Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blogs and wikis - Free tools for publishing information

I really like both blogs wikis. Both of them have a main purpose, but they are easily configurable and can serve additional purposes as well. Here's how I see things and use both of them in different ways:

Blogs: They allow everyone to have a free personal page, which can be easily modified thanks to the wealth of free templates. No need to know about HTML, no need to think about the layout; just experiment with various templates and start entering your own information. For me, a blog provides a virtual space not only to describe some of the most important days of work and achievements, but it also allows me to create my virtual web site, collecting all related information such as my profiles in various professional networking websites, such as Research Gate & Mendeley, my presentations at SlideShare, my latest tweets etc. All my professional information in just one place! I used to keep a diary when I was younger, so it came rather naturally to me.

Another use of blogs is for creating "websites" or reference sites for various events, where creating a new website is not an option. For example, when a project organizes a Workshop or a Conference, all information (such as concept, venue, directions, photo gallery and even submissions in case there is a call for papers or presentations) can be easily hosted in a blog. I have created myself a blog for the controlled experiment of VOA3R project, which includes a wealth of information about the event, including the submitted papers.

Wikis: I am not really familiar with wikis, as I only recently was introduced to a wiki. As I see it, it can partially substitute a website, in the way that it consists of a set of sub-pages, organized and interlinked, providing the information we need in a simple but effective way. A wiki needs some previous knowledge and experience, even when using Mediawiki, which provides a more user-friendly interface. However, it is not as simple as working with a blog, where everything is almost automatically done.

In our case, a wiki temporarily substitutes the website of the company (which is currently under construction). It consists of a number of clearly defined sections such as information about the company, the people, the projects and events. In addition, new wiki pages can be dedicated to specific events, providing information about the events, access to related files etc. See for example the Wiki page for the CerOrganic European Conference.

What I see as a main difference between a wiki and a blog for an event, is the fact that in case a wiki is used for this purpose, it still remains a part of the company's activities so it can be an additional part of an existing set of activities. A wiki should be installed on a server, so this may cause some additional work/expenses. On the other hand, a blog is more individual and autonomous and looks more appealing. In addition, it is usually already installed on a central server, so only a registration is required.

Image taken from
Both tools provide a low cost/free way to present information, avoiding a number of issues such as hosting/servers/reservation of domain names/cost etc. They are easy to use, flexible and remain available without time limitations. Just think of how many times you have tried to reach a website of a project/conference a few years after its end and you ended up with a 404 - Not found error message, because the funding was, when sustainability is an issue, choosing a free option may be the best in some cases, as long as you are willing to make some compromises mostly in terms of appearance ;-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My brand-new publication on Biotechnology

Even though I have been working for EU projects on Organic Agriculture (mainly), vocational training and management of collections/digital content during the last years, my academic background is focused on agricultural biotechnology. In fact, I was lucky enough to have a long and fruitful collaboration (since 1998) with Prof. D.L. Bouranis and Dr. S. Chorianopoulou, who guided me from my first steps in my under-graduate years, through my MSc and PhD research, experiments and theses. With their support and help, and after spending countless hours in the Lab, I have managed to have a number of scientific publications in the area of agricultural biotechnology.

Since I have presented my PhD thesis back in 2008, I have not been active in this area. So it came as a surprise to me to be informed by Dr. Bouranis that we have another publication based on the results of my PhD and the related experiments! The publication is called "Comparative spatiotemporal analysis of root aerenchyma formation processes in maize due to sulphate, nitrate or phosphate deprivation" and is available online through the Protoplasma International Journal (by Springer). It seems that the work done back then still has some things to show and that makes me proud! To this direction, we plan to work on some additional publications in the near future, hoping that they will also be well-accepted like this one.

My list of publications exhibits a high degree of diversity, since a number of them are related to my agricultural part, while the rest are related to my current context, being more related to learning/training content/curriculum, digital repositories and metadata. Even though updating my list of publications is not my main concern (in fact, it has never been!), it is always nice to see a new publication especially as a reward for the tasks completed now and in the past.

Friday, December 9, 2011

CerOrganic European Conference

The CerOrganic European Conference titled "Organic Agriculture & Education: Challenges in Training Advisors of organic farmers", took place on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at the premises of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences (IGE – The Conference was organized under the auspices of the CerOrganic LdV EU project ( and aimed to provide an opportunity for meeting and discussion between scientists and experts from all over Europe, who are involved in the education and training in the field of organic agriculture.

The poster of the CerOrganic European Conference

The Conference included a number of presentations from project partners, who had the opportunity to present the outcomes of the work done during the project. In addition, presentations on related topics were delivered by external, invited speakers including:

  • Costas Dritsas (Greek Representative of IFOAM EU Members), presenting the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
  • Prof. (KR) Christian Stracke from University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), presenting "The Needs for Quality Management, Competence Modelling and Certification in Vocational Education and Training"
  • Prof. Stergios Tzortzios from the University of Thessaly (Greece) presenting his previous experience from related LdV projects "EcoJob-AP" and "Eco-Qualify III”
  • Prof. Alex Koutsouris, from the Agricultural University of Athens (Greece) presenting "Co-learning facilitation: new roles for OA extension"
  • Bas Timmers from the International Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture Training (The Netherlands) presenting "The advisor: the man in the middle"
The Conference consisted of four well-defined and focus sessions on 
  1. "Competence-based curriculum in Organic Agriculture training", 
  2. "Blended learning Approach in professional training for the Organic Agriculture", 
  3. "Quality of vocational training on Organic Agriculture" and 
  4. "ICT tools for the vocational training on Organic Agriculture".
I had the opportunity to present (during the last session) the Course Management Platform (MOLE) as it was used by the CerOrganic project during the various training events (both the CerOrganic Training of Trainers Summer School and the Validation Seminars that took place in each user country). The statistics of the usage of this platform were really encouraging after all!

