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)