Category: Conferences

EC-TEL 2009


Book cover
Cover of 'Learning in the Synergy of Multiple Disciplines'

‘Learning in the Synergy of Multiple Disciplines’, the proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning are now available via Google Books (free, but with some pages omitted) and in hardcopy and PDF Chapter by Chapter with publisher Springer. The collected papers were edited by volume editors, Ulrike Cress, Vania Dimitrova and Marcus Specht. Additional reviewers include myself, Liz Brown, Stamatina Anastopolou and Zoe Hadley from the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham (amongst others).

Springer describe the book as constituting the refereed proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2009, held in Nice, France in September/October 2009.   The 35 revised full papers, 17 short papers, and 35 posters presented were carefully reviewed and selected from 136 paper submissions and 22 poster submissions. The papers are organized in topical sections on adaptation and personalization, interoperability, semantic Web, Web 2.0., data mining and social networks, collaboration and social knowledge construction, learning communities and communities of practice, learning contexts, problem and project-based learning, inquiry, learning, learning design, motivation, engagement, learning games, and human factors and evaluation.

Written for: Researchers and professionals
Keywords:
  • augmented reality
  • collaborative learning
  • education
  • games
  • interdisciplinary science
  • learning
  • learning environments
  • museum guide
  • ontologies
  • personalized learning
  • social networks
  • virtual classroom
  • virtual learning environments

Digital Inclusion and Mobile Learning


Following reviews from others working in accessibility, inclusion and Higher Education, I’ve been watching footage from the recent Handheld Learning Conference in London. Extensive online proceedings including video are available on the conference website and via iTunes.

I’ve supplied links to videos alongside notes on the first 5 presentations from the Inclusion Session below. Notes from Sal Cooke’s presentation are most complete due to the range of sources she draws on and my own interest in the projects she cites. For brevity, this a descriptive account, not an analytic one. As I did not attend the conference myself, comments are very welcome. Please note all links open in a new window and many presentations feature slides that are not audio-described.

Inclusion Session Introduction: Donald Clark (video, predominately audio) 8 mins.

I recommend a listen to Clark’s introduction, which he also outlines in his blog article ‘Handheld Learning: Malcolm Maclaren et al.’ Clark poses provocative questions to delegates:

  • To what problem is ‘inclusion’ an answer? Doesn’t everyone have a mobile?
  • Is ‘Digital Divide’ an outmoded term? It’s no longer a poor/rich divide, but a series of fractures.

Specifically, here Clark identifies a disjuncture in the UK between ‘analogue’ educational practices in schools and the ‘digital’ world that characterises nearly everything else.

  • Can inclusion actually result in exclusion? The fact that the few don’t have the technology means the many don’t get anything.

In terms of accessibility discourse, I feel this relates to the observations made by Brian Kelly and others regarding the development of Adaptable and Accessible practices. Video and other media from Brian’s presentation at TechShare are available via his blog.

  • Has the ‘Digital Britain’ report helped or hindered our digital future? It’s largely about TV, Radio and Newspapers or punishing file-sharers.

Clark also questions policy approaches, making a strong critique of Digital Britain, identifying how a scoping document has become a punitive exercise.

Speaker 1: Niel McLean: ‘Inclusion: The Home Access Story’ (video) 20 minute talk and 5 minutes of questions. Note: This presentation opens with brief use of Russian in an illustrative point at the start of the talk.

Niel McLean presents in front of a slide on the Beveridge Report of 1942
Niel McLean presents in front of a slide on the Beveridge Report of 1942

Niel McLean is Executive Director of Becta (the British Education and Communications Technology Agency), here he introduces the Home Access project which seeks to ensure that all pupils in state education in England have the opportunity access to computers and internet connectivity for education at home. The programme supplies funding to achieve this. Aside from McLean’s discussion of socio-economic deprivation as a distinct category within the inclusion agenda, this talk includes a valuable dissection of the political grounds for Government’s role in ensuring home-based access to education.

Speaker 2: David Cavallo on One Laptop Per Child (video) 35 minutes.

