Friday, November 29, 2013

ODS Webinar 1: "Green Learning Network (GLN)"

The Open Discovery Space project (ODS) deployed a number of Webinars in order to allow stakeholders external to the project to get familiarized with the project itself and its outcomes. One of these webinars was titled "Green Learning Network (GLN)" and was of special interest to the Agro-Know team, as we are the ones actually working on this network, taking care of its various aspects like quality and expansion.

+Madalina Ungur was the facilitator of the specific Webinar, to which more than 70 people were registered and it was actually attended by a high percentage of them (exact number to be confirmed soon). Questions were made using Twitter and the "#ODSwebinar" hashtag, while the presentation itself can be found in Slideshare:

The recording (video) of the presentation can be found in YouTube:

Despite the fact that I am involved in GLN, I did not have the opportunity to attend the Webinar, as I was attending (and presenting at) the Big Data in Agriculture training course which also took place on Friday. However, I will try to keep myself up to date with everything that happened during the Webinar.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Introduction to Data Science for Agriculture

Παρασκευή 29 Νοεμβρίου 2013, 10.00 – 17.00 @
Ινστιτούτο Πληροφορικής και Τηλεπικοινωνιών του Ε.Κ.Ε.Φ.Ε. Δημόκριτος
(Πατριάρχου Γρηγορίου & Νεαπόλεως, 153 10 Αγία Παρασκευή)

Είσαι ερευνητής θετικών επιστημών στον τομέα της φυσικής, της χημείας, της γεωπονίας, της βιολογίας, των μαθηματικών, ή της στατιστικής; Ασχολείσαι με την ανάλυση πειραματικών δεδομένων και το σχηματισμό υποθέσεων ή εμπλέκεσαι σε εφαρμογές τεχνητής νοημοσύνης;
Κάνε το πρώτο βήμα για να διεκδικήσεις ένα από τα χρηματικά έπαθλα του Athens Green Hackathon 2013 λαμβάνοντας μέρος την Παρασκευή 29 Νοεμβρίου 2013 στο Course: “Introduction to Data Science for Agriculture”, εμπλούτισε τις γνώσεις σου στην επιστήμη των δεδομένων (Data Science) σχετικά με την ανάλυση και την αξιοποίηση των ανοιχτών δεδομένων (Open Data) και σκέψου μια ιδέα που θα αναπτύξεις σε τεχνολογική εφαρμογή κατά τη διάρκεια του Athens Green Hackathon (14 & 15 Δεκεμβρίου @ CoLab Workspace)!
Το course διοργανώνεται από την εταιρεία καινοτόμων τεχνολογικών εφαρμογών Agro-Know Technologies σε συνεργασία με το Ινστιτούτο Πληροφορικής και Τηλεπικοινωνιών του Ε.Κ.Ε.Φ.Ε. ΔΗΜΟΚΡΙΤΟΣ στις 29 Νοεμβρίου 2013 από τις 10.00 έως τις 17.00 το απόγευμα και θα φιλοξενηθεί στην Αίθουσα Διαλέξεων του Ινστιτούτου Πληροφορικής και Τηλεπικοινωνιών στην Αγία Παρασκευή!
Η εκδήλωση χρηματοδοτείται από τα ερευνητικά έργα agINFRA (“A data infrastructure for agriculture”) και SemaGrow (“Data Intensive Techniques to Boost the Real-Time Performance of Global Agriculture Data Infrastructures”) υπό το 7ο Πρόγραμμα Πλαίσιο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης.
Η συμμετοχή στο course είναι δωρεάν! Υπάρχει όμως περιορισμός στις διαθέσιμες θέσεις, συνεπώς είναι απαραίτητη η δήλωση συμμετοχής έως και την Τετάρτη 27 Νοεμβρίου 2013 στο link:
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, ακολούθησε το link:

Session 1: “Intro to Big Data”
Session 2: “A beginners'/ Non-experts' & Intro to Big Data”
Session 3: “Designing Data Products”
Session 4: “Data Problems & Products in Agriculture”
Session 5: “Hands-on Design of a Data Product”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

About time management

Time management is really crucial when working with EU projects; there are deliverables to be delivered on time, communication to take place at certain points, coordination of tasks and people/teams, and any other task to be completed on a specific time. This means that every minute counts and so you need to be sure where to allocate your every minute, every day.