More information about the Conference, including the agenda, poster and brochure can be found in the Conference's wiki page.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Organic.Balkanet European Workshop

The Organic.Balkanet EU project organized a European Workshop titled "Training Challenges for the Agricultural Professionals: The Organic.Balkanet Experience", that took place in the eula of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Bucharest  on November 17th, 2011. The Workshop was attended by more than 70 people, including researchers, academia, students of agronomic sciences, professionals in the field of organic agriculture as well as representatives of the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture.

The Workshop started with a keynote speech from Dr. Helga Willer from FiBL, providing a short overview of the status of Organic Agriculture in Europe and a presentation of the Organic Eprints archive and was followed by a presentation of previous similar to Organic.Balkanet initiatives (such as Bio@gro and Organic.Edunet), as well as the the presentation of the Organic.Balkanet project. A presentation of the e-learning methods was also delivered in the same session. The 2nd session was dedicated to presentations of the training events of the Organic.Balkanet project in the user countries (Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia).

A hands-on session included the use of the Organic.Balkanet MOLE portal, a course management platform for creating and delivering online courses as a part of a training curriculum. The 2nd part of the hands-on session included the VOA3R portal, which focuses on providing access to a siginificant number of open access scholarly content, as well as for interconnecting researchers of sciences related to agriculture, aquaculture and related areas. Both sessions were handled by Ass. Prof. Salvador Sanchez from University of Alcala and me, as a member of the GRNET team.

The last sessions of the workshop were dedicated to the Sustainability plan of the project and some additional presentations from Romanian organizations related to organic agriculture.

You can find more photos from the Workshop in the project's Flickr photostream.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Organic.Balkanet 5th project meeting

Prof. G.V. Roman discussing during the
project meeting
The 5th (and last) project meeting of the Organic.Balkanet EU project took place at the premises of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Bucharest between November 16-18, 2011. All project partners were available and discussed the pending issues of the project, a few weeks before the end of the project. I had the opportunity to meet the project partners for the last time after a couple of years. I have to admit that I was especially connected to this EU project, since it was the first one that I was so actively involved (and the second one in my short career so far, after my involvement in the Organic.Edunet project).
Some photos from the project meeting can be found in the project's Flickr set.

The project meeting was collocated by the Organic.Balkanet European Workshop that took place at the Eula of the University on November 17th, 2011.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I.S.L.E. Professionalization Fair / 4th project meeting

Two different but closely related events of I.S.L.E. network , that took place in the premises of Instituto Superior de Agronomia of the Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal between November 7-11, 2011

1. Professionalization Fair: It took place between 8-9/11. Almost all project partners, along with some additional stakeholders/companies, were allocated a space, which included a chair, a desk, power supply and internet connection, as well as enough space for 4 posters, in order to promote their work and meet potential stakeholders. Everything was really nicely organized and the Agro-Know team was happy to introduce the first ISLE project poster, as well as revised brochures of the project. Unfortunately, due to various reasons (including the bad weather), the participation from people outside the project was limited. However, it was still a nice opportunity for project partners to get to know each other even better and more specifically have a clearer image of what each project partner is working on.
The 2nd day of the Fair included a number of interesting presentations from organizations that are involved in the area of sustainable development as well as a substantial (but rather short) round table discussion, including various experts in the area of SD.

2. I.S.L.E. 4th project meeting: It took place between 10-11/11. The first day was dedicated to the current status of the ongoing tasks of the project, so each WP leader provided a brief overview about the status of the corresponding WP. In addition, Dr. Jad Najjar from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, was introduced as the new Belgian partner. Additional sessions in the evening were arranged, in order to discuss the next actions for each WP and set the corresponding deadlines.The second day included a technical visit to the Companhia das Lezírias, the largest agriculture, cattle and forest farmstead in Portugal, covering the marshlands of Vila Franca de Xira, Charneca do Infantado and Pauis (Belmonte, Lavouras and Magos), totalling about 18,000 hectares.

For once more we spent so much time together that it felt like a family reunion! From breakfast time in the morning to the dinner time in the evening, we were working in teams, discussing various things, exchanging opinions and having fun! Had to leave really early (about 07.00), but I was lucky enough to have a bus stop of a convenient bus right outside my hotel so I just had to wait for a few minutes before I entered the bus.

Looking forward to the next project meeting that will take place at the premises of Harper Adams University College in Newport, UK.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Preparing for the 4th project meeting of I.S.L.E.

On Monday I am flying to Lisbon, Portugal in order to participate to the I.S.L.E. 4th project meeting as well to the Professionalization fair, which will be collocated and organized by the School of Agronomy of the Technical University of Lisbon, as an ISLE partner.

Clipped from: (share this clip)
This time we have a lot of things to present to the project meeting, and not limited to the dissemination activities that we are responsible for: New project brochure and poster, almost ready-to-send newsletters, a new platform for providing the ISLE project partners a place to meet, share and discuss, revised course management platform and handbooks etc. It is a good thing that almost all these activities were supported by my colleague Andreas, who devoted a significant amount of time for them.

The Professionalization fair will provide us (as Agro-Know) with the opportunity to present our work in various projects related to the area covered by I.S.L.E. I have already packed my suitcase with posters, brochures and leaflets from these projects, while I have a number of slides presenting these projects, that will be played back and forth in my netbook during the Fair. It sounds like a really big event and I am really anxious to see what it's going to be like.