David Cavallo presents infront of an image of five boys with laptops in an African  classroom
David Cavallo presents infront of an image of five boys with laptops in an African classroom

David Cavello is the Chief Learning Architect at MIT on the One Laptop Per Child project. One Laptop Per Child is a renowned project that aims to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for learning. Cavallo is a charismatic speaker and news on the progress of the project is always engaging (as is Dr Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall project in India). Questions and answers relate to bandwidth, collaboration and infrastructure.

Speaker 3: Elizabeth Hayes ‘What can we learn from The Sims about inclusive Game Based learning?’ (video) 25 minutes.

Hayes’ focuses on gender and games based learning, reporting the educational implications bourne out of non-traditional gamers (middle-aged women) approaches to game design and ‘modding’ The Sims.

Speaker 4: Sal Cooke from JISC TechDis (video) 24 minutes

Cooke’s presentation focuses on mobile device research and relations to inclusion, disability and Special Educational Needs in a wide-ranging talk that draws on multiple projects and resources. She begins by reporting recent ministerial announcements about mobile devices in Education. These include: Funding for 118 projects, 30 significant case studies with 8 to be studied in-depth to examine impact. Projects will particularly focus on:

  • Field Work, Special Needs, home access, staff and learner capacity
  • Innovation in the curriculum
  • Motivation of the learner, particularly the disengaged
  • Measures of significant improvements in learning outcomes

However, she quickly moves on to point out that much of this research has arguably already happened. Specifically, the ‘Portables in Action’ NCET Project reported outcomes in 1994 and concluded at that time that:

“Educational achievements are enhanced by pupils using portable computers, including the volume and quality of their work, particularly in accuracy and standard of presentation”

“there is clearly a great potential for using portable with special educational needs pupils”

So are the issues the same, or have they changed? Cooke covers several key areas for contemporary deployment of mobile devices and digital content. Specifically she cites issues with assessment and the process of assessment for those who require additional time and assistive technologies. How will these learners’ needs be met?

Next Cooke congratulates MoLeNET, the Mobile Learning Network (a collaborative project between the Learning and Skills Network and partner Further Education institutions in the UK) with reference to the powerful resources that MoLeNET has provide for inclusive approaches. A slide states its’ mission to:

  • Make learning more convenient, accessible, inclusive and sensitive to learners; individual needs and circumstances
  • Encourage non-traditional learners and learners who have not succeeded in traditional learning to engage in learning and to improve in confidence and self-esteem
  • Help teachers to provide different learning activities to suit different learning styles or preferences and different ability levels.

Cooke stresses the need for this approach to be transferred into other educational sectors. She also refers to findings from MoLeNET research to refute common myths that mobile technologies might ‘somehow be inappropriate or too difficult for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities‘ or that ‘allowing the use of mobile technologies, particularly mobile phones, in schools and colleges would make it difficult for teachers to control classes and would encourage inappropriate behaviour‘. To support this, Cooke cites evidence and best-practice case studies available via MoLeNET and describes how mobile devices can assist in a multitude of different situations. She also lists the publication GoMobile as a source highlighting many innovative uses of handheld devices.

Next Cooke illustrates how technologies have moved into the home and represent an untapped learning resource that arguably represents the crux of the Inclusion agenda. One slide depicts a toy pen from ToysRUs that helps children learn to read. Cooke observes that this is the same technology that was being given to dyslexic students as an assistive technology only a couple of years ago. She indicates how assistive technologies are now cheap, mainstream and in the home and broadly conceived as ‘gadgets’.

Cooke links to further evidence from the ongoing ‘Me and My Mobile Phone’ survey by Ian Milliken at Iansyst, the University of Southampton and JISC TechDis, listing highlights from learners with additional access needs. A graph (difficult to see on video) shows that screen size and text size, though significant, are a not considered an overwhelming problem by users with access needs because there are other things that they do with a phone. She quotes one participant:

“…more mobile phone companies should be aware of the software available to help those who are sensory impaired and either offer to put the software on, suggest where to get the software or make sure…their phones are compatible with the latest software”

This research also shows that the vast majority of participants do not want to speak into their device to navigate content, but they do want to hear it.

