemed to be a pervasive phenomenon, she discovered.

Anonymity gave participants more freedom to express themselves online and enabled them to avoid all of the above. Stereotyping she claims, takes place more easily in text only environments. Mohammed for example, was labelled a ‘terrorist’ by some other users, so a change of name to ‘Green Python’ sanitised his identity and enabled him to connect more readily. Some users changed their online identities to appeal to, and connect with different audiences. Some posed as Europeans and even changed their gender so they would not be marginalised by other online users.

The techniques online chatters use to detect imposters involve asking a series of questions and then repeat them later on to check consistency. Mobile phones are also used to verify the authenticity of the person at ‘the other end’. Over emphasis and exaggeration is often an indicator that someone has manipulated their identity online.

Self disclosure and trust building enhance social presence Lani argued, and interestingly, anonymity increased the ability to self disclose personal details. However, it also encouraged superficial relationships to grow at the expense of deeper social ties. The use of idioms increased when users felt they could begin to trust each other. Emoticons were used to convey meaning when text alone was insufficient, but interestingly mobile phones and other devices were used to increase a sense of social presence and immediacy.

This was quite an interesting study, but it remains to be seen how this kind of knowledge can be used to improve or even transform the delivery of e-learning. It is a limited study given the small samples size, and may be overly prescriptive in its conclusions. However, it highlights some important principles for educators to consider when they embark on the use of synchronous methods.

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

Lisbon - beautiful town

Invitation to online photos (12/06/2008).

Session C4 - Workshop

The workhop "Facing Culture Diversity and Importance in e-Learning" has started on time (12/06/08, 16:30).
Three presentations were delivered by Alfredo Soeiro, Maria Pinto and Sebastian Foti.
The participants together with presenters tried to answer the following questions:
1. Can one concrete measure be indicated to hande culture diversity (learners, tutors, pace learning, cheating) in learning?
2. What factors relate to developing trust in a culturally diverese virtual group?
Example reflections are here:
working in mixed groups, using language which is accepted by all, coping with different habits of learners, assigning reporters for all students groups.
And finally the project "A practical Guide to Implement Intercultural Education at School" presentet by Alfredo Soeiro (Porto University) was a winner of the first prize Evens Foundation. See http://inter.up.pt/ to know more.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


This post is about a research proposal on intercultural e-learning, and to invite expressions of interest. First, thanks to everyone who came to my presentation in session A1 this morning - a scattered audience in a big room doesn't exactly invite discussion but your attention was appreciated! Basically I see an excellent opportunity for a number of us to get together and conduct some research with our students, inevitably from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, to assess their attitudes to e-and-distance learning, how they engage with it, learning preferences an so on. Built into the survey could be one of the typologies of cultural styles - Hofstede's is one example, there are others, and they've all been criticized one way or another. My feeling is, we know there are issues, and plenty of the papers today pointed to what they might be: I'm indebted to the first presenter today (Bernd Kleiman) for the reminder that subjects have cultural differences too. We know what some of the questions might be but until we test them out then we will just be posing questions, not driving the field of knowledge forward. I know that with a few collaborators we can't get comprehensive coverage of cultures and nationalities but if we can just make a start, that will at least deepen our understanding. And like I said, we may even attract some research funding! Anyhow, I came away from the presentation feeling I hadn't said half of what I wanted to say - I'm always really nervous at conferences - and that from a lecturer with 25 years experience! Hey-ho. Glad to hear your views, or to have direct contact on andrew.rothwell@coventry.ac.uk. Thanks for reading this.

B3: E-learning Policy and Strategy: Social:Learn!

In their presentation Grainne Conole and Tony Walton from the Open University/UK outlined an ambitious project which aims at harnessing and applying the best in web 2.0 to any given educational context. The overarching vision of Social:Learn is to apply the best in current patterns of behaviour in technology developments (social networking in particular) to a learning context in order to provide a flexible and innovative, technology-enabled framework for learning.

The slide show on Social:Learn and the one from Grainne's Learning Design workshop (Session A4) can be viewed here:

Grainne's slides

B2: Learning Styles and Identities: Enhanced proficiency in Italian as a Second Language through Web 2.0 technologies

Giovanna Carloni from the University of Urbino in Italy made a very convincing case for effective individualised online learning of Italian based on the use of Web 2.0 technology and on a systematic approach to raising the students' awareness of their sensory preferences and cognitive styles. She found that the variety of modes for communication that are at our disposal today - both for input and output - cater more appropriately for individual differences in language learners and allow us to tailor courses more efficiently to their needs.

Her power point presentation can found here ...

Eden2008 Carloni

Session A4. 1130-1300 Thu 12 June. Workshop: A new Methodology for Learning Design, Grainne Conole

Focus shift from Content to Activity.