An I.S.L.E project meeting is different than any other project meeting as it always looks like a big family reunion: It is so nice to see people from all over Europe, younger and older, really friendly and full of ideas and share all these days with them not only working but also enjoying the limited free time. Just imagine a consortium consisting of about 39 institutions coming from about 30 different countries - the gathering is just amazing! It is always a pleasure working with this big family and provide as much as possible to the consortium.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Presenting the VOA3R platform in Greece

A partial view of the Workshop's audience
(photo by Maritina Stavrakaki) 
Today I was invited to make a short presentation about the VOA3R project at the "1st Scientific National Workshop about Traditional Varieties" organized at the Agricultural University of Athens, with the Lab of Viticulture being one of the organizers. There must have been more than 60 people in the room during the whole Workshop, mostly agricultural researchers from public institutes, individual agronomists and representatives from the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
vprot presenting VOA3R project
(photo by Maritina Stavrakaki) 
Even though my presentation was not initially planned, we managed to allocate 10 minutes in the already packed program of the workshop. My presentation consisted of only 10-11 slides, mostly focusing on the VOA3R platform and its usefulness for the specific audience. I also emphasized the option to have the GRNET team create digital repositories for any of the participating research institutes, which could be populated by the researchers and harvested at a later stage, in order to provide access to these research publications through the VOA3R platform. Despite the lack of time and my short presentation, there was some interest about the platform and the possibility of participation from the audience. I was really sorry that I didn't have more time to demonstrate the VOA3R platform real-time and instead I was limited to showing a couple of screenshots but I suppose that it was better than nothing. A video of my short presentation can be found below (it's in Greek - sorry!):

It would be great to see a community of Greek agricultural researchers in VOA3R platform, especially those working on the preservation of local/traditional plant species/varieties... it seems that there is a significant amount of scientific and research outcomes published in Greek national or even regional journals/magazines, with limited impact on the wider research and scholar community. I consider this to be a pity, since these outcomes could be really useful to researchers working in the same areas from all over the world. VOA3R platform could be the solution to providing the tool that could make these research outcomes available to the whole research community of this specific area...

Monday, October 17, 2011

A pleasant surprise!

Today my Agro-Know colleagues held a really pleasant surprise for me: Even though it has almost been a month since my b-day, they were kind enough to dig in my wish list and order for me one of my favorite items in there: A dAPRO Digital Artist Backpack straight from dA! I could not believe my eyes when I opened the box and saw the backpack real!
dAPRO Digital Artist Backpack

I am not an artist, but still believe that this bag will be my loyal companion from now on. What I love in this bag is the fact that is looks much more stylish and professional than the bag I currently own. I would love to have it by me during e.g. a project meeting or on board during a business trip. It also feels high-quality and durable. It features a number of useful pockets, both inner and outer and it is more than enough to carry around my netbook/laptop with the power adapter, my notepad, external HD and other gadgets, along with my wallet, ID and other small things I like to have with me. A really useful addition is a water-proof cover that is hidden at the bottom of the backpack.

dA Nomad backpack
Even though is is not as spacious as my current backpack, it is stylish, comfortable and will probably make me reconsider the amount of stuff I carry with me daily. Having the advantage of not carrying my laptop with me, this leaves me with additional space for carrying other stuff in the big pocket, like books and notepads. After all, if and when my current backpack wears off, I plan to get a dA Nomad backpack: It doesn't look that professional but it's also stylish and looks ideal for daily commuting and carrying all this stuff around daily. I am just not sure whether it may be too big for daily use...but I will have to give it a try!

I just realized that I am a sucker for specific items, like backpacks, battery chargers (I have more than I will ever need), torches/flashlights, smartphones, tablets (not having one yet but probably in the near future!) etc.

I would like to say a big "Thank you!" to all my colleagues for organizing this surprise and for giving me the opportunity to get my hands in this wonderful backpack. I feel so lucky to be working among these wonderful people!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

VOA3R 4th project meeting

Having breakfast at Movenpick Hotel
The meeting is hosted in Izmir, Turkey collocating with the MTSR 2011 Conference in the premises of the Yasar University. The room provided for the meeting looks like a cinema hall, being really comfortable and suitable for presentations at the same time. However, the lack of power outlets created a significant problem regarding the charging of laptops. This was an issue, since the use of laptops was really necessary in some sessions.

It seems that there were a lot of open issues to discuss, including the progress of the tasks and the next steps of the WP5 - Content Population, to which more than half a day was dedicated. The WP5 session was really interesting as it contained presentations on the content part as well as on the more technical part (e.g. the presentation of the VOA3R metadata AP), along with a special presentation by Nikos Palavitsinis from GRNET, who shared his experience on the Metadata Quality Evaluation during the Organic.Edunet project.

VOA3R Family Photo. Izmir, 12/10/2011
In addition, on Wednesday evening the VOA3R Controlled experiment on reviewing lifecycle services will be realized, as the papers submitted to both the 4th International Workshop on Metadata and Semantics for Agriculture, Food and Environment and the VOA3R Controlled experiment will be presented by the authors. I have already dedicated a lot of time and effort to this experiment so I really hope that everything will be ok in the end and the feedback received will be more than adequate.

UPDATE: The controlled experiment went pretty well, despite the difficulties. Almost all papers were presented (I had to make my presentation on the next day) but the hardest part will be to get some valuable feedback about the process followed in this experiment, from both the authors and the participants. In addition, since some of the presentations took longer than expected, so I had to reallocate my presentation to the session of the next morning, just before flying back to Athens! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Green Ideas 2011

According to me, Green Ideas 2011 was a big success: People from all over the world (e.g. USA, South Africa, India and various EU countries) met in the small, medieval and rural village of Mesta in Chios island, Greece and some amazing things happened!

