Estonian e-Universities Conference, Tartu, April 1-3

April 12, 2009

Attended the Estonian e-Universities Conference at the University of Life Sciences in Tartu 2-3 April. Attended by around 200 people over the two days, the plenary sessions took a big picture look at the challenges faced by Schools through to Tertiary and lifelong learning providers. The tone was realistic and largely positive. There was much chatter about the challenging economic context in which the University sector now finds itself and the opportunities for exchange and development.

I presented twice, once as part of a session on learning repositories, in which I outlined some of the recent work in using the DiAL-e framework to codify learning designs in ways which we hope will make archives and repositories more accessible. We had an overview of European projects and Martin Sillaots some insight into two recent repositories making heavy use of tag-clouds and commenting to add some semblance of peer review to repository artifacts.

My other input was the final session on the Friday late afternoon, following Nancy White (who Skyped in and was her usual enthusiastic self at 4am) and a motivational trainer from Estonia on the power of positive thinking ! Quite a double act to follow. As a closing keynote I intended to be positive and upbeat and attempted to highlight four themes emerging from the conference (role of technology, learning objects, learning designs and school space/place design issues). I took a ‘futurist’ or foresight model and invited participants to visualize a future based around the life of a young Estonian girl starting school aged 5 this September who would be 72 in 2077. It was fin to prepare and hit the note with some whilst obviously losing a few. So a measured success from my perspective. I came away feeling I had been perhaps a little too ambitious.

I engaged the audience by asking them to do a paper exercise in which they answered a question on the top quarter of a sheet of A4, then folded it over and passed the paper on. Then a second question later on and folded again. The intention being that by the end one has four comments or responses on a piece of paper none of which one wrote oneself. And the take-away is then an amalgamation of your ideas and four other peoples.
Sue Greener from Brighton Business School gave a really energetic presentation that highlighted the role of students as peer learners and leaders, Lisa Petrides talked about the way in which OER is becoming more transparent, more accessible and more sensitive to local contexts. David Vincent from the OU gave an interesting global perspective and highlighted the different ways in which institutions are responding to challenges – he seemed optimistic that the current economic situation would spur on the innovators. Teemu Leinonen gave a really thought provoking overview of the wiki-ethos, an illustration of how the co-authoring process is realizing results.
Great couple of days. Lots and lots of interesting things to follow up. And finally time to set myself up in some ‘Web 2.0’ spaces which has been pretty entertaining


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