Design, Support, Student Experience

CompendiumLD = software for representing learning design
(also a list of different sources and methods of representing learning designs)

CLoudworks = find and share designs

Interviews by the project receive ideas for design, but the people don’t seem to be using the ideas.

Design is in one’s head; there is far more in the head than can be communicated by any single representation.

There are many resources (online) re learning design: learning objects, sites that focus on design, e.g. JISC, EDUCAUSE (7 things you need to know)

The URL for the slides can be obtained from Grainne Conole

Grainne finished early, leaving plenty of time for questions.

Conference Opening Thu 12 June, 0900-1100

From Alan Tait’s opening remarks, I was pleased to hear that Carl Holmberg, a long-term member of EDEN, has been appointed as the new president of ICDE, the International Council for Distance Education.

Keynote by Carlos Reis, Rector Universidade Aberta.
“How peculiar that Persians can exist” (medieval French attitude towards “the other” – other than French, other than self).
Lusophone World (8 countries outside Europe in which Portuguese is official language). Many of these are very underdeveloped.
Risk that common language can hinder recognition and even survival of cultural diversity.
Many obstacles to intercultural education in Lusophone countries of Africa – both infrastructural and also regarding respect (by us) for the identity of “the other.”

Alan Bruce, Universal Learning Systems, Ireland. “Beyond Barriers”
Reinforcing first speaker – “the visibility of the other”
Powerful image: “world is a potage of brown, yellow, red, black, and on the top, a thin white scum”
Erudite discourse regarding diversity, inclusion, recognition of the other

Joanna Nowicki, Universite Paris Est: The Man of Confluences.

No PowerPoint made it difficult to follow – needed to concentrate much harder due to absence of key text that could “anchor” the narration into our cognition.

Conference Opening Thu 12 June, 0900-1100

From Alan Tait’s opening remarks, I was pleased to hear that Carl Holmberg, a long-term member of EDEN, has been appointed as the new president of ICDE, the International Council for Distance Education.

Keynote by Carlos Reis, Rector Universidade Aberta.
“How peculiar that Persians can exist” (medieval French attitude towards “the other” – other than French, other than self).
Lusophone World (8 countries outside Europe in which Portuguese is official language). Many of these are very underdeveloped.
Risk that common language can hinder recognition and even survival of cultural diversity.
Many obstacles to intercultural education in Lusophone countries of Africa – both infrastructural and also regarding respect (by us) for the identity of “the other.”

Alan Bruce, Universal Learning Systems, Ireland. “Beyond Barriers”
Reinforcing first speaker – “the visibility of the other”
Powerful image: “world is a potage of brown, yellow, red, black, and on the top, a thin white scum”
Erudite discourse regarding diversity, inclusion, recognition of the other

Joanna Nowicki, Universite Paris Est: The Man of Confluences.

No PowerPoint made it difficult to follow – needed to concentrate much harder due to absence of key text that could “anchor” the narration into our cognition.

Blogging mad

We are blogging like mad things here at the EDEN conference in Lisbon. It's one of the best e-learning conferences in Europe, and we have around 550 delegates here from all over the world. It is certainly the place to catch up with all the bright minds in e-learning, as well as rubbing shoulders with some of the great and good. There are somewhere in the region of a dozen official EDEN bloggers who will document the proceedings online, and the first posts are already up on the official blog. So it's official then....

Any way, watch this space and we will keep you informed of the conference proceedings as they happen, with some nice pictures to capture the scenes and keep you entertained. Mirjam Hauck (Open University of the UK) has done a stirling job getting us all together, and keeping us in line. Must be like herding cats.

Above is a disturbingly cosy picture of us having a meal out last night in the Bairro Alto area in central Lisbon. Mirjam is on the right, and also pictured are some Dutch and German delegates (Tom Wambeke is on my left). The picture was taken by a sudden waiter... (A huge tip is in the post)....

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow my main blog: Learning with E's

Trail Blazers

The EDEN Conference in Lisbon this year runs like a Who’s Who in of Distance Education and so it should. EDEN is one of the largest of its kind and everyone seems to flock here each year to rub shoulders with the good and the great. OK, so I’m waxing a little lyrical, but last night I had conversations with some long serving distance educators and what many would consider pioneers in the field, and it is a little humbling to think how much they did to lay the foundations of what has become a huge global force in education.
Tony Bates is here, and tells me he celebrates 70 years on this planet next year. Michael Moore is here, taking a sabbatical in the UK this coming autumn, before his final year at Penn State. I met them both for the first time at a conference in Turkey in 1997, and didn’t know who either of them were. I do now. Got their books, collected the handshakes.