Some organizations (Agro-Know, Greek Research & Technology Network & Ellinogermaniki Agogi) were responsible for the organization of the event, while a number of EU projects (Organic.Balkanet, I.S.L.E., Rural Inclusion, VOA3R and others) were sponsoring and actively participating in it. The ISKME team presented the Action Collab, to which all participants contributed and enjoyed themselves!

The final outcomes of this really innovative method were the Slidea & Green Dream Team, which may seem a little bit crazy but still they could be sustainable! The Green Ideas 2011 event has a Facebook group as well as a Twitter hashtag #Greenideas2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Murphy's law in action

What could possibly happen when you have spent many hours/days preparing this complicated package of financial report files and you try to send the big zipped file to the project coordinator on time?

Apart from that temporary issue of the WeTransfer service (which is described with a fine taste of humor in their website), I highly recommend it as it is a really convenient and totally free (not even registration is required!) way to send large files (up to 2GB) to any email recipient. My colleagues really appreciate that I stopped jamming their inboxes with large files after I started using the WeTransfer service instead!

P.S. The issue was solved after 2 minutes! WeTransfer, you are great!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A tweet that made my day

Today I was (and still am) having a really hard day at work, sorting a lot of different tasks. It was a good thing that I noticed a really interesting tweet by Erik Duval, which really made me smile!
Even though it looks funny, at the same time I appreciate the way that technology can interfere and provide substantial (but still funny!) results.
Erik seems to have an amazing sense of humor (apart from having enough spare time during the ECTEL11)!

And what was behind the link?

A reply tweet by @GSiemens proved that I am just following the trend:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Έρευνα με τίτλο “Επαγγελματικές Πρακτικές & Αειφόρος Ανάπτυξη”

Θα θέλαμε να σας προσκαλέσουμε να συμμετάσχετε σε μια έρευνα που αναπτύχθηκε από το θεματικό δίκτυο EU Life Long Learning program-ERASMUS: “Innovation in the Teaching of Sustainable Development in Life Sciences in Europe” (ISLE).

Σκοπός της παρούσας έρευνας με τίτλο “Επαγγελματικές Πρακτικές & Αειφόρος Ανάπτυξη” είναι η συγκέντρωση πληροφοριών από εταιρείες, κυβερνητικούς και μη-κυβερνητικούς οργανισμούς καθώς και από άλλους σχετικούς εταίρους, από το δίκτυο κάθε πανεπιστημίου του δικτύου ISLE, με σκοπό να αποτυπωθεί η τρέχουσα κατάσταση της αειφόρου ανάπτυξης (SD) στις επαγγελματικές πρακτικές που σχετίζονται με τις φυσικές επιστήμες καθώς και η αποσαφήνιση των αναγκών της αγοράς εργασίας στο χώρο της SD στο εγγύς μέλλον, με σκοπό τη βελτιστοποίηση των Εκπαιδευτικών μας Προγραμμάτων.

Η έρευνα είναι διαθέσιμη online στη διεύθυνση:

Σας ευχαριστούμε εκ των προτέρων για τη συμμετοχή σας!

(Ισχύει έως: 30/09/2011)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Organic.Edunet multilingual survey!

Dear Organic.Edunet user,

The Organic.Edunet roadmap includes a significant number of new features and upgrade of existing ones. The main goal is to enchance the overall user-experience, the effectiveness and efficiency of all the tools and services, while new content is being added and more repositories are introduced in the federation of the Organic.Edunet repositories.

In order to help us better recognize your needs, please click on the following link to participate in our survey regarding your multilingual requirements and expected new features.

The survey should not take more than 10 minutes to complete and it's completely anonymous.

The Organic.Edunet Community

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Organizing things... by the book

I am always in the need of organizing things, such as tasks, deadlines and my available time in general,  in the most optimal way. There are periods when free time is a luxury and the pressure is heavy. In these periods, it is really important for me to be able to organize and prioritize tasks, while automating standard procedures in order to save time.
I decided to ask for help in organizing things from a specialist, so I ordered "Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity" from Amazon since I read really good reviews about it. I have just downloaded a .pdf version but it is really hard to read such things using the monitor of a laptop (no tablet yet for me...), so I preferred to get a paperback version of the book. I plan to read it during my commuting to and from the office.

I am really anxious to receive the book!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taking a break - Web 2.0 tools

The last days have been really busy, full of real-life meetings, flash meetings, project revisions, tasks and deadlines... things are getting harder day by day. A nice way to take a break while working is to dedicate some time updating the Web 2.0 tools of the projects that I am involved in. So, today I "worked" on the following side-tasks:

1. Creation of the VOA3R Twitter account
2. Creation of the Organic.Edunet Twitter account
3. Updated the ISLE and Organic.Balkanet Twitter accounts
4. Created a Facebook group for the Green Ideas event
5. Updated the Organic.Balkanet website with news

I also updated the Facebook groups of the projects that I am involved in with last-minute updates and links.

In addition, I slightly revised a flyer for I.S.L.E. and updated the one for Organic.Balkanet, in order to have them printed for the Green Ideas 2011 event. All these while struggling to finish the review of two deliverables, trying to finalize another one and sending an outstanding number of emails in an effort to solve issues and sort things out...

I just realized that I am at home but still working! No rest for the wicked, they say...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Training Course and Green Ideas 2011

During the last weeks my time is almost completely dedicated to two important tasks:

1. The testing phase of the VOA3R content population. Trying to coordinate a task which involves a significant number of project partners is not always easy, especially during August! I will not go into more details about this task.