Cooke concludes with thanks to industry for the huge leaps made in mainstreaming accessible platforms and apps. Apps that could not have previously come to market are now available and ready to use, breaking barriers that were insurmountable in the past . She cites several strong examples including:

  • Yahoo collaboration with Reading University to provide automatically captioned video
  • Rix Centre (University of East London) work on symbol card recognition, enabling users to surf the web and listen to emails using only symbols.
  • The addition of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to new phones in 2010. RFID has been used by the RNIB for years. With international roll-out immanent, educational applications of RFID are being developed.

Cooke goes on to refer to ‘Independent Specialist Colleges: Specialists in Innovation citing the innovative work undertaken within Special Education. She asks how this wealth of knowledge can be married to mainstream practice to for mutual benefits in national programmes. How can we make a real difference? How do we equip staff with the necessary skills? Will mobile learning require new kinds of teaching?

Here Cook returns to the push of new technologies that are changing inclusion work, using the example of RoboBraille, winner of the European Access-IT award.

Robobraille is a free ‘phenomenally powerful resource’. Users send a word processed document to an email address, the document is returned in DAISY format. DAISY, the Digital Accessible Information System, is a format for digital audio books for people who wish to hear and navigate written material presented in an audible format.

Cooke states the institutional focus must be on Continuing Professional Development. What do people do with technologies in their roles? Do people create mobile resources? Do they apply different teaching techniques? Or do they use mobile devices predominantly for collaboration and communication? How many people know what is in their Single Equality Duty Scheme about Mobile learning? How do we upskill this workforce?

Cooke closes the presentation re-asserting print impairment as a major access issue. Under this topic she refers to contemporary developments in e-books and e-publishing within Education. Finally, in response to previous presenters, Cooke asserts Digital Inclusion a matter of rights, not politics. For some people it is life. She quotes a learner in a specialist school to underline this fact: ‘I cannot speak but I use my phone all the time, because I want my mum to be able to see me and see how I am’.

AbilityNet and Techshare Conferences


With the all-too-immanent arrival of the next academic year, the conference season is fast approaching here in the UK.  Here are two select highlights.

First up is the RNIB’s Techshare conference from the 16 – 18 September 2009 at the ExCeL centre in London. TechShare is a pan-disability assistive technology conference and exhibition.  Speakers make up a virtual who’s who of accessibility, including representatives from JISC TechDis, the W3C, IBM, Google and the RNIB. Unfortunately the early-bird discount has now expired – and there are no other discounted rates (that I could find). The costs for 2 days starts at £365 (not including VAT) with a 1 day ticket coming in at £265 + VAT.  On-site registration costs more.  Pre-conference workshops, accommodation and dinner are extra.  However, the accompanying exhibition is free to attend and is open to the public from 12pm to 5pm on 17 and 18 September.  Do note, the RNIB encourage registration for attending the exhibition.

The date for the second national conference on Accessibility 2.0 has also been set by Accessibility impresarios AbilityNet for the 22nd of September 2009 at Microsoft’s base nr Victoria Station.  If last year’s conference is anything to go by, ‘Accessibility 2.0: A million flowers bloom‘ will be of great interest to those looking to find the cutting-techy-edge of accessible web development, with plenty of food for thought for those of us engaged in Web 2.0 more broadly. This is also a conference with a high precedent for impact. Presentations from last year’s event were freely available in multiple formats after the conference, as were tools and news spinning out in response to presentations.

For those in Disability Studies, academic support and more social disciplines, my tip for a highlight is Lisa Herrod presenting on the use of social networks by Deaf users.  BSL is available for delegates on request.  Prices for the full day are:

  • Full price £195
  • Promotional £170
  • Student £100 (includes VAT)

I’m pleased to say I’ll be attending Accessibility 2.0 for the second year. I hope to see you there.

