Meeting webheads at Online Educa 08 – part II

December 15th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

I am still marveled by the Online Educa Berlin 08 experience. It mainly has to do with the fact that I was able to meet and talk to so many interesting people, and to learn what they are currently doing.

Like I already mentioned in previous posts, Online Educa unexpectedly become a webhead meeting too. It doesn’t take much to organize one. Webheads are quite spontaneous people and any place is good to host a get-together. Berlin, in this sense, was a stupendous meeting point. We had so much fun. I have been in closer contact with Heike Philp since the Training the Trainers Online Conference. Although she’s also an webhead, we hadn’t actively engaged in many discussions at the webhead’s headquarters…I am not even sure why… However we knew each other, and after the online event we started skyping more and talk about our projects. Once Heike learned Buth and I was going to be in Berlin, she decided to come too. That was quite a surprise and I am glad she came, because we sure had a great time.

Heike has a new project starting soon about Second Life and Language Learning. Teaching and learning Languages in SL seem to have a big impact in environments like this. I personally like the fact that I can embody my presence through an avatar, and use voice activated speech to interact with others. The fact we can visit different places, and construct artifacts is also appealing to me… the way I see it it should make me feel I am part  of that environment in a rather meaningful and contextualized way. However, this is not what usually happens with me. I am still fascinated by the fact my avatar represents me in a more tangible way, and that I also get to go places while there, etc… but, at the same, time I usually feel frustrated by the fact I can’t figure out how to control my avatar’s movements, and body language signs, with proficiency. Constructing stuff in SL is even harder… Equally upsetting is the fact that when I don’t crash, someone else does. Even though this is becoming less frequent, it is still a reality for many people who are running on older computers or have a slower connection.
Nevertheless, I really want to learn more about SL, and hope to include it as part of my Personal Learning Environment and Network. I still see many limitations for it to work at a larger scale and for a wider group of people. As my dear friend Hala Fawzi says – she is not a Second Lifer – and she does not say that because she doesn’t see the learning benefits of being part of such environment, but simply because her internet connection is still not fast enough to ‘enter this world’.

However, it look things are changing. Heike’s project – Access to Virtual Action Learning live ONline (AVALON) seems to address some of this issues mentioned above, and she does talk about accessibility and usability. I hope you enjoy the video. It was recorded at the Xmas Market in Berlin, as you can tell from the background music.

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Also, if you want to be introduced to SL in a friendly, supportive environment, then you should consider the Virtual World Session Graham Stanley, Nick Noakes, Dennis Newson and  Nergiz Kern are going to offer as part of the EVO Sessions. They are totally free and a lot of fun! I will join them too. 😉

Meeting webheads at Online Educa 08 – part I

December 11th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

Going to Online Educa Berlin really came as a surprise. I had never been there before, and never thought I would go either. However, things changed and when Graham Attwell told me I could go with the rest of the Sounds of the Bazaar team I was just thrilled. It was another great chance to host sounds of the bazaar live at a physical venue. It was also a great opportunity to network and be part of this major European Event. What I never thought would happen is that I would get to meet some webheads. That actually made this experience even more special. I learned via twitter that @buthaina was coming all the way from Kuwait to attend the conference. I immediately tweeted her back telling her I was coming too. We would obviously meet. And we did. And like Vance Stevens so rightly says a webhead is a kinda of a hippie, you know when you see one. And that was exactly what happened once we saw each other. We had never met face to face before and I hadn’t seen many pictures of Buth, but somehow we knew who we were when we looked at each other.
Buthaina Al Othman has been an inspiration for many language teachers for all the support as a member of the webheads and also for all the learning opportunities she has provided her students with. Furthermore, Buth has been using what she has learned about ICT to enable others to learn English as a foreign language. Like many language teachers know and practise, the teaching and learning of a language has more to it than the acquisition of words, grammatical structures and/or fluency. Languages are anchored in cultural aspects, and learning a language is also about learning about the world in which such language is spoken… and beyond. It’s about learning about the people, their history, habits, traditions, customs…the way they naturally express themselves or address certain issues also conveys their world. Buthaina has always been concerned with this and provided us all with eye-opening collaborative learning approaches in which the learning of a language was only a small pretext to something bigger: to expose her students to something bigger – to a new world. And online this is possible.
Buth has also been involved in other projects as a Peace activist. She has been using the same kind of technology and approach to reach out to people. I think I can say Buth believes in the power of people coming together and learning with other informally. That’s when the bonds become stronger and the affections and appreciation by other people deepen. Many have joined her in her cause and we definitely have a lot to learn with/from this brave lady. iPeace is one of her latest projects. It’s worth having a lot at it.