2. The "Joint School on IT-Enhanced Organic & Sustainable Education for Teachers, Trainers and Agriculture Professionals", which will be a really big training course involving a number of respected tutors and a diverse audience, case study visits, lectures and hands-on exercises etc. Even though the organization of this course has been taken over by two colleagues of mine, still there are a lot of things to take care of, such as arranging flights and accommodation for the participants, estimating costs and involving budgets from different projects. Speaking of projects, the course will be primarily supported by Organic.Balkanet and CerOrganic, while VOA3R and I.S.L.E. will also be represented and contribute. This course will be collocated with another interesting event, Green Ideas 2011 which "will bring together people and institutions that are interested into agricultural, biodiversity and rural education, so that collaboration opportunities may be explored and exploited". This event will feature a really diverse list of participants, is sponsored by a number of relevant E.U. projects and supported by major organizations, such as FAO.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Agro-Know WiKi page

Some of my colleagues @ Agro-Know have spent a significant amount of time working on Agro-Know's wiki page (creating pages, uploading information etc.). There you may find additional information about Agro-Know, the projects AK is involved in, related activities/events, handbooks developed by the team, short CVs of the team's members etc.

You should check that out when you have the time!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

09/08/2011 - Tasks

[Organic.Balkanet] Working on a handbook for creating metadata descriptions for training units in Organic.Balkanet MOLE platform
[Organic.Balkanet] Working on revisions for D2.2
[Organic.Lingua] Supporting processes that support the multilinguality purposes of the project.
[CerOrganic] Working on minor issues that came up in the CerOrganic MOLE platform
[VOA3R] Supporting the VOA3R Confolio tool during the Testing Phase of Content Population

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back on the track

My trilogy of consecutive business trips

  1. Organic.Balkanet 4th project meeting (Maribor, Slovenia) 28/6-1/7/2011
  2. ISLE Summer School (Malta) 4-8/7/2011 and
  3. EFITA 2011 Conference / 2011 VOA3R Workshop (Prague, Czech Republic) 11-15/7/2011
may have been fun and it was nice meeting all these people but along with 10 days of summer vacations have really disorganized me, as I usually had limited access to internet along with limited free time. As a result, a lot of emails were left unreplied and tasks were left behind for more than one month... I am still struggling to cope up with all this amount of work and new emails/tasks arrive constantly.

I still have a significant task to accomplish, which may help me not to lose time during my next trips: Email migration from Windows Live Mail to Mozilla Thunderbird. Since I use one computer at the office and another one during my trips, it is really hard to sync my emails (more specifically to keep the folder structure) between these computers, using the POP3 email accounts of my university and my work (I would have no problem if the accounts were IMAP). I have found no way to keep my inbox (with the current folder structure) in an external hard disk using Windows Live Mail. On the other hand, Mozilla Thunderbird looks much more flexible and easy to use in this way. In addition, there is already a Portable Edition of Thunderbird, which may be easily installed in the external hard drive and then I will be able to access my email from any computer, keeping the folder structure intact.

For this I will need to get my hands on an external hard disk. I am looking forward to buying a Western Digital My Passport Essential USB 3.0 500GB; any color will do the job! Maybe a 320GB version will be fine for my emails, too, so I keep my eyes open. In this direction, all my emails will be primarily stored in my external HD and the HD of my different computers will only be used for backup purposes.

This migration will be a hard decision to make, as it will require time and effort, but it has to be done. If I could only find a way to store my Windows Live Mail inbox in an external HD... 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

EFITA 2011 Conference - Impressions

imageThe EFITA 2011 Conference, which took place in Prague, Czech Republic between July 11-14 is officially over. I had the opportunity to be in the Conference from the beginning on Monday and leave after its closing on Friday. During these days I attended a number of interesting lectures, made a presentation for the Organic.Edunet Web portal (User Satisfaction Analysis) in the EFITA – ICT Adoption Session, was responsible for the VOA3R Workshop (with the precious help from Diane!) and made 3 presentations in that workshop (on behalf of my colleagues from Rural Inclusion, Organic.Lingua and my presentation for Organic.Balkanet). Also I attended and participated in the Rural Inclusion Workshop. All of them on the same day. I didn’t have much time to be prepared for all these, as this trip to Prague was the third (and last) of a series of three consecutive 5-day trips (Maribor, Slovenia for the Organic.Balkanet 4th Project meeting and Malta for the I.S.L.E. Summer School).

Presenting the VOA3R Review Process
During the EFITA Conference I had the opportunity to meet new people from various institutes and make interesting conversations with them. It was also an opportunity for me to meet some of the VOA3R project partners for the first time and some of my old teachers and colleagues, like Prof. Sideridis from AUA (Greece) and Prof. Roman with Maria Toader from USAMVB (Romania). The Conference was really well-organized in various aspects, from the transportation of participants to and from hotels to the nice joint events (the latter gave us the opportunity to taste the local beers/wines and dishes – especially the Monastery event on Thursday evening was really nice!). Internet access was available almost everywhere (but it was not always easy to use laptops, as the clicking sound of the keyboard was really annoying!), staff members provided help all the time and the premises of CULS were really appropriate for such event, especially the smaller rooms hosting the Workshops and various individual sessions.
Family photo of the VOA3R partners after the 2011 VOA3R Workshop

Prague is a really nice place to be, full of sightseeing spots, easy access to most places through the well-organized public transportation system and nice places to have a beer/snack/lunch. The existence of the river in the city was really amazing, especially when combined with all these sights around. However, I was in the unpleasant position to have my luggage forgotten in the intermediate stop to Geneva so I arrived in Prague only with my backpack, containing only my gadgets (netbook, digicam, mobile phone etc.), but with no clothes. I had to spent a full day with the same clothes and some complimentary stuff provided by SWISS in a really nice messenger bag (e.g. toothbrush/toothpaste, shampoo/shower gel, shaving stuff etc.). It was really strange to be at the Conference wearing my bermudas and a not-so-formal shirt!
I found the Conference really interesting and a nice way to promote and disseminate your work. I just wish I had more time to wander around Prague…

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

EFITA 2011 Conference

This trip to Prague for the EFITA 2011 Conference will be the last one of the series of 5-days trips during the last month. I am here to make a couple of presentations about the Organic.Edunet Web portal and to support the organization of two workshops (well, mostly the VOA3R one).