One example is the time spent during the business trips. We tend to travel quite often and sometimes the trips take a lot of time; let alone the time in between flights. You cannot be online during the flights and sometimes there's no internet available at the airport (at least not free wifi). This means that only offline tasks can take place during this time.

- Preparing slides for the presentation you are going to make or going through the presentation for any last-minute revisions
- Reading deliverables, papers and notes taken during the previous days
- Replying to emails and have them ready to be delivered as soon as internet is available
- jot down notes about the ongoing tasks, organizing work and planning future activities/tasks

I find the use of a paper notebook very convenient during flights,where space is limited (sometimes even for my small netbook). It helps me put down my ideas, create To-Do lists, organize my tasks etc. I can even go through the notes taken during internal meetings and propose ideas. I have spent time during flights to revise deliverables by noting comments in the printed version or read interesting publications printed before I left office. In other cases I used my netbook to go through the slides of a presentation and make revisions. I have to admit that I still prefer reading from hardcopies over the digital form of a document using a tablet or the netbook.

Working during a Conference: Keeping notes, taking photos and keeping hydrated.
When online, you can download emails and send the outgoing ones, check for information online, download documents and material you need when offline. This is really useful when you have ongoing communication and you need to respond ASAP. In this case, an online break at an airport between connecting flights allows for being updated on the latest responses to a communication through email.

Another thing to take into consideration is the reliability of digital devices. Sometimes it's useful to have a hardcopy of digital documents (like deliverables or maps), as battery-based devices tend to fail when you most need them. I have found myself in situations where the table ran out of battery while I was trying to check the map for going to the meeting place while in another case the netbook shut down while I was revising my presentation. On top of that, it's always easier to take notes on a printed document compared to its digital format.

I find it really important to take advantage of travel time in order to go forward with my tasks; otherwise, they will require additional time at the office (which sometimes is not an option) and I will probably find myself lagging behind the tasks and deadlines. The better a trip is organized in advance, the less time you need for getting to your final destination (e.g. hotel room, meeting place etc.) so there's more time for working on other stuff. This will also save you from frustration.

Working during the flight; a case of combining digital devices and hard copies in a limited workspace

Of course, when travelling to new places sightseeing is also an option that I cannot resist, especially when I have a nice guide to help me see what I would like to see and save me from wasted time wandering around. I like to blend with local people (e.g. always use public transportation and avoid taxis), visit the traditional (and not always the touristic) part of the places I visit and be a part of it instead of being an external observer. This is a luxury that I still allow myself to try!

Friday, November 8, 2013

EdReNe 10th Conference

The 10th EdReNe Conference took place at the premises of the European SchoolNet (EUN), Brussels, Belgium between 6 and 7 November 2013. I attended the Conference as a member of the UAH team which coordinates the Organic.Lingua project. I was travelling with Nikos Manolis from Athens on the morning of the 6th so unfortunately we almost completely missed an extremely interesting session on the "Opening Up Education" initative of the EC. We still managed to attend a part of it including an interesting panel discussion between EdReNe members and Mr. Ricardo Ferreira from the European Commission, who provided a lot of interesting information on the new initiative as well as responses to the questions of the participants. This initiative aims to provide EU citizens with a centralized portal for accessing national repository which might be hard to identify by searching on the web and is going to feature open access educational resources only.

After a short lunch break we had the opportunity to attend an interactive session titled "Future Classroom Lab", which was a participatory session including interactive boards, the use of smartphones or tablets (provided by the hosts for the session) as well as smart remotes for providing the responses to predefined questions. The activity was based on the Socrative web-based service, which is free to use for up to 50 participants.