In the video below, Buth talks about the webheads and informal learning. She also provides her opinion about Online Educa, and tell us about her latest online Peace project.

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Some thoughts about Online Educa 08

December 10th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

The web is not just about providing information.

Is there any news here? No, indeed there isn’t. We have been arguing that the web as it stands today is about enabling the individual to create and collaborate, to construct and to publish. It is also about participating and being included. And again this is also nothing that new, but what happened last week on Online Educa Berlin 08 surely was.

Sounds of the Bazaar were there and that definitely made a difference in the way these events run. It was practically the only open chance people were offered to join Online Educa online. Sounds of the Bazaar featured two special shows from Berlin (1 and 2) , and that was really one of the highlights of this conference, as far as I am concerned. Sounds of the Bazaar attempted, and succeeded, to bridge between the physical venue and a virtual audience who was as interested in taking part in it as the ones who were lucky enough to be able to be there face to face. And in an event that focus especially on Online Education, it starts to be hard to understand why is it organized solely for a face to face audience.

One of the other interesting aspects I observed while in Berlin, is that twitter, and microblogging in general, is becoming more and more relevant in conferences, as a fast way to feedback one’s experiences and perspectives. It has also proved to be one of the most efficient unofficial channels of communication and blended networking, as it allowed a wider audience to have a peek at what was going on during those tow days. Of course, this does not happen out of the blue. It rather happens as the result of team effort, and community engagement. And that’s true magic. 🙂

As a last remark, I would just like to refer to my experience at the plenary session. It was my first time at Online Educa Berlin, and also the biggest conference I have ever taken part in. I am aware it’s difficult to accommodate so many people to attend keynote presentations. ‘The best way’ seems to be to seat people in rows, get the speaker a good microphone and provide high quality speakers, so everyone can listen to the person presenting. Hopefully attendants will concentrate…well, at least, it will keep them quiet. And if  we get a room big enough to squeeze a huge number of conference delegates, than there’s nothing like using a bit more of technology and broadcast a video inside the room, so the rows at the back can, at least, see the speaker…on the screen. Well, this solution is not bad, but I am not sure how different it was from the keynote videos I access on YouTube. And indeed, I had already seen Michael Wesch in youtube before. 🙂 And why wasn’t this broadcast live to a wider audience? Wouldn’t that been a good idea?

I sure would like to see people sharing their thoughts and experiences about participatory and social media while applying the same philosophy they are preaching, that is, to make their sessions more interactive and hence reaching out to their audience in a more personal way. In this sense, I think Sounds of Bazaar fully achieved its purpose. We broadcast two shows, we approached the people on the physical venue – they had a main participatory role in the show – and we also welcomed contributions from the ‘outside’, by simultaneously hosting a chat room, in which people were welcome to interact with other listeners and also share their thoughts and questions. Long are the days where of simple webcasts. This is the age of participation and distributed presence of the self independently of where we are. Technology makes it possible. But more importantly are the people. They have to want to create and keep the channels of communication and participation wide open.

Online Educa Berlin Sounds of the Bazaar Day 2

December 5th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Fabulous internet radio broadcast from the Online Educa Berlin conference. Don’t miss interviews with people from the Moose project, Ton Zijlstra, Jean Miller from Linden Labs, Hank Horkoff from China Pod, Heike Philp and many, many more.

Full programme listings to follow. Many thanks to all who helped on the programme especially our technical team, Joe and Dirk and Cristina who ran the chatroom.

Online Educa 08- Post 3

December 5th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

We are still at the Online educa, and there is loads to report about about. I will try to write a more detailed post once i get back to the Uk – I need sometime to reflect and digest all the expereinces and emotions. Meanwhile, I wil just jot dow some of the highlights of this amazing event, which hosts extraordinary opportunities for real networking.