The trip didn't start well, as my luggage was left in Geneva, where I changed flight from Athens to Prague. This led to me wandering around the conference with my short pair of trousers and looking really casual... I was really annoyed about that, as well as by the fact that I was informed that there have been two bookings for me at the Hotel!
Some of the giveaways I received from Swiss in order to stand a day without my luggage
The 1st day of the Conference went pretty well, with a wide variety of topics and presentations. Tomorrow I will take some time to work on my presentations and study the organization of the two workshop that I will participate in (VOA3R and Rural Inclusion). Wednesday will be a full, hard day so I'd better be prepared!

vprot next to the Rural Inclusion poster @ the Poster session of EFITA 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I.S.L.E. Summer School - 3rd project meeting

I just got back home from the 4-day (4-8/7/2011) Summer School/ 3rd Project Meeting of ISLE Network. The whole trip was interesting, as it made me understand how far can Malta be from Greece, depending on the flights available...

The meeting, in my opinion, was really successful, as it included not only interesting key-note speeches from people outside the network (e.g. Dr. Niko Roorda from the Netherlands talking about AISHE: Assessment Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education - really relevant to our project) but a nice overview of the status of our work described by each WP leader. There was also a session dedicated to the next project meeting, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal and will be collocated with the Professionalization Fair (including companies involved in the area of Sustainable Development)

In addition, there were some additional tools/methods introduced to the project partners, such as the Problem-Based Learning, presented by the Slovenian team (Dr. Marija Lesnik) and our favorite Learning Scenarios, presented by the Agro-Know team (well, specifically Vassilis and Andreas). Since the time allocated to scenarios was rather limited, after we presented the methodology and templates, we asked project partners to work on their own scenarios and develop a number of them, that could be used later for developing a nice handbook on the implementation of learning scenarios in this specific field. We really hope that partners will correspond to that task...

We (as Agro-Know), in the context of Good Practices in Education of SD, also presented the I.S.L.E. MOLE Course Management Platform, in which we plan to ask partners to upload a full course on SD, as it is delivered in their University (e.g. Presentation, additional relevant files, references, notes, slides etc.) and create a collection/curriculum of topics on SD that will expose differences in the approach of teaching relevant topics in different universities around Europe. We will have to work intensively on that, since it will take time and coordination to achieve a good result.

As WP8 - Dissemination WP leaders, we received a number of comments/suggestions about dissemination options, the use of existing tools and future plans on this issue. We will have to work on some of these ideas (e.g. ISLE newsletter, brochure) and revise some others (e.g. leaflet, ISLE poster and website) in order to meet the needs of the project. We presented revisions in the web site, new links page and the new workspace for the ISLE project, to store Deliverables and related documents.

It was really nice to see people from the previous project meeting in Teramo as well as to meet new faces (e.g. Vanessa from Austria, Manu from Luxemburg, Vesna & Marija from Slovenia, Magdalena from Slovakia etc.). We had a nice time during the meeting and a really interesting time during the joint events (including visits to archaeological sites, museums and traditional restaurants as well!). These were 4 full days of work and social events and a big thanks should go to Louise, Everaldo and Adrian for organizing all these for so many people (more than 40 participants this time!).

Still got lots of work to do and we'll present/discuss more during the Lisbon meeting.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Organic.Balkanet 4th meeting - Day 2

Day 2 of the 4th Organic.Balkanet 4th project meeting is now over... it was a really exhausting day!
Since I had not slept well last night, it was not easy to get up in the morning, but the worst thing is that despite the efforts and temp accounts created for us, we still didn't have internet access in the meeting room.

I started with my "offline" presentations about Pedagogy (Developing a training course & Implementation of participative techniques, the last one being really hard!). Among the attendants there were four Slovenian OA advisors, which seemed rather interested to the topics. After that, I made a demonstration of the Organic.Balkanet MOLE portal and then a hands-on exercise, including the registration of new users, creating a course, uploading new material and working with metadata in the MOLE platform. We faced some issues with the platform but in the end we managed to end successfully the course.

A really nice and full lunch followed in the "Novi Svet" restaurant (what a coincidence!), where we had fish among others (yeap, sometimes I eat fish!) and a nice shrimp soup. It's a good thing that returning to the meeting room we had a coffee break, so we got revitalized, even though temporary.

The meeting continued with a presentation of the progress of each WP and I had the opportunity to add another presentation to my record, this time about the Dissemination activities, as GRNET is the WP5 leader. The meeting ended at about 19.00 and left us all exhausted... just a quick walk with some of the partners to visit the oldest vine in the world and a quick pass by the Lent festival by the river Drava.

Now I am trying to catch up with my emails (too many to handle, due to my lack of connectivity all day) and work on some stuff about the forthcoming 3rd ISLE project meeting/Summer School in Malta. I have to start packing as well, as tomorrow I am leaving Maribor and I have an early train to catch!

Organic.Balkanet 4th meeting - Day 1

Day 1 of the meeting was really interesting: I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the project partners, some of them for the first time. There were also two officers from the Romanian National Agency, that would monitor the progress of the project and discuss some issues with us.

Unfortunately there was no internet access in the meeting room, so we had to make some re-arrangements in the schedule: All of my presentations were moved to day 2 of the meeting! This presentation marathon to follow reminded me of the first two days of the CerOrganic ToT School  some weeks ago.

Apart from that, we enjoyed a very tasty lunch in a classy restaurant really close to Hotel Orel (to which I am staying), which included a variety of dishes, an excellent dessert and a tasty local cold wine. The meeting was resumed with a little delay, but we managed to go on and attend a number of presentations that were originally going to take place on Thursday.

After the end of the meeting we had a mini-meeting with Salvador, Prof. Roman and Maria, for a quick dinner at "Novi Svet" restaurant. It is a really nice restaurant, mostly with fish and rather large portions. The Adriatic Calamari was splendid!

Last thing I did was to return late to my room, exhausted and spent more than two hours revising my presentations for tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Organic.Balkanet 4th project meeting - Day 0

Despite the general strikes of the public means of transportation in Greece (the Athens Airport was only reachable by taxis - and I hate taxis!) as well as the strike of the air-traffic controllers starting at 08.00 this morning, I managed to fly to Vienna from where I am going to continue my trip to Maribor for the Organic.Balkanet 4th project meeting.

The preparations for the meeting have been really extensive, as we have worked on various different tasks:
  • Dissemination: The project website was updated with the latest news and events. The project brochure was revised and a newsletter including news and references to the project was prepared. We have also worked on disseminating the Training Course, which is supported by the Organic.Balkanet project and will take place in Mesta village, Chios island Greece in October 2011. Two papers were prepared by the GRNET team, concerning the project and they will be presented during the EFITA 2011 Conference and the 2011 VOA3R Workshop.
  • Content: About 10 courses classified in 3 different training modules (Pedagogy, ICT and Training Scenarios) have been prepared and revised, in order to be a part of the Organic.Balkanet training curriculum. The templates for their descriptions and presentation have been prepared and sent to partners a long time ago. A handbook for the implementation of training scenarios has been developed for the project and will be enriched with the scenarios developed during the training events.. 
  • ICT: We have adapted the MOLE platform in order to fit the specific purposes of the Organic.Balkanet project. Our courses have already been uploaded there and everything seems to be ready for the rest of the project partners. Two handbooks have been adopted for use by the trainers and trainees of the Organic.Balkanet training events respectively.
  • Evaluation: We have designed and developed questionnaires for the evaluation of both the content and the training scenarios developed by the project.
I met Prof. Roman (the project coordinator) & Maria Toader from USAMVB in the Maribor train station (we took the same train - me for just one stop... what a coincidence!) and it was a really nice surprise. It is always nice meeting friends, especially when you are far from home. We arranged an unofficial meeting in the evening, to visit the premises of the University of Maribor (where the meeting will take place) and go sightseeing (apparently while discussing project issues...).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I.S.L.E. day

This week I tried to organize my work in a different way and dedicate one day to one project (and its tasks). Today the day was dedicated to I.S.L.E. tasks:

  • I prepared a draft version of the template for the ISLE deliverables
  • I worked on the learning scenarios that the Agro-Know team is going to present during the Summer School of the project in Malta in a couple of weeks. A went through my presentations again and slightly revised them (these revisions will never end - each time I find something different to revise!) 
  • I implemented some of the project's website revisions discussed during the project's 2nd Meeting in Teramo, Italy in February. This took me a lot of time because I am not really familiar with the Joomla! platform and the number of changes was really big... not only I had to make hyperlinks for more than 80 institutional logos, but to create and populate some lists with web links relevant to the project, and I had no idea how to do that. So the help from Yiannis (Devplus) proved to be really valuable!
    BSCW Workspace interface
  • I worked on the final details of the ISLE workspace (based on the egroupware platform) and started working on the workspace's handbook. I hope I will manage to finish it by tomorrow, since it will cover only the basic functions of the platform. We had to migrate from the BSCW public workspace, as the available storage space was really limiting.
e-groupware Filemanager user interface

In the meantime I had the chance to work on a presentation for the EFITA 2011 Conference that will take place in Prague, Czech Republic between 11-14 July. I also made a little break and revised some of my presentations for the 4th Organic.Balkanet project meeting and training that will take place next week in Maribor, Slovenia.

Then there was this awful lot of emails that had to be answered (some of them immediately!) and some internet connection issues that really disorganized was a good thing that I had all this offline tasks in my schedule, so it was really easy to keep up with my work.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Preparing for the Organic.Balkanet 4th project meeeting

The last days at the office have been really intensive; only a few days are left before my long trip around Europe and there are a lot of open issues that I will have to take care of before I leave office. So far my biggest concern is the 4th project meeting of Organic.Balkanet, which will be combined with a training event for testing the curriculum and methodology of the project. The meeting will take place between 29 & 30 June, 2011 at the premises of the University of Maribor.
During the last days I have been working on new presentations and revising existing ones, preparing my contribution to both the project meeting and the training event as well as reviewing dissemination activities of the project. The Organic.Balkanet MOLE platform will be used to store, index and deliver the courses online and its official presentation will be also during the meeting.

Apart from that, we have been really busy with some new tasks of the VOA3R EU project, which still looks really interesting and fresh to me. I am really anxious to go through the next steps and get more actively involved in this project. The team is really supporting the project and we have focused our efforts in specific tasks.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Agro-Know Team

I've been working for Agro-Know since January 2011, when the new offices in Vrilissia were prepared. I've been working with Nikos for quite a long time, during my days at the Agricultural University of Athens and Greek Research & Technology Network (GRNET), working mostly in the Organic.Edunet EU project. It seems that our good cooperation during these days led to my recruitment in the Agro-Know team.

