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Reality Check in Vienna

September 29th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Vienna. It is a big conference with 2050 registered delegates. ECER is organised through into 27 or so different strands, each run by a network, on issues like the Philosophy of Education, the Professional Development of Teachers, Pre-school Education or so on.

I am working with VETNET, the Vocational Education and Training Network, which with some 120 delegates is the largest of the networks. As part of a small project promoted by VETNET we are producing multimedia from the conference. It is fairly hard work and a lot of fun.

But the main point of the project for me is to demonstrate the potential use of ICT for enhancing the ECER conference. Despite many presentations dealing with different issues related to technology, and a relatively small network, Network 16, focusing on ICT in education, there is little use of technology at the conference, other than using data projectors for powerpoint! As far as I can see only 4 people have twittered using the #ECER2009 hashatag. There is no conference social networking site. The programme comes in a big printed book and, with so many sessions, is difficult to follow. There are no data screens, no live streaming, no means for involving a wider audience unable to attend the conference. Few delegates have a computer open during presentations (despite an excellent, free wireless network), indeed I suspect many frown on me typing away (and twittering the conference) during sessions.

Yet ECER organisers I have talked to are interested in these ideas. It is just that it lies outside their experience. And indeed, given the lack of twittering, I suspect that the culture (or community) of educational research has not yet embraced these technologies. It is certainly a reality check for those of us working in the educational technology community. And given the importance of educational research for the future of teaching and learning, I think it is worrying. If the teachers of teachers, have little or no engagement with social networking technologies, it may be a long time before education finally engages in this area.

NB We have done some wonderfull interviews (audio and video) with many people at the conference. Hopefully we will start getting these online next week.

2 Responses to “Reality Check in Vienna”

  1. David Muir says:

    I have been very surprised at the low use of Twitter at the ECER conference. I have mostly been at the Network 16 sessions but even there, in ever case, I have been the only one with my laptop open during sessions. I have found the technology in the rooms to be variable (for example in a number of rooms the data project is propped up on a desk with wires trailing over the passageway and projection is onto a wall rather than a screen) however I agree that the wi-fi is excellent!

    As a starting point, could future ECER conference publicise a standard hashtag and provide a page on the site to aggregate items that use the tag. See for example the SLF Live page from the recent Scottish Learning Festival:

    Reading this post and having seen your Tweets makes me annoyed that I missed your digital identity session – it would have been good to meet you.

  2. Andy Powell says: would appear to indicate lower penetration of Twitter in most of Europe than in the UK (though I don’t know how good this analysis is). Assuming that to be true in the mainstream, then one might also assume that uptake of Twitter by learning technologists will be lower in the rest of Europe than in the UK? One might also assume (possibly without much basis!) that uptake of Twitter is indicative of uptake of social technologies more generally?

    I also wondered about the size of the conference. Does it attract a larger proportion of senior management compared to other conferences for example?

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