The next session was dedicated to linked data and their application in the educational context, followed by a session dedicated to Europeana. In this session, Breandan Knowlton, Chief Product Officer of Europeana  made a really interesting presentation on the status of the Europeana and related projects, while Jiri Frank demonstrated an adventure game based on Europeana content. The case of Historiana was also presented by Steven Stegers (EUROCLIO, The Netherlands). The first day ended with the session dedicated on the news from the EdReNe members; it consisted of presentations from Karin Whooley (PDST, Ireland), Fernando Rui Campos (DGE, Portugal) and Pascal Craeye (KlasCement, Belgium). This was the session where Mada from AK presented the Educational Discovery Spaces and the Pathway Authoring tools and I presented the multilinguality-related outcomes of the Organic.Lingua project, focusing on AgLR and the MoKi tool and how they offer automatic multilingual services. My presentation was also the last of the first day of the Conference, which ended with a nice dinner at L' Horloge du Sud, a cozy African restaurant.

The 2nd day of the Conference started with a presentation about ICT4IAL by Marcella Turner-Cmuchal (EU Agency for Development in Special Needs Education), followed by a wonderful joint presentation on the Special Educational Needs Network by Leo Hosjsholt-Poulsen (UNI-C, the president of EdReNe), Roger Blamire (EUN) and Elena Shulman (EUN). The next session was the most technical one, including presentations from Manon Haartsen-Geven (Kennisnet, Netherlands) about JSON, Frans Van Assche, the President of the ARIADNE foundation (Belgium) about aggregation of social and usage data and one from my colleague Nikos Manolis on the enhancement of learning content through the aggregation of social data. An additional presentation on the Swedish standardization on theme learning platforms and digital learning resources was given by Peter Karlberg (Skolverket, Sweden), including an amazing YouTube video promoting the WCAG standard!

The last session was the 2nd part of the News from the members. Some of the many interesting tools were the following:

  • the iTEC presented by Will Ellis (EUN), which is a highly customizable online platform featuring a number of widgets which can be selected and added based on the needs of the user. 
  • Edumoodle, an enhanced version of Moodle, including plugins and components, developed by BMUKK. The LTI approach (Learning Tools Interoperability) developed by MSI Global Talso looks promising for enhancing the interoperability between different educational/learning platforms. Presented by Astrid Leeb (Education Group, Austria).
  • Eduvista: A toolkit which enables school leaders, education policy makers, teachers and ICT suppliers to create and implement Future Classroom Scenarios that provide an clear vision of innovative teaching and learning practices. It can be used to introduce or scale up innovative use of ICT in a school or across schools in an education system. Presented by Will Ellis (EUN).
  • Edukata: An adaptation of a a research-based design approach for educators to design learning activities for their own educational context. It sounds really promising and is currently under development. Presented by Will Ellis (EUN).
  • EMU: A web platform providing access to learning materials (in Danish). The recommendations provided to the users are based on the tagging made by the users.
The 2nd day of the Conference closed with the conclusions and next steps. Agro-Know will probably host the next EdReNe meeting in Greece in 2014 so preparations will need to take place in the meantime.

Overall, it was a really well-organized conference, including sessions closely related to what I am actually working on and it was nice to see again the people from the previous EdReNe Conference in the Hague, the Netherlands about one year ago and what they have been working on during these months. You can find some photos from the event here.

If I had to provide a tagline for this Conference, it would be borrowed from the Danish folkeskole motto (found in Leo's last presentation of this Conference):

Gør en god skole bedre (Make a Good School Even Better)

Accidental meeting with the BioVeL team - Linked Data in real life

We were on the train from Brussels to the airport, me and my colleague Nikos Manolis, after the end of the EdReNe 10th Conference. He was holding a brochure about Brussels, mentioning the word "Vibrant" and I accidentally though about the Vibrant FP7 project, with which I am quite familiar (due to my involvement with the agINFRA project) and which is closely related to the BioVeL FP7 project, both working in the biodiversity research area. Nikos corrected my and in fact found my mistake funny.

