Terje's musings on educational research

Conference experiences

For this year I have planned so far only two conferences. In the beginning of July I was in Torun, Poland for the WCCE2013 (10th World Conference on Computers in Education) with the theme “Learning while we are connected” and in the following week in Berlin, Germany for the PLE2013 (Personal learning environment) with the theme “Personal Learning Environments: learning and diversity in the cities of the future”.

These two conferences were rather different in terms of their organisation. While the first one represents a typical big, traditional conference with keynotes, parallel sessions, etc. the latter one tries to break away from this format and create a relaxed atmosphere, where people can interact more, have discussions and arguments in smaller groups.

At the WCCE2013 conference together with Sebastian H.D. Fiedler, we presented a paper “Networked narrative accounts of personal learning projects: an instrument for systemic intervention research in higher education”. Surprisingly the organisers of the conference put our paper in a session, which had a bunch of papers from a totally different field and had a completely different focus from my point of view. Thus, it created a bit of an alien feeling to be there and I could see the audience didn’t connect much with what I was trying to get across.

Our paper can be summarised as follows:

In the context of systemic intervention research on teaching and learning practices in higher education the reconfiguration of patterns of control and responsibility has turned out to be an essential lever for change. This paper presents how insights from pervious work on adult’s learning projects, the reflective use of negotiated learning contracts and journals, were digitally re-mediated through the use of open, web-publishing practices. We describe how this approach has been used to support participants externalising and “bootstrapping” of personal learning projects in the digital realm and briefly discuss the potential use of the resulting narrative accounts for the reconstruction and analysis of individual trajectories of development.

At the PLE2013 conference we presented the paper “Personal Learning Environments: A conceptual landscape revisited”. This is our attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of the current research focuses within the PLE field.

The abstract of our paper says:

This paper reports on a renewed attempt to review and synthesise a substantial amount of research and development literature on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) published in recent years. Earlier comprehensive review efforts (Buchem, Attwell, & Torres, 2011; Fiedler & Väljataga, 2011) had attested considerable conceptual differences within the research community. If and how these differences have qualitatively changed since 2010, is the focus of an ongoing literature review project. While the project is still work in progress, some provisional findings and insights are reported and discussed.

Despite of the slightly unfortunate session room it allowed to create a rather lively discussion on issues related to PLE. In general, I got the feeling that we, as researchers, are very much concerned with technological developments of PLEs and don’t pay much attention on pedagogical challenges.