Posted by & filed under ALT, altc2011, conference, Internet access, OLPC, Social Media.

This year, the Alt-C conference is held at the University of Leeds, and its theme is “Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate”, referring to the economic cutbacks in (higher) education throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. As a member of the Programma Committee Executive, I’ve been involved in the review and editing process, and it’s been a very good experience sofar.

Opening & keynote
The conference was opened by the mayor of Leeds, a reverent adorned with an impressive official chain, who referred to the multi-cultural character of Leeds as the third biggest city in the UK. Then, the conference co-chair John Cook introduced the keynote speaker Miguel Brechner, the project leader of the Uruguayan One-Laptop-per-Child project Ceibal. He held a very inspirational talk about the project in which all Uruguayan children in the state school system (some 450.000 kids in primary and secondary education) were given a laptop that is connected to the Internet (99%) both in school and at home. This video he showed, gives a good impression of the project. Others – such as the ever productive Steve Wheeler – have blogged about this session. My major lesson from the session was:

  1. This kind of project is not about ICT or infrastructure, it is about social change, about teacher training, about social support mechanisms, about political will and endurance.
  2. Access to Internet is fast becoming the major factor in education. As Brechner forcefully stated: “The Ceibal project transformed access to computers and broadband Internet from a privilege to a basic human right.
  3. What can we learn from this, and why can’t we offer the same broadband coverage in our part of the world? Some UK colleagues asked a question during the session, about how they could help the people in Uruguay to further this project. Somehow this question felt wrong (as noted by others). It’s more: what can we (in the ‘civilized’ developed countries) learn from this? One thing I feel is that it should not be left to commercial providers alone to get everyone ‘connected’. Miguel even mentioned rural areas where the laptops and broadband arrived before electricity did!
  4. Access to Internet means access to social media. I and others wondered how the kids were using their access to Internet to get to social media. Interestingly Miguel asked: “What is social media?” He then said: “Well, they’re all on Facebook”, which left me wondering whether their use of Facebook is similar to the way my kids are using it.

All in all, a good start to a good day. More reflections coming up later.

Posted by & filed under ALT, altc2011, conference, Internet access, OLPC, Social Media.

This year, the Alt-C conference is held at the University of Leeds, and its theme is "Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate", referring to the economic cutbacks in (higher) education throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. As a member of the Programma Committee Executive, I've been involved in the review and editing process, and it's been a very good experience sofar.

Opening & keynote
The conference was opened by the mayor of Leeds, a reverent adorned with an impressive official chain, who referred to the multi-cultural character of Leeds as the third biggest city in the UK. Then, the conference co-chair John Cook introduced the keynote speaker Miguel Brechner, the project leader of the Uruguayan One-Laptop-per-Child project Ceibal. He held a very inspirational talk about the project in which all Uruguayan children in the state school system (some 450.000 kids in primary and secondary education) were given a laptop that is connected to the Internet (99%) both in school and at home. This video he showed, gives a good impression of the project. Others - such as the ever productive Steve Wheeler - have blogged about this session. My major lesson from the session was:
  1. This kind of project is not about ICT or infrastructure, it is about social change, about teacher training, about social support mechanisms, about political will and endurance.
  2. Access to Internet is fast becoming the major factor in education. As Brechner forcefully stated: "The Ceibal project transformed access to computers and broadband Internet from a privilege to a basic human right.
  3. What can we learn from this, and why can't we offer the same broadband coverage in our part of the world? Some UK colleagues asked a question during the session, about how they could help the people in Uruguay to further this project. Somehow this question felt wrong (as noted by others). It's more: what can we (in the 'civilized' developed countries) learn from this? One thing I feel is that it should not be left to commercial providers alone to get everyone 'connected'. Miguel even mentioned rural areas where the laptops and broadband arrived before electricity did!
  4. Access to Internet means access to social media. I and others wondered how the kids were using their access to Internet to get to social media. Interestingly Miguel asked: "What is social media?" He then said: "Well, they're all on Facebook", which left me wondering whether their use of Facebook is similar to the way my kids are using it.
All in all, a good start to a good day. More reflections coming up later.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

On December 7 and 8 2010, Rotterdam was host to the Digitale Erfgoedconferentie 2010 (Digital Heritage Conference 2010). The theme of the conference was lifelong learning, and the focus of the conference was on digital developments surrounding heritage and education. I was supposed to have been there to present some reflections on lessons learned within the e-learning domain, during a parallel session on the role of the heritage institutions in the production of learning materials.
However, a flu virus kept me from travelling to Rotterdam, so I decided to prepare a virtual presentation for the session organisers.

1) I had prepared my presentation using Prezi, which was a very informative exercise, as it was the first time I used the tool.

.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; } http://prezi.com/bin/preziloader.swf

 2) I then decided to make a slidecast of my presentation. I first looked at Slideshare, but decided against it, because I would have to record a separate mp3-file, upload it to slideshare, and then sync the slides with the audio.
3) I ended up using Screencast-O-Matic, because it allowed me to record my voice, while I walked through the Prezi presentation. I had used the tool before, and was quite pleased with its functionality.
4) The 15-minute limitation of the basic account, however, forced me to split my talk up into two pieces, which I found rather annoying, so after I had recorded the first part, I decided to get a pro-account, hoping that I could extend the first part of the recording. Unfortunately, that was not the case. So I forwarded the link to the two presentation videos to the conference organisers. 
I was quite disappointed to find that they decided not to use the video in the session, especially since I felt that the discussion (which I followed on Twitter) would have benefited from my contribution.
Anyway, while making an overview of my contributions for 2010, I decided to turn the two videos into a single video.
5) I recorded the playback of the first 15-min video (using Screencast-O-Matic), added the second video (which was about 5 minutes), edited the two pieces together, and exported it as an mp4-file.
6) Finally, I uploaded the mp4-file on Vimeo (because YouTube has a limit of 15 minutes) and TADAA, here it is.


E-learning en de erfgoedsector: Enkele reflecties from Steven Verjans on Vimeo.

The presentation and video are both in Dutch, but if you’re interested, just write me a line, and I’ll translate it for you!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

On December 7 and 8 2010, Rotterdam was host to the Digitale Erfgoedconferentie 2010 (Digital Heritage Conference 2010). The theme of the conference was lifelong learning, and the focus of the conference was on digital developments surrounding heritage and education. I was supposed to have been there to present some reflections on lessons learned within the e-learning domain, during a parallel session on the role of the heritage institutions in the production of learning materials.
However, a flu virus kept me from travelling to Rotterdam, so I decided to prepare a virtual presentation for the session organisers.

1) I had prepared my presentation using Prezi, which was a very informative exercise, as it was the first time I used the tool.



 2) I then decided to make a slidecast of my presentation. I first looked at Slideshare, but decided against it, because I would have to record a separate mp3-file, upload it to slideshare, and then sync the slides with the audio.
3) I ended up using Screencast-O-Matic, because it allowed me to record my voice, while I walked through the Prezi presentation. I had used the tool before, and was quite pleased with its functionality.
4) The 15-minute limitation of the basic account, however, forced me to split my talk up into two pieces, which I found rather annoying, so after I had recorded the first part, I decided to get a pro-account, hoping that I could extend the first part of the recording. Unfortunately, that was not the case. So I forwarded the link to the two presentation videos to the conference organisers. 

I was quite disappointed to find that they decided not to use the video in the session, especially since I felt that the discussion (which I followed on Twitter) would have benefited from my contribution.
Anyway, while making an overview of my contributions for 2010, I decided to turn the two videos into a single video.
5) I recorded the playback of the first 15-min video (using Screencast-O-Matic), added the second video (which was about 5 minutes), edited the two pieces together, and exported it as an mp4-file.
6) Finally, I uploaded the mp4-file on Vimeo (because YouTube has a limit of 15 minutes) and TADAA, here it is.


E-learning en de erfgoedsector: Enkele reflecties from Steven Verjans on Vimeo.

The presentation and video are both in Dutch, but if you're interested, just write me a line, and I'll translate it for you!

Posted by & filed under OEP, OER, open educational resources, UNESCO.

On Monday and Tuesday, I participated in the "Research workshop on Open Educational Practices" hosted by the OPAL project at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The workshop was chaired by Ulf Ehlers (University of Essen-Duisburg and project co-ordinator) and Grainne Conole (Professor at Open University). It's been an intensive, but very informative and interesting two days. I got to meet a number of interesting people in our plenary and group discussions, and I bumped into Tom Wambeke, whom I hadn't spoken to in quite some time.
The workshop centered around reviewing, commenting and refining the current OPAL model of Open Educational Practices, and it was organised mainly as small group sessions, in which the participants were asked to answer 5 questions, after which the groups reported. Tim Unwin's brilliant blogpost has mindmaps summarising that discussion, so I'll focus on my own learning points:

For me, some of the more fundamental issues were
  • How do we define Open Educational Practices (OEP)? I felt that there was a consensus amongst the participants that OEP is broader than just practices involving OER, and that it relates to 'openness of teaching practice, learning envronment and educational resources' (Chris Pegler on Twitter).
  • Do we need specific practices for Open Educational Resources (OER), or can we make do with practices regarding 'Educational resources' in general? I share Susan D'Antoni's concern that we must avoid focusing too much on content as the Holy Grail. Let's not replace a 'technology push' within education with a 'content push'.
  • Building on that idea, should we focus on content when we talk about OEP, or should we focus more on learning activities or learning conversations that make use of resources? In that light, I like the CELSTEC view that learning content - artefacts as we label them - are an inherent part of a learning network, but in the sense of social artefacts, not as static, finalised bits of explicit - often factual - knowledge, eg. this working paper by Wigman, Hermans & Verjans (2009).
  • Our discussion group on Monday concluded that "Context, not content is KING", later changed to "Context is QUEEN". The background for stating this so strongly was that it is important to primarily consider the stakeholders' context (national, cultural, educational, etc.) before looking at other aspects of OEP, such as the main dimensions in the OPAL model: strategy, tools, skills.
View from UNESCO meeting room

All in all, it has been a fruitful 2-day meeting, supplemented by an active online discussion on Twitter and Cloudworks, which also produced a set of quite interesting and relevant external links and references. My follow-up from this meeting will be to
- continue to act as an external expert
- be a 'national ambassador' for both The Netherlands and Belgium
- to stay active within the wider OPAL community.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

When I was doing my PhD, I often got comments from fellow doctorate students and my supervisors that my scope was too broad. What I did was look at technological (ICT-based) innovation from a personal psychological perspective, as well as from an organisational perspective, thus effectively combining insights and research methods from organisational psychology, organisational theory and management information systems. After I was finished, the jury commented that I had actually written 3 PhD theses, but that's not the point here. The point is that reality is catching up on my research, and that all the pieces of my (personal scientific) puzzle are coming together.
Allow me to expand on this. During the past few weeks, I have been
  • spending quiet some time on laying the groundworks for a chapter on Learning Networks that my department is working on, 
  • rethinking some of the really good discussions at the Alt-C conference about my presentation on "Hybrid professional learning networks", 
  • having internal discussions about learning networks for professionals and with Marc Bijl about Enterprise2.0,
  • following the "Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge" (PLENK2010) course from the side line,
  • participating / contributing to the strategic discussions about the 5-year institutional strategy plan of the Open University in The Netherlands in my role as chairman of the works council,
  • and looking around for job opportunities, as my future prospects here at OUNL are somewhat shady, and I will need to consider where to go next.
All of this has contributed to the insight that the broad range of my scientific efforts so far, is now coming together in the research topic that I am currently dealing with, namely the role of social media in professional learning of individuals and organisations. What I'll need to do is revisit the models and ideas from my PhD and check in how far they can be applied to the topic of social media in professional learning.

    Posted by & filed under #twitter, ALT, conference, E-Learning.

    Instead of taking the nap that I should be taking (considering that I have only slept 4 hours for the past 2 nights), I thought I'd write a short blog entry with some impressions of my first ever attendance at an ALT-Conference.

    Lunch with @timbuckteeth @Emmadw and @kathrinder #altc2010 on Twitpic
    Lunch with @kathrinder @timbuckteeth and Emmadw on Day 1 of #ALTC2010
    1. Firstly, I've finally met - in the flesh - some of the tweeps that I feel I've known for ages.
    2. Secondly, I find the Twitter backchannel increasingly important at a conference. For instance, it allowed me to deduce that @daveowhite's talk - that I didn't attend - should have been the opening keynote. I also got to know new tweeps through the backchannel - and made a separate Twitter list for them. It's s become a crucial instrument in my networking at a conference.
    3. The Crowdvine social application that ALT uses for planning the conference and getting to know people is definitely an asset. I found out that some old friends (Sally) and colleagues (Judith) were also attending the conference, and was able to arrange a meet even before getting my hands on the list of attendants.
    4. Oh yes, remind me never to stay at a Hall of Residence again. Cheap, but bleak and depressing and the atmosphere of a prison.
    That's all for now (too tired). I'll report on the things I learned at a later stage.

    Posted by & filed under celstec, learning networks, networked learning, OUNL.

    A group of researchers from the CELSTEC research programme on Learning Networks for Professionals recently spent a week in Braunshausen (Germany) to write a practice-oriented book on Learning Networks for professional learning.

    Organising such 'writing weeks' at a remote location has become something of a habit at CELSTEC. It allows for a team to get immersed in their work, more than would be possible in our hectic workplace, which is often characterised by important tasks that get higher priority than the writing process.

    It was a very fruitful week with interesting discussions about the concepts that we take for granted when we are dealing with external 'clients' for whom we develop concepts and solutions for learning networks. On the final day, I felt it was a pity that we hadn't taken steps to (a) organise short active group reflection sessions - as we had during the Library School week in Umbria - or to (b) actively ask participants to capture some of those interesting discussions using Twitter, blogs. mindmaps or other tools. It seems that - if reflection is not actually built into the programme of my working activities - I hardly ever reflect on my own thinking processes, being caught up in the day-to-day and hour-to-hour thinking and working processes themselves.

    Something to remember!
    (But even this thought is a déjà-vu ;-)

    Posted by & filed under learning, networked learning, professionals.

    While writing on an article for the Alt-C conference, I stumbled across a problem that I keep having when I start writing, namely the problem of clearly defining and delimiting what it is that I'm dealing with on a day-to-day basis at CELSTEC.
    As member of the research programme on Learning Networks for Professionals, I am researching technologies to support learning networks and trying to apply some of the ideas and concepts - developed within the programme - within internal and external projects. For a recent publication coming out of our research programme, I 'd like to refer to this recent book (Available at Springer - and Google Books).


    Now why do I keep having this problem? It might be because (a) we're dealing with an area that is rapidly developing, and hard to pin down, (b) an area that is on the crossroads between a number of traditional definitions, or (c) my own thoughts are not yet clear enough to explain clearly to my wife or kids what it is that keeps me at the computer for days on end.

    Within the research programme I am not the only one facing this issue of defining and limiting our concepts, as witnessed by the discussions in this Cloudscape. In my search for clear definitions to start the paper with, I came across two interesting online thesauri concerning Learning for Professionals, which I would like to share.
    • The first one is the European Training Thesaurus, developed and maintained by CEDEFOP, the European centre for the development of vocational training. The number of items in this thesaurus is rather limited, and I was unable to find a good match for the work that we're doing.
    • The second one I found rather more useful, the VOCED - Thesaurus. It is part of VOCED, a free research database for technical and vocational education and training, produced in Australia by the NCVER, and supported by UNESCO-UNEVOC.
    Below, I want to just list some of the descriptors from the VOCED Thesaurus that are relevant for my work.
    • Learning: The process of acquiring knowledge attitudes or skills from study, instruction or experience.
    • Education: is mentioned as a related term, but not defined. Interestingly, one can find the following terms among the list of narrower terms. At CELSTEC, we prefer to use the terms Formal learning, Informal Learning, and Nonformal Learning, but VOCED uses the following terms.
      • Formal education: not further defined
      • Informal education: The unorganised process whereby everyone acquires knowledge skills or attitudes through experience and contact with others.
      • Nonformal education: Organised and systematic learning activity often directly associated with work provided outside the formal education system.

    • Lifelong learning: Process of acquiring knowledge or skills throughout life via education, training, work and general life experiences.
    • Continuing education: A comprehensive term referring to all forms and types of education pursued by those who have left formal education at any point and who entered employment and/or assumed adult responsibilities.
      • Continuing professional education: Education of adults in professional fields for occupational updating and improvement; usually consists of short-term intensive specialised learning experiences often categorised by general field of specialisation.
      • Continuing vocational education: not further defined, but is related to Vocational education: Vocational training given in primary or secondary schools or in higher educational institutions designed to develop occupational skills.
      • Continuing vocational training: Further vocational training undertaken by those who have already completed basic or initial training in order to supplement acquired knowledge or skills.

    • Workplace learning: Process of learning through experience at the workplace both formally and informally and through different forms of working arrangements - teams one-to-one. Also the creation of a learning environment in the workplace.
    • Work based learning: Learning that takes place within the work environment using tasks/jobs for instruction and practical purposes. It may be structured as a formal session (see On-the-job training: Training within the enterprise given at the work station and using jobs of commercial value for instruction and practice purposes.) or be an information learning situation. Instructional programs that deliberately use the workplace as a site for student learning. These are formal structured programs organised by instructional staff employers and sometimes other groups to link learning in the workplace to students' formal learning experiences. They have formal instructional plans that directly relate to their career goals.
    • In-service education: Course or program designed to provide employee/staff growth in job related competencies or skills, often sponsored by employers, usually at the professional level.

    • Distance learning: Refers to learning in an environment made possible by the convergence of information and communication network technology where the learner may choose from a greater number of convenient learning opportunities irrespective of geographical location to meet their learning needs at any given time.
    • Distance education: A mode of education in which students enrolled in a course do not attend the institution but study off campus and may submit assignments by mail or email.

    • Learning community: A (geographical) community where individuals work in partnership with education, business and community to address the learning needs of the whole community, using learning as a means towards social cohesion and development, recognising the value of learning for all and supporting lifelong learning.

    • Online learning: Interactive process in which a computer and connection to the Internet are used to present instructional material enable communication between student and coordinator monitor learning and allow individual learner needs to be supported.
    What we are trying to do in projects such as Biebkracht and the Library School, has aspects of all the terms listed above. Our goal is to design, develop and implement a collaborative professional learning network that is a blend of online and offline activities, artefacts (learning resources) and people, similar to the Rob Jacobs' Professional Networked Learning Collaborative.