5th Plymouth e-learning Conference 2010
Learning without Limits: Facing the Challenges.
The conference kicked off with a keynote from Josie Fraser who talked about identity, community and learning online. She discussed digital identities and digital communities and the importance of each. She also discussed the relevance of play and how it was beneficial in designing for learning.
Introduction to Atlantis University.
The Atlantis University project was founded in 2002 by Professor Udo Bleimann, and the aim of the project was to provide better learning and teaching for the HE sector across all disciplines. This is done by matching teaching to learners’ learning preferences. These preferences are: analyst, constructor, organiser, perceiver, communicator and creator. The Atlantis Project aims to build a network of universities across Europe to contribute to Virtual Atlantis University. This is done using systems such as Moodle and MediaWiki and a collaborative slide editor called CoCoMa (collaborative content manipulation) which both students and teachers have access to. Staff across the different institutions work together to create content for the courses. Currently the Atlantis Virtual University has a network of ten universities and one research institute from Germany, UK, Ireland, Poland, Hungary and the USA. Interest in joining is being shown from institutions in Finland, Greece and Wales. The motto of the Atlantis University is “Learn your own way”.
Wisdom of the crowds supporting media students in their creativity process using an iphone application
This session was also part of the Atlantis University strand where Ingo Stengel from the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt introduced one of his undergraduates who had developed a program to assist other students get ideas for their final year project. The student, Nora Hildebrandt, talked about an app she had developed for the iphone which created random words. Nora got the idea from a literature review, in particular the work of Edward De Bono and his random word technique. A randomly picked word is used to generate new associations which in turn allow users to associate and combine the attributes of the word with the problem which needs solving. The final app will be ready for use with students in July 2010.
Learning Objects demonstration
Peter Shipley from Learning Objects demonstrated the system and gave an interesting overview of what features and functionality the software offered.
The keynote speaker was Dave White from TALL (Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning) at the University of Oxford This was a very entertaining talk in which Dave talked about the fact that humans were good at grasping abstract concepts and good at working with tools and technology. The main message from this keynote was that users of technology fell into categories, mainly “Players” and “Pragmatists”. Dave came up with some interesting thoughts, such as: Should we be making the technology disappear i.e. making it seamless and that we need to have both established pedagogies and new innovations as both are essential in education and that the key stakeholders in both groups needed to communicate with each other.
Parallel session 4E The Atlantis Project
International project based learning – Bologna 2.0
Professor Udo Bleimann gave this presentation in which he talked about the Bologna process and how he felt that HE institutions had moved on from this and due to the Pan-European differences in both Bachelors and Masters qualifications e.g. different credit points for each module, semesters instead of academic years etc. how could this be improved for the students?
Professor Bleimann went on to talk about what he has called “Bologna 2.0” in which the student is offered a more flexible way to achieve their degree by introducing more social context and problem solving in interdisciplinary, multinational teams.
In October 2008, he was granted funding through the ERASMUS intensive programme which enabled him to progress with the project. One of the qualifications that can now be gained from the Atlantis University is an International Bachelors in Information Technology (iBit).
The overall findings from the project have been very positive. Students are much more motivated, as are the lecturers. Students have developed intercultural competencies and improved their social skills. The thinking process is more creative, but a high input is required from all participants.
Semantic search scenarios to enhance university needs – based on a multinigual next generation topic map (NGTM)
This presentation was given by Roland Boeving from the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt. Roland rationalised the reason for creating a repository which would utilise semantic searching technologies for the Atlantis University. A topic map (NGTM) had been developed which allowed topics to be linked to other resources such as books, lectures, teachers, students etc. Therefore, using existing ontologies such as MediaWikis, library hierarchies and scientific ontologies and using the NGTM to link and amalgamate the resources saved a lot of time and effort in not “reinventing the wheel”.
Promoting inclusion in the Primary Classroom through the use of assistive learning
This talk was delivered by Catherine O’Connor who is currently undertaking a Bachelors in Education. She described her experiences in working with children with special needs such as dyslexia , autistic spectrum disorder and Asbergers Syndrome in Primary schools and how their learning had been successfully supported in their learning using assistive technologies. Her findings had been undertaken via a semi-structured interview method where she spoke to schoolchildren, parents and teachers. The children felt their learning had improved using the assistive technology and the teachers felt they had also observed improvements. Interestingly, parents and teachers felt there was no educational worth in technology based toys such as Nintendo DS or Nintendo Wii. Maybe they should read “Don’t bother me Mom, I’m learning” by Marc Prensky.
Overall, I found the conference interesting and useful and I felt I had gained something from the sessions I attended.