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EDEN Conference report.

Neal and Olivia attended the Eden conference, held at University College Dublin 19-22 June, to present a paper entitled Building and Sustaining a Learning Community for Professional Educators in a Web 2.0 world. This paper, which reported on our experiences of developing and teaching the 30 credit Technology Enabled Academic Practice module on the LDC’s MA in Academic Practice, addressed the key conference themes of Learning and Sustainability.

The significance and importance of this, the 20th anniversary conference of the European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN), was recognised in the presence of the Irish President, Mary McAleese who delivered a spellbinding opening address to 425 delegates from 40 countries. She recognised the importance of EDEN ‘for its role as an advocate in policy development, implementation and the sharing of best practices throughout Europe and, now, worldwide’. The full text of her speech is available from the President’s website.

There were several inspirational and challenging keynotes delivered on each of the three days of the conference – the highlights were from Sir John Daniel and Graham Attwell – all the keynote presentations are available from the Eden website. Liv Arnesen, the Norwegian adventurer, gave a very moving and motivational account of her forthcoming project, which will take a woman from each of the 5 continents on a trans-Antarctic expedition next year as part of an educational programme which has already engaged over 50 million schoolchildren worldwide in issues of climate change and conservation.  The use of web 2.0 tools to develop and support an interactive global educational project on this scale was unimaginable in the pre-twitter, You Tube and Facebook era. Keynotes were live streamed and recorded and a recording of her presentation can be accessed from the Eden website – about 30 minutes in to the video

The conference programme itself was a varied mixture of presentations, workshops and poster sessions covering a wide range of topics and technologies. Gilly Salmon, doyenne of E-Moderating, gave an introduction to the new edition of her book on that subject, Steve Wheeler ran an excellent interactive workshop on Distance Learning in a Web 2.0 world which involving lots of post-it notes. Among other highlights were sessions on the COACT (Concept, Overview, Active discovery, Critique Think) framework for enabling higher order learning in the design of learning materials for the online environment.

A session on wikis: Tools for Creativity and Design provided three case-studies on engaging students in developing group wikis for Psychology students and for Visual Arts Practice. The case-studies highlighted the challenges in engaging students with group work but also the benefits of engaging students in co-creating content. While it was not directly relevant to our work we enjoyed a presentation on  MyStory: Integrating Learning Objects in Social Collaboration and User Support which focused on a European project to train young people as story collectors in order to gather stories from older generations which can then be used as learning objects. There were a couple of presentations that mentioned Scratch as a tool to engage students in developing interactive content. One of these presentations focused on engaging pre-service teachers in learning technology by requiring them to create a Digital Learning Object each week to explain how they had learned to use podcasts, blogs and Scratch.

We have the full collection of papers from the conference on CD and can forward copies to you if you’re interested in following up anything from the programme.

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