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From the EATEL summer school

June 2nd, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Apologies for the lack of posts on this site in the last few days. The reason will become apparent soon. I am in Terchova in Slovakia at the European Association of Technology Enhanced Learning (EATEL) summer school. This is the fourth of the annual summer schools, sponsored by the different EU funded research projects on Technology Enhanced Learning, and targeted primarily at Doctoral students. There are nearly 100 of us here from most of the EU members states and from further afield.
The reason for the lack of posts is not lack of ideas,  far from it. The simple issue is that we have very limited bandwidth. There is a wireless network which works perfectly well – as long as no more than about 10 people try to access it at once. For a summer school on technology enhanced learning this does provide a problem. But at least it has forced me to think about the issues faced by those without easy access to the internet. We appear to get windows when we can get online. I have found the best time is when everyone is eating!
Now for a little about the content and process of the summer school. Personal Learning environments are a big issue, with five or six sessions around PLEs. There is little agreement on the definition of a PlE, although I sometimes wonder of we are getting to hung up trying to define things. There is a clear difference between those of us who see a PLE fundamentally as a pedagogic approach to learning and those who view a PLE in terms of technology platforms and applications. There also seems to be a difference between some who are focusing on the personalisation of learning applications, content and processes and those who see PLE as fundamentally owned by learners. However, at least between the different European projects concerned with PLEs, there seems to be a growing consensus that the Mask up PLE (Mupples) approach, based on widgets, provides a perspective to flexible and user centred development fo PLE tools and functionality.
There has also been a number fo discussions around recommender systems. At a technical level recommenders systems would appear feasible to develop and implement. The problem is for what purposes! Are they an answer looking for a problem.
There have been constant references to leaner styles with a desire to be able to personalise everything – form platform to content to learning processes to take account of different learnings styles. However, there also seems little understanding of what learning styles are, or of the literature and research that refutes learnings styles theory.
And that brings me to a bigger issue. Many of the researchers at the summer school have a background in computer studies or in programming. Of course they all have an interest in learning – or presumably they would not be here. But the understanding of pedagogy is limited. They tend to take the present educational and institutional systems as am immutable fact. There are also a number fo us here who come form an education or pedagogic background. Yet the interchange between our different perspective is problematic. We are not yet really talking the same language, neither do we have adequate translation tools.
Perhaps one of the answers lies in the format of the summer school. The format is somewhat traditional, with two or three guest lectures a year and four or five workshops, in two parallel sessions. To overcome the divide between pedagogists and educationalists probably requires amore inetractice approach and concious design to enhance interdisciplinarity and the exchange of ideas and c0mpetcnes between those with different specialisms. I am not convinced that forma lectures lake the most fo the wonderful learning opportunities present in such an intensive and multi cultural event.
Furthermore, many of the presenters are struggling, especially in planning and managing workshops. I wonder, given that it is a requirement for doctoral students to participate in presentations and workshops, if we should not be giving them more support and even training in this. This requires real competences, competences which are not necessarily acquired informally through being a researcher.

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One Response to “From the EATEL summer school”

  1. Mr. Teacher says:

    little agreement on the definition of a PlE, although I sometimes wonder of we are getting to hung up trying to define things. There is a clear difference between those of us who see a PLE fundamentally as a pedagogic approach to learning and those who view a PLE in terms of technology platforms and applications.

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