The EdMedia World conference on Educational Media and Technology is an annual event hosted by the AACE (Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education). This years conference had delegates for 61 countries in attendance.
As part of the conference Educational Technology at Falmouth University in collaboration with Jarno Tolonen from Education Technology Services at Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland, had a submitted paper accepted for presentation. The paper addressed the theme “New roles of the instructor and learner” and is titled: “Empowering the Learning Event: New Roles for Learning and Teaching”.
The conference this year was held at University of Tampere, Finland between 23rd – 26th June, themes for EdMedia centred on seven major topics:
- Tools & Content-Oriented Applications
- New Roles of the Instructor & Learner
- Human-Computer Interaction (HCI/CHI)
- Cases & Projects
- Universal Web Accessibility
- Indigenous Peoples & Technology
A different keynote started each days proceedings followed by a discussion session should delegates wish to debate issues from the morning session further with speakers.
Professor Jill Jameson from Greenwich University started the conference with a keynote titled: Why we Need Distributed, Transformational e-Leadership and Trust in the Fifth Age of Educational Media and Technology. Some of the principles of educational e-leadership and technology Jameson has previously discussed in her article “e-Leadership in higher education: The fifth “age” of educational technology research” which featured in the October 2013 edition of British Journal of Educational Technology. This would be a good starting resource to reference should themes from the keynote prove of interest.
The importance of trust within an educational environment was particularly stressed as part of this presentation; it underlies the educational system – “Without trust we cannot stand” (Confucius). Jill recognised that there are many struggles currently being experienced in management as many advances are infrastructure led. Marketisation of the web has led to some resistance (overt or not) and a values based approach to e-leadership in education was recommended as part of the presentation; “To lead the people walk beside them” – Lao Tzu.
Many of the themes from this first keynote resonated with the presentation we were to deliver at the conference in the week. The importance of reevaluating roles and how to share practice within education were particular threads discussed in the subsequent discussion session which followed the keynote. E-leadership was one particular area where delegates were keen to share experiences in their institutions; innovations were portrayed potentially disruptive and chaotic when not managed effectively, a point which resonated with those in the room. Interestingly representatives from Singapore Universities highlighted that they work personally with the minister for education to develop educational strategies used in the country, one such benefit of having a smaller population.
The conference itself had representation from Finland’s Ministry of Education; senior minister Jouni Kangasniemi was an invited speaker for an afternoon session titled “Education in the Digitalizing World – Challenges and Opportunities as Seen from the Finnish Perspective”. The Finnish educational system has long been regarded as an exemplar model which places particular emphasis on the student experience (Sahlberg, 2007). I found this session especially relevant as it gave an opportunity to discuss common digital themes and issues from different institutional perspectives.
As part of the session Jouni introduced the Opeka website which uses a questionnaire system for teachers to survey their use of IT and technology in teaching. The results of which are then collated for other educational establishments to view and analyze. As a method for collecting information across schools its a great initiative and gives a feel for digital competence levels in staff. This process allows for more evidence based development opportunities, something the Finnish education system supports.
As part of this session there was much talk of assessment methods and the possibilities of fully digital submissions. The potential for assessment and technology was the theme in a keynote titled; “Learning Analytics: Welcome to the Future of Assessment” delivered by Simon Buckingham Shum. This session was a deep exploration into learning analytics; a phrase I’ve often heard bounded around to improve student assessment. Simon’s keynote critically explored analytics, while exploring how software is shaping education. He stated, “Integrity and trust is what all technology is built on“, the same values should be placed on the way in which we interpret and analyze information derived from these sources. Classification systems, types of analytics and the potential for analytics to shape education were all discussed as part of the keynote. The challenge of changing organisational and academic cultures to take into consideration these issues is of particular relevance when teaching and learning utilises student data. As part of his talk Simon referenced the blog http://learningemergence.net/; a joint collaboration between the Open University, University of Bristol and Incept Labs, it pays particular attention to emergent learning trends, specifically technological advances in learning and teaching and is well worth a visit.
After Simon’s talk I went to a session which focused purely on learning spaces, something Finland in particular seem to have mastered. Spaces at Finnish Universities seem really in tune with what students want, and are majorly successful as a result. This session was delivered in the Oasis; an adaptable and inviting learning environment at Tampere University. Tiered seating, books, board games and bean bags littered the room, furniture was free to move meaning the resulting space could be configured to suit multiple teaching styles. It got me to thinking about the spaces we have within our University and whether these areas are flexible enough and suit the needs of our creative students.
The session at EdMedia highlighted space case studies from five Universities; Bentley University, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere University and Loughborough University. The presentations regarding spaces were really valuable and while I felt more positive about some spaces than others, I found it immensely valid that staff with expertise in learning and teaching were given the space, both metaphorically and physically, to try out different configurations with the aim of enhancing learning and teaching at their universities.
We spend a lot of time telling our students to explore their creative sides, experiment with their work, approach things from a different angle. Shouldn’t we also do the same when it comes to teaching and learning environments?
The next session of the day saw a move from physical spaces to digital spaces. Thom Cochrane’s presentation “Mobile Social Media As a Catalyst for Pedagogical Change” was one of a few sessions that demonstrated examples of digital projects happening at AUT University.
Thom’s session thoughtfully explored learning with mobile devices, as with other forms of digitally enhanced learning it’s not just about the content delivery, technology has to be appropriate. Technologies of this kind inspire different styles of learning, as educators we should embrace these opportunities, especially if they encourage active participation from students and their devices. As with previous presentations, having the opportunity to explore and trial new styles of delivery and technical integrations has been imperative in enhancing student experience. Having the space to trial and explore is so important particularly in times of rapid technical advancement.
The afternoon saw Jarno Tolonen and myself present our session titled “Empowering the Learning Event: New Roles for Learning and Teaching”. We made a purposeful decision to involve the audience as part of our presentation; seemed only right given the nature of our paper. Challenging the roles of instructors and learners is something which needs to be confronted in a world where knowledge can be acquired digitally. As part of our session we challenged delegates who attended, asking them what it means to be a teacher in today’s connected society. Needless to say there were some very opposing views held within the room, it was great to see so many professionals approach the discussion in a passionate and engaging way. As part of the conference I hadn’t seen many presentations which had incorporated the delegates in attendance, with so much experience and educational expertise available it seemed an opportunity not to be overlooked. This approach definitely worked to our advantage, the room was full and we ended up being the only presentation in the session, meaning our original 15 minute allocated slot had been unexpectedly extended to an hour.
We chatted to delegates after the session and received positive feedback from those attending. As a result we have decided to keep investigating new roles for learning in teaching, we’re also hoping to incorporate some of the common themes which arose as part of the conference. Our partnership with TAMK has developed over the years and its really positive that we’re going to be working together in the future.
The themes from this years conference were so relevant and timely given current advancements in education, it was a great opportunity to be involved with the event and contribute some ideas from a educational technology perspective. Finland as ever was a beautiful place to visit and I’ve come away with a renewed energy to push for more appropriate spaces for teaching and learning. Our partnership with TAMK has also strengthened and we look forward to further projects in the future.