As soon as we reached the airport, still in the train station area, I accidentally met +Matthias Obst, one of the WP leaders of the BioVeL project and the kind host of the 2nd BioVeL workshop that I attended last May. He was travelling with Norman Morisson (also an acquaintance from the same workshop, one of the most active project partners as far as I understood!) and I was really glad to see them. It seems that the team was returning from Spain where the project's review meeting has just taken place. I wished them good luck with the results but I am sure that they will do fine as I am aware of the high quality of the project and its outcomes.

It was not the first time that I got into familiar faces from projects while travelling and this comes to an agreement with my statement that we tend to travel a lot all over Europe (which is not always bad of course!). In addition, it seems that my involvement with linked data has found an application in real life, outside the data and metadata context!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Agro-Know on the move - Keep on travelling!

Ok, it is in the nature of our work to travel quite often (project meetings, dissemination events, participation in Conferences etc.), but sometimes this is getting too much (or too funny!); for example, due to our frequent trips, many of us in AK tend to be away from office at the same time and this week is one of these cases:
  • Andreas is currently in Australia, participating in the 3rd EU-Australia Research Infrastructures Workshop, which takes place between 4-8 November 2013, at Canberra, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Laura and Nikos are currently in Vilnius, Lithuania, in order to attend the ICT 2013 - Create, Connect, Grow, in Vilnius on 6-8 November 2013, focusing on Horizon 2020 - the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014-2020.
  • Another Nikos and me are travelling to Brussels, Belgium in order to attend the 10th EdReNe Conference, which takes place between 7-8/11/2013 at the EUN premises.
I guess days like these are much quieter for those staying back at the office; I surely appreciate such days when I am at the office while others are travelling.

Lovely logo for the ICT 2013 Conference

This also reminded me of the summer of 2011, where I spent three weeks in a row out of office, travelling for the Organic.Balkanet project meeting in Maribor, Slovenia (28-30/6/2011), the ISLE summer school in Malta (4-8/7/2011) and the EFITA 2011 Conference in Prague, Czech Republic (11-14/7/2013). I only had the weekends in between in order to get back home, get some clean clothes and get back on the road again! 

I really love travelling so I do not mind; sometimes I find it amazing how automated this process has turned into so I can pack and get everything ready for a long trip in a couple of hours. My packing skills have also advanced over the years, allowing me to take only the necessary stuff with me (even though I am usually tempted to fill any space available in the suitcase with additional stuff, just in case). I know which airplane seat to choose and why, how to take advantage of the time during short and long flights (reading/taking notes/preparing my presentations and using my netbook respectively), what to do in between flights, how to select a nice hotel within the available budget, how to adapt to new environments, small hotel rooms, find the best way to travel from an airport to my hotel and vice-versa. Of course this takes some time in planning before the trip, explore available options, take notes and print maps but it worth every minute of it as it makes travelling much easier.

Working in the woods! Leuven, Belgium
Sometimes (unfortunately not frequently) I get to find some free time during the trips to go for long walks, sightseeing and taking photos; I usually find myself in such a tight schedule that I hardly find enough time to sleep. In any case, each trip is different and it's always an interesting experience to visit new places - challenging might also be an appropriate word for that! I have found myself working in benches in the woods (during the VOA3R preparations for the 2nd review meeting in Leuven), trying to connect to wifi in hotel lobbies after midnight, squeezing myself next to a snack dispenser in the Sofia airport in order to plug my netbook to the only power source available, working while relaxing in Star Alliance lounges, missing my only mean of transportation and looking for alternatives on the fly, trying to understand why I do not have a hotel room while I have the voucher in my hand and so on. These memories are not to be forgotten in any case ;-)