Interface update


Back from an intense and interesting time at the Interface 2009 conference. This was my first experiment with live micro-blogging (yes, Tweeting) from an event.  Interface prooved to be a dynamic symposium and a real credit to the Humanities and Computer Science hosts and organisers.  The Keynotes and speakers included Dame Wendy Hall, Google Geographer and ex-e-Government man Ed Parsons, Willard McCarty (who delivered a very erudite critique of inter-disciplinary machinations) alongside Sarah Porter (JISC), Stephen Brown (DMU) and others. 

It was great to meet so many people from the hard Arts (such as Theology, Literature and Archaeology) critically applying new technologies.  As an English graduate with a secret passion for medieval literature, I was genuinely delighted by demonstrations of research and tools opening up internet access to documents and information hundreds of years old.  But this is just one of many areas where new possibilities and networks were exposed.

If you would like to find out more about Interface, delegate ‘lightning’ papers are now available on Scribd, so click if you’d like to browse the papers visit the Scribd pages. I’ve embedded my short paper on Aversive Disablism and the Internet below (click through, or adjust the settings as you like), but if Scribd isn’t for you here is the Word Version.

[scribd id=17193949 key=key-1kxsanjwzyk7qswx8bj4]

Net Generation presentations online


Early in May I flagged the Open University’s mini-conference and live web casts on the ‘Net Generation: Critical and International Perspectives’.  If you missed out, recordings from May 11th are now available online via their select replay section.

Interactive Technologies and Games Conference: Education, Health and Disability


Last year I was part of the organisational committee for the first Interactive Technologies: Education, Rehabilitation and Disability conference at Nottingham Trent University. The conference now enters its second year, with strengthening ties to the Game City festival and a view to a special edition of Computers and Education in 2010.

The conference aims to bring together academics and practitioners to showcase practice and to show how research ideas and outcomes can be mainstreamed. It will introduce a wider audience to key findings and products from research and will illustrate how practice feeds back into and informs research. Joint academic-practitioner papers are welcomed; the conference will create a forum for two-way communication between the academic and practitioner communities.

This years’ conference, titled ‘Interactive Technologies and Games: Education, Health and Disability’ will be held at NTU in Nottingham on 27th October 2009.  If you’re interested in attending, exhibiting or presenting at the conference, the important dates have been released with the call for papers. This is a Word Document and opens in a new window.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 26th June 2009.  There is a conference fee of £60 (concessions £30). I’ll add details of the Conference website as these are confirmed. For those specifically interested in the Disability Strand, topics to be covered (but not limited to) include:

  • Approaches to making Virtual Environments (VE), computer and video games accessible by all
  • Assistive technologies for people with disabilities and elderly people
  • Practical applications of VE and serious games for the education of people with disabilities and elderly people (in e.g. work preparation, travel training)
  • Location based services for navigation and reconnection of people with disabilities
  • Art and music rehabilitation in 3D multisensory environments
  • The engagement potential of serious games for young people at risk of social exclusion (e.g., offenders, those with learning disabilities)
  • Design for All
  • Including people with disabilities in the design of serious games, assistive technologies and VE.

Net Generation: Critical and International Perspectives


On Monday 11th of May 2009, the Open University will broadcast their ‘Net Generation: A critical and international perspective’ mini conference online. This event is part of the OU’s Net Generation Encountering eLearning at University project, and has particular relevance for those researching the use of new technologies in higher education.

Registration for the event is now closed, so this web cast represents a welcome entry to the day’s proceedings. If you are interested in ‘attending’ any sessions or finding out more, you can view the web cast and related information via: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/webcast-ou/

The web cast will go live between 10.00 am – 4.30 pm in the UK (9.00am – 3.30pm GMT).

National Digital Inclusion Conference


select-all-keyboard-image
A 'select-all' key. A suitable metaphor for digital inclusion?

Earlier this week  (the 27th-28th of this month), the UK’s National Digital Inclusion Conference ’empowerment through technology;’ took place in Westminster, London.  Following on from their live feeds, 16 presentations including the keynote speakers are now available online. Speakers are largely governmental,  including Paul Murphy MP, Minister for Digital Inclusion, Sion Simon MP, Minister for Further Education and Lord Carter, Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting, alongside representatives from the BBC, Wired and elsewhere.  I’m hoping to comb the video materials and cross reference them with AbilityNet‘s thoughts on Twitter for some steer on where to look.  I hope to post a digested read here reflecting any comment on Disability, Digital Divides and Higher Education in the next week or so.

Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications


VS-Games 2009
VS-Games 2009

Today is day 2 of the ‘VS Games ’09 Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications Conference hosted by the Serious Games institute. The event is available online in two places.  If you have a SL avatar and the inclination, you can attend via the Serious Games Institute’s Virtual Auditorium in Second Life at:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/SGI%20Nexus/96/107/27

If you prefer a more low-key, incognito approach there’s a live stream available on the Serious Games Institute website at:

http://www.seriousgamesinstitute.co.uk

Due to some technical glitches I missed Nottingham’s Prof. Steve Benford this morning, however, I’m hoping to catch two presentations from the Health and Cultural Heritage strand this afternoon:

13:50 – 14:15 GMT (06:50 – 07:15 SLT) ‘Serious Games for Upper Limb Rehabilitation Following Stroke’ by Burke, McNeill, Charles, Morrow, Crosbie, McDonough.

14:15 – 14:40 GMT (07:15 – 07:40 SLT) ‘A Sensory Gate-Ball Game for the Aged People and its User Interface Design’ by J. Kim, Kang, Yang, D. Kim.

The event is sponsored by BECTA and the Association for Learning Technology amongst others. For those who are interested in finding out more, or adopting a more lo-fi approach, please note that the proceedings will be published by IEEE*.  Select papers will also be published in one of two international Journals: Visual Computer and the British Journal of Educational Technology.  More details are available via the Serious Games Institute.

*The I.E. Who? In their own words, the IEEE name was originally an acronym for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Today, the organization’s scope of interest has expanded into so many related fields, that it is simply referred to by the letters I-E-E-E (pronounced Eye-triple-E).

Easy YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare


Following on from their wonderful ‘Accessibility 2.0: a million
flowers bloom’ conference, Abilitynet have made podcasts, transcripts and summaries of all the presentations available.  If you weren’t able to attend (or even if you were) I highly recommend checking out these resources. Click to visit the downloads and podcasts pages:
Podcasts, transcripts and summaries of Accessibility
2.0 presentations!

You can also subscribe direct
to the podcasts with this link –
http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/feeds/rss_accessibility2.xml

Perhaps even more interesting are some of the developments since the conference, which I think will have implications for major areas of teaching and learning. AbilityNet summarised these factors as follows:

"Bringing together passionate
experts in a field where there are few cut and dry rules can lead to heated
discussion. Since the conference has led to several interesting
developments:

  • A heated
    exchange between Jeremy Keith and Mike Isofarro Davies has resulted in ongoing debate about the
    accessibility of Microformats, hopefully it will lead to an accessible solution
  • What are the
    accessibility concerns with microformats? the BBC’s Jonathan
    Hassel explains
  • Christian Heilmann developed EasyYouTube, a YouTube player for people with learning
    disabilities as a direct response to Antonia Hyde’s presentation on Rich Media
    for people with learning disabilities
  • Christian
    gets fantastic feedback – EasyYouTube also works with screen readers and
    schoolkids use it to access YouTube
  • Following on
    from this success Chris developed EasySlideShare and EasyFlickr
  • Christian
    has taken the idea further by organising Scripting Enabled – an accessibility hack day"

In particular EasyYouTube, EasyFlickr and EasySlideShare look to me like great tools, and the fact the day conference has already led to such positive outcomes (in its first year!) is fantastic.  Congratulations AbilityNet and all involved!

AbilityNet plan to
host Accessibility 2.0 again in Spring 2009. If you would like to receive updates, contact accessibility@abilitynet.org.uk.