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!