Yesterday late afternoon Heike Philps, another webhead, arrived all the way from Freiburg. She wasn’t even supposed to come but once she learned Buthaina and I would be here, she decided to come. That really made our day! It was a small, yet fun webhead party. In the evening it was microblogging talk, and man did we twittered. We are natural twitters and we twitter as esaly online as we d face to face. Above all it was a quite relax gathering of people who were already follwoing each other via microblogging. We provided our opinions and ways in which we use microblogging, and we even counted with the presence of Wolfgang Reinhadt who came all the way from Potsdam just for this 2 hour discussion. That was indeed impressive.

Today, as i write this, and I sat here at the Marlene bar with Steve Wheeler, from the University of Plymouth, who kindly has agreed to give us an interview on his presentation about web 2.0 tools and collaboration. He also shares his thoughts about Online Educa. The interview finishes with Steve talking about the Conference he is organizing at the Plymouth next year. The conference is entitled Boundary Changes:Redefining Learning Spaces, and seems to be an event NOT to miss. There is still time to submit your paper, and the interview is worth listening to. Check it out in the link below.

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Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from Berlin

December 4th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We are at Online Educa Berlin, organising a series of fringe activities. This morning we produced a half hour radio programme. Lots of fun and if you want a quick impression of the conference just download the podcast.

Photos to follow.

Online Educa 08 – Post 1

December 4th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

We are at online Educa Berlin 08. It is my first time in this event. I have always heard wonders about it, and now I can see why. This is huge, hence impressive. But what I am enjoying the most is indeed all the fun and informal activities I have been able to take part in. And that was also the most popular arguments amongst experienced fellow researchers and practitioners who advised me about this conference – the networking opportunities. you are SO right. This is brilliant! 😉
And it started right after the moment I set foot in the intercontinental hotel yesterday evening. I met the ‘suspicions ones: Among them the Ponty dream (Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz), Josie Fraser, George Robertx, Joe Rosa, Steven Warburton, Marga Perez, Dave white…and the lsit goes on. It’s great to touch base with these guys once in a while.
To my greastest surprise, a couple of days I heard Buthaina wisher …well twitter …she was coming to Online Educa. One more reason to keep me happy. A really amazing opportunity to meet my fellow webhead from Kuwait. The moment we met, we couldn’t stop talking about the webheads and the passion that keep us connected: the world of education, where the learner and learning are the most important variables. Buthaina really fitted well with the rest of teh JISC team (as any webhead would!) and off we went to the European Edublogger meet-up. Again a lot of fun and great conversations until late in the evening. More people joined in, and once again we welcomed that to broaden our networks.
Today was the official starting of the conference. we had the plenary sessions which counted with the presence of Mike Wesch. I really liked his talk as always and there were some ideas that I hope attendants will take with them. Among others, I would just like to stress some of the key points Wesch valued in his presentation:

Teaching hasn’t changed, but learning surely has – and this is just a simple sentence, but with such a deep meaning. is’t it true. We have changed the way we do things, basically because the society we leave in so requires. however, we keep insisting and teaching people the same way. Something has to give. we need to change attitude. We need to help moving to a 21st century culture, and above all we need to adopt a new approach. Changes only happen if we act.

Learning is not about acquiring information: it’s about sharing it, it’s about co-constructing it; it’s about critically analyzing it.
And once again I couldn’t agree more. What is given doesn’t have half the value of what we create ourselves, because in it there is also something of us – the effort we put in it. And that is the added value of learning – to give information a personal touch.

Wesch mentioned many other important aspects, however I haven’t had a chance to capture them all, and hope there’s a videocast out there soon to be released. Nevertheless, I want to leave you with his last remark – a questions which he says to be the answer too:
‘How can we create students that can create meaningful connections’. To that thought I can add that to inspire others to lead us we have to try it ourselves too. So to create students who can create meaningful connections we need first as educators and mentors to re-create ourselves in the connected world and become connected people ourselves. The value of the participatory media is the fact it enables tangible participation in a virtual, yet really real and valuable world, where the interactions and relationships we establish is the true value of technology.

And on that note, I finish this post as it’s time to go and connect to another fellow webhead, Heike Philps, who I have been connecting online for a long time. Today we become f2f buddies as well. As Buthaina is here too, this is also a webhead party. 🙂

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