Since January there have been some changes in Agro-Know, as it is constantly developing. New faces have come on board, new projects are coming, my role in the team changes from time to time, evolving to something more interesting and challenging.

The current line-up of the Agro-Know team. A couple of partners are missing but we're still happy!
Today was one of the good days. Even though we faced terrible internet connection problems, we managed to go on with our work, celebrate the b-days of two people and organized something nice for a third one. The weather was fine and we took our first team photo in the balcony of our offices!

I am currently working on various topics for various projects, such as Organic.Edunet, Organic.Balkanet, Organic.Lingua, CerOrganic, I.S.L.E among others, and this makes my work interesting. Training scenarios, implementation of ICT tools in the training context of Organic Agriculture trainers and farmers, curriculum development, annotation of digital resources with metadata, interconnecting digital repositories and providing access to these resources through the Organic.Edunet Web portal. This portal is one of my most important tasks and a significant part of my time is devoted to its improvement and dissemination.

My job gives me the opportunity to travel quite often, and I really love travelling: I like to meet new people, see new places and try to get as much as possible from each place (culture, customs, sights etc.). I usually carry my digicam with me (my Olympus E-300 looks really bulky to fit my business trips...). I even started rating hotels and restaurants, apart from keeping a diary from these trips. In a single word: Experiences!

It's nice working for Agro-Know, and this is obvious!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

1st OPAL meeting for 2011 & the power of Web 2.0 tools

I was relaxing at home, browsing the news through internet channels and watching TV at the same time. While checking my Facebook account, I saw a post from EFQUEL about the 1st OPAL Consultative Group Meeting for 2011 (OPAL stands for Open Educational Quality Initiative) and since I am actively involved (even a little bit) in OER, I was immediately drawn to it.

The meeting was held online using the Adobe Presenter platform, and the participants had the chance to see live video, watch the presentation slides, chat by typing messages as well as use their webcams and microphones and participate in the discussion.

A Twitter backchannel (#opal-oer) was setup by the organizers for the communication of the event and I managed to see a couple of tweets during the meeting.

It was the first time I watched Ulf Ehlers making a presentation (ok, I have watched a couple of his recorded presentations which he prepared for the CerOrganic Training of OA Trainers Summer School in Chania, Crete a week ago) and I was really amazed this time, too. Interesting presentation, fluency in English and straight to the point notes. It is really strange that we have worked for the same EU projects twice (Organic.Edunet & CerOrganic) but we never had the chance to meet. Among others, I was excited to listen to Wayne Macintosh, for whom I have heard a lot and read some more, about his contribution to the OER initiative. His contribution was really substantial, too and he was really into it.

This thing tonight reminded me of some last-minute meetings with friends, to which at first you are reluctant to participate but in the end you feel so glad that you followed the stream and had such a good time! That's what happened tonight, this event really dragged me out of my couch and let me stand in front of my laptop, excited by this unexpected night event.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Working on ISLE stuff

Today I decided to dedicate the majority of my time in sorting out various ISLE issues. I worked on the adaptation of the learning scenarios so that they fit the specific needs of the project and I prepared a draft version of both the template for the description of the educational scenarios and the activities, as well as the template for the presentation of these scenarios. I really hope that I will succeed in presenting the concept of educational scenarios during the ISLE 3rd project meeting / Summer School, which will take place in Malta, between July 4-8, 2011.

I find the idea of educational scenarios really interesting and I have already supported it in various cases (such as the educational scenarios of Organic.Edunet & the training scenarios of eCOTOOL and CerOrganic). I am willing to work hard in order to succeed in promoting educational scenarios in the case of ISLE network as well.

In addition, I took over the Greek translation of another survey which is to be circulated by the network to potential stakeholders, in order to evaluate the status of "Professional Practice and Sustainable Development" in each participating country. It's a good thing that I managed to complete this task in time!

There are also some additional questionnaires about the status of Sustainable Development in the various universities around Europe. The links to these three surveys (for Academic staff, Academic Institutions and Students) were forwarded to key-persons, hoping that they will provide us with their responses based on their experience. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Preparations for the Organic.Balkanet training

OrganicBalkanetDuring the last two days I have been working on the training curriculum of the Organic.Balkanet, as it will be used during the training that will take place in the premises of University of Maribor, Slovenia from June 27th to July 3rd. At the same time, the 4th project meeting will also take place. My presentations will deal with topics on creating interactive courses, the use of ICT tools in training courses and working with training scenarios.

In order to start organizing the courses prepared for the training, it was really important to work on the Organic.Balkanet instance of MOLE. The TUC/MUSIC team was kind enough to prepare the instance for us, so we worked together on solving some translation issues and some minor bugs (even though almost no bugs were left after the intensive bug-hunting of the last weeks, before and during the CerOrganic Summer School!). I would like to thank especially Xenia & Nikos for their support with MOLE platform!


The two MOLE handbooks (for trainers & trainees) which have been developed with the precious help of the TUC/MUSIC team will have to be revised and another handbook for the implementation of training scenarios in the Organic.Balkanet context has to be designed.

Apart from that, a significant number of presentations has to be developed from scratch or revised to fit the purposes of the project. The wide variety of topics is really challenging, as I will have to discuss about both technology and for conventional tools and methods.

This 5-day trip will be the first of a series in June-July, so everything has to be designed and prepared very carefully, now that time is available!