Friday, 19 June 2009

IATEL: Interdisciplinary approaches to technology enhanced learning

They wanted to call it an educamp ( a barcamp for education), and the folk at TU Darmstadt who organised this conference collected together a broad selection of contributors to augment their core community of post grads working in TEL within a particularly inter-disciplinary framework. You can take a look at their programme on the Interdisciplinary approaches to technology enhanced learning website, which will give you a flavour of the objectives.

It seemed to me there was a lot of discussion centring on learner choice, which put me in mind of the phrase, a road less travelled. I was thinking that when we have created learning environments, we have made highways (like VLEs) and expected our learners to take them. In fact they are each going down their own personal road, so it seemed that an appropriate quote
would be:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the 'one less traveled' by,
And that has made all the difference.
would be

According to wikipedia (yes google helped me find it) Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is sometimes mistakenly entitled "The Road Less Travelled" which comes from the final lines of the poem: - apparently the critics think its ironic, basically you can read it as regret (not a likely intent) or positive choice...

my point it that learning is about choice, often learners make choices without realising that they have made choices, and later may regret the consequences but never link it with the original choice.

I see part of the role of education to assist learners in becoming more aware of their choices...

Our theme was about learning (in the/from the) network, where learning and network are both purposefully ambiguous words such that the phrase can be interpreted in many different ways.

the conference took an open structure, topped and tailed with kenotes presentations, but placing a big emphasis on what was effectively an active learning process for the participants working in workshop discussion sessions for each of the themes. The workshop process (posters, explanations, analysis, intense discussions) were effectively given a whole working day, with the them co-ordinators doing some heavy-weight analysis during the overnight break - and missing a rather fine social event with some intersting bands and singers!

The way the organisers described the structure was as follows:

“As a direct consequence of such an interdisciplinary approach, the conference format will not be defined by a preponderance of presentations and papers. In separately moderated and creative discussion forums one is able to examine and work towards a common understanding of the issues at stake. such an approach should also enable an assessment of how and to what extent the idea of interdisciplinary research is sustainable: whether it simply brings forth an only loosely fitting framework, or whether it evolves into a truly encompassing project that leads to results, insights and solutions which go beyond the simple sum of the individual trajectories.”

The two keynotes in our theme, followed the workshop discussion, and provided an interesting afterthought the the fairly intensive discussions which had preceeded it. One keynote was from Hugh Davis (the demise of the VLE) and Graham Attwell (a take on Personal Learning Environments), and the session was being directed by Max Mühlhäuser from Darmstadt, and led and managed by some very able PhD students.

There was a pleasing complementarity and dovetailing of the two views which Hugh and Graham presented, I guess in some senses representing a distillation of observations based on the UK experience, as well as incorporating some of the various points which had emerged from the preceeding discussions and other keynotes.

Graham's presentation was wonderfully eclectic in its references, looking at personal learning. I have asked him if he could make some kind of map of the references so that we could have an overview for consideration. Amongst other things he suggested that constructionism is not a pedagogical theory....and that we would see the appropriating of google wave for learning

Hugh's presentation, I think, reflected his perspectives as a computer science academic leading in technology enhanced learning, and as a university director of education responsible for e-learning across the university. He was also arguing for the priviledging or priotitising the personal needs of the learner over the thus far default choice of working with technologies which are adopted because of organisational priorities.

Alongside the presentations and discussions there was a very useful twitter stream (#iatel, and occassionally #iatel09)

Each of the groups plans to take forward their discussions into a published journal paper, and I for one, enjoyed being part of the proceedings, and am looking forward to the additional work, which will turn our speculations into some clear ideas and statements.

pictures from the conference are available under a CC licence from Flickr

in no particular order, and for all sorts of different reasons
Graham Attwell - a bridge to learning
Conference web site
papers which I thought about during the presentations
Bloom's The 2 Sigma Problem
Becher and Trowler, Academic Tribes and Territories
Biglan's Disciplinary Differences
Cox et all Vicarious Learners
Mazur - Peer Instruction

No comments: