ECTEL 2008 – "Time for Convergence" @ Maastricht

This week I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning at Maastricht in the Netherlands. It was a good networking opportunity for the TEL community, which some dubbed as a “big family” (with all the different aspects of a family). About 130 participants included mostly players from the European projects in the TEL area.

There were some interesting key notes:

  • Kia Höök inspired the participants to consider the body and the affective dimension of human behavior in their research and development. I think that there is a huge potential, particularly if we want truly holistic and motivating/engaging learning experiences, although it is not easy to see how to transfer her research results, e.g., to workplace learning support. One step in that direction could be the upcoming Call 3 STREP xDELIA where my colleague Clemens van Dinther is involved in and which will deal with emotions.
  • Manu Kapur reported on his experiments on “productive failure”, which showed that students who fail in groups confronted with ill-structured problems outperform those who are successful in groups with well-structured problems even in well-structured problem domains. This implies that short-term failure may not be a reliable indicator for longer term learning success.

ECTEL08 has given itself the mission “Time of convergence”, aiming at bridging different learning contexts. The discussions at the conference showed that convergence it still at its beginning. This manifested in the recurring debates about the role of informal learning and whether the TEL community should target that more (as APOSDLE and MATURE have started):

  • There was an increasing number of presentations and discussion contributions (e.g, from Graham Attwell as part of the MATURE PLE conceptualizations), including the keynote by Roy Pea who emphasized the role of informal learning compared to formal learning (e.g., only 5% of a student’s learning is within formal contexts).
  • On the other side, Pierre Dillenbourg doubted that this turn towards the “informal” is helpful for the TEL community (he still acknowledges the importance of informal learning) and suspects that this emerging shift of attention is because of frustration about not being able to change the formal system.
  • Rob Koper emphasized in the closing panel that if we want to have informal learning support, we should first work on the acknowledgment and valuing of informal activities in career development.

The EC (represented by Pat Manson, Marco Marsella, and Martin Májek) explained that investments into TEL have so far not entered practice in a sufficient way. Stefanie Lindstaedt pointed out that industry could be faster to introduce workplace learning tools, but for that we need to provide evidence about the impact, and this can only be achieved if we do not focus on short term effects, but also on longer term effects.

Also for MATURE, this was a good event. On the first day, MATURE presented the first results of the five months of the project and organized a workshop on Learning in Enterprise 2.0. This was a very good opportunity to bring together the different strands of development (ethnography, concept development, and technical integration of existing tools within design studies) in an open atmosphere and to receive feedback from the community. Additionally, Graham Attwell presented the rolling out of a first simple PLE based on Freefolio in the UK, which is closely linked to MATURE activities.

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