Desmond Keegan is on the list of delegates and so is Torstein Rekkedal, who picked up a Senior EDEN Fellow award at the reception event. Alan Tait presides over the EDEN family in his perpetually genial mode. I also met Lani Gunawardena for the first time, over from New Mexico to take part, and look forward to hearing her keynote address later this week. There are others here who would probably love to be mentioned in the same blog as these uber-professionals.

But I won’t. There is a subtle shuffling for position from some of the younger pretenders, but the simple fact is, most of the above people were in distance education before it was called distance education, and most of them grappled with connecting remote learners when there was little to choose from but correspondence courses and audio conferencing. With the advent of Web 2.0, mobile phones and wireless technologies, their theories and exploits may seem a little dusty and out of date. But make no mistake, without their dedication and prescience, we would not be in the healthy position we are in now with virtual universities, e-learning and any-time, any-where education.

So raise a glass to the trail blazers of distance education. I’m glad I met them. Oh, and the picture above is one I took over the parapet at St George's Castle yesterday. It's a view across the north of the city. Wish you were here?
Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow my main blog Learning with E's

The COIL Bridge Construction Project

Yesterday before the opening reception I bumped into Jon Rubin from New York(he is actually in the blogger team!!!) who told me about the SUNY (State University of New York) Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) and the projects he is running there.

In his workshop here at the EDEN conference he will present the recent COIL Center initiative where they link students at SUNY with peers abroad through team-taught online courses which foreground the cross-cultural perspectives of the collaborating participant students. He showed me some video footage from one of the collaborative projects.

Have a look here ...


and here for the cross culutral video


Jolly good fellow?

Well, I picked up my EDEN Fellow award last night. They warned me it was coming. A crowd of over a hundred colleagues was present. The cameras were there to capture the moment. President Alan Tait beamed as he shook my hand and presented my certificate, so I smiled serenely and acknowledged the ripple of applause. (Pictured left taken by Tom Wambeke). On the certificate it reads:

“The Executive Committee of the European Distance and Elearning Network acknowledges the contribution of Steve Wheeler to the professional development of open, distance and e-learning in Europe and the valued commitment and support to the evolution and progress of EDEN by awarding him the title of EDEN Fellow”.

Wow. What the.... who....? Do they have the right person? I’m supposed to be an ambassador for the organisation now, but am I the right man for the job?

I’m not telling them my room number. They may be back to retrieve it later on when they find out they have made a mistake.

You see, I found out from Grainne Conole last night that there is another Steve Wheeler she has been corresponding with these last few months. He’s doing a course with the OU and she asked me how I was getting on with it. She thought I was him. Maybe I am. But I don’t think so. It’s all so confusing, and I haven’t even started on the famous Portuguese port yet. This is all a dream and I am going to wake up in a minute, I swear. Seriously, I will keep the award and put it up on my wall at home. I feel honoured that EDEN should reward me this way. I’m not good at being conventional and towing the party line. I’m considered a bit if a heretic in most circles. But for EDEN at least, I will endeavour to be a jolly good Fellow.
Follow my main blog 'Learning with 'E's'. Posted by Steve Wheeler.

EDEN Celebrates New Fellows

During the welcoming reception on Wednesday EDEN's president Alan Tate awarded EDEN Senior Fellow title to:

  • Torstein Rekkedal, NKI Distance Education, and
  • Walter Kugemann, FIM New Learning, University of Erlangen-Nurnberg

in recognition to their contribution to the development of open, distance and e-learning in Europe and for their valued commitment and support to the evolution and progress of EDEN. In addition the following NAP members were awarded EDEN Fellow title in recognition of their demonstrated professional excellence in professional practice in the field of distance and e-learning:

  • Costas Tsolakidis, University of Aegan
  • Alfredo Soeiro, University of Porto
  • Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, University of Duisburg
  • Sally Reynolds, ATIT
  • Montse Guitert, Universidade Oberta de Catalunya
  • Steve Wheeler, University of Plymouth
  • Adriana Gnudi, University of Pergamo

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Welcoming and Receiving

Well, well, well, it started. The Annual Conference is always the best place to meet with the bright minds of the field. What a pleasure to see the light in the eyes when I greet someone I haven't seen for a while.

Everyone is enthusiastic, the Registration Area is buzzing with people arriving, hugging, smiling. And the most used phrase (I counted 134 today): "How are you doing?". How are we doing... These are some of the photos showing how:

PBS Featuring Antonio Teixeira

If you happen to see this man during the EDEN Conference, most probably he is speaking to his mobile. Antonio's phone bill has been increasing as a result of the conference that you and I are attending. As you may have noticed the conference is organized in collaboration with Universidade Aberta. During the past months Antonio has spent hundreds of hours coordinating the efforts of our hosts in Lisbon. When Antonio is not busy with organizing the EDEN2008 Conference he is exercising his duties as a Pro Rector at Universidade Aberta.

People behind the scenes (PBS) introduces individuals who contributed to the making of EDEN2008

EDEN2008 Top13 Participating Countries (Morning June 11)




83 participants


61 participants

United Kingdom

43 participants


40 participants


26 participants


22 participants


21 participants


21 participants


21 participants


20 participants


19 participants


17 participants


13 participants

EDEN2008 will begin today

Belém Cultural Center facilities will soon be flocking with enthusiastic distance and e-learning practitioners, researchers and policy makers from all over the world. On Wednesday morning the number of registered delegates had reached 529, representing 42 nationalities. Today you will be able to meet most of them at the welcoming reception which will begin at 18.30 at the Belém Cultural Center. Make sure you don’t miss this unique opportunity to network with old and new colleagues and meet with the brand new EDEN fellows to be announced during the event.

Belém Cultural Center is easily reached with tram no. 15.

EdReNe- Educational Repositories Network, 9 -11 June 2008, Lisbon, Portugal

The Workshop venue

Participants were working at the current repository issues and developments.
The subjects were as follows:
  • Repository strategies on general level
  • Engaging users
  • Standars and interoperability
  • Right issues

We started from questionnaire filling in and according to questionnaires analysis people were divided into several groups and worked at two specific subjects in order to prepare final presentation.

There were several presentations delivered:
  • pindeln (the spider) – a developing brokerage service, Christina Szekely, MSU, and Fredrik Paulsson, IML
  • Share and reuse, example of a web 2.0 repository: klascement.net, Hans de Four, Belgium
  • Digital Learnng Resources - what are teachers looking for?, Wim de Boer, SLO
  • Drivers and blockers to teachers accessing, repurposing and sharing digital resources, Will Ellis, Becta

There were also introduction of new associated members:

  • Tallinn University, Centre for Educational Tecnology, Estonia, Maart Laanpere / Martin Sillaots
  • Glow - lighting up learning. Digitally linking Scotland's 800.000 educators and pupils, Andy Pendry, Learning and Teaching Scotland
  • APS it-diensten, Netherlands, Dolf Gagestein
  • Centre de technologie de l'éducation (CTE), Luxembourg, Daniel Weiler
  • Ontwikkelcentrum, The Netherlands, Marco Meurink

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Getting there

The taxi driver who got me from Airport to my hotel must have been either a Hollywood stunt driver, or a getaway man for the mob. He would have put Lewis Hamilton to shame. He didn’t say a word, but his actions spoke volumes. Time is money, they said. He drove like a demon through the streets of Lisbon, weaving a breakneck speed through the traffic, trying to make me part company with my British Airways packed lunch. He didn’t succeed, but I almost left him a small deposit to show my appreciation.

I have been warned about drivers in Lisbon, but nothing can really prepare you for the experience. The number of narrow escapes and near misses he crammed into the 10 minute journey from A to B must be a world record. He avoided collision with a large bus by millimetres and the sudden drops into the tunnels were reminiscent of the clear air turbulence I hate so much when I’m flying.
He got me safely to my hotel and I proffered a 50 Euro note for a 6 Euro taxi bill. He looked at me as if I had just informed him that Portugal had no hope in the football championships and that Christiano Ronaldo couldn’t take a penalty to save his life. I had nothing smaller. I thought quickly. Gesturing toward the hotel lobby, I got out and rushed in. I gabbled in fluent Portugese (a bare faced lie) to concierge that I needed some change to pay the taxi driver and smaller notes were pressed into my hand. The demon driver was paid off and disappeared in a cloud of dust to inflict his particular type of torture on his next victim.

I was glad to get to my hotel room, I can tell you. I have turned grey over night. My wife will not know me when I return home this week. My children will shrink away in horror, because I have aged significantly from the experience. However, Lisbon is a city to die for (and I nearly did). At night it is positively breathtaking and during the day it is totally captivating. The choice of the venue for this year’s EDEN conference has been inspired.

Congratulations to the EDEN executive for your decision. I’m looking forward to the experience. I’m not so sure about the taxi ride back to the airport though...
Follow my main blog Learning with E's. Posted by Steve Wheeler

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Cross Cultural Online Collaboration

I am very much looking forward to learning about the experience of other participants who are exploring online cross cultural learning environments. I am visiting Lisbon from SUNY and hope to develop a dialogue and possible educational links with other institutions who are developing multi-cultural and networked courses and who are researching best practices in this area.