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.