Notes #JTELSS18 summer school Albania

On my way back from the 14th Technology Enhanced Learning summer school 2018 (JTELSS), I am collecting my thoughts on the last summer school experience in Durrës, Albania. It was the third Technology Enhanced Learning summer school in which I participated and certainly, the experience was different from the previous ones.

Sensors for Learning

My main workshop was entitled “Sensors for Learning” organised by Jan Schneider. In this workshop, we discussed the need of the TEL community to think beyond e-learning and think how technologies to support physical learning activities such as classroom or workplace activities. We showcased the latest version of our prototype, the Learning Hub and we asked the participants to come up with a learning scenario in which sensors could be used, Later we offered our support to develop and if possible fast prototype the idea with the sensors we were bringing along. We had some interesting ideas: 1) multiple Kinect to explore classroom collaborative activities, 2) Using EEG sensor to foster the rehabilitation of people affected by strokes, 3) Using LeapMotion to train keyboard typing, 4) a Gym tutor which helps in the performance of correct exercises, 5) an application which measures brain activity during real-time language translation, 6) a tutor to learn how to properly perform a tea-ceremony.

We used the Learning Hub to discuss with the group how these applications could be possibly implemented. We were really glad to notice that participants started thinking “out of the box” when it comes to technological supporting real learning situations.

Key actions to promote your research

I contributed to a methodological workshop on Key actions for promoting the PhD research with Mikhail Fominykh and Maria Perifanou. I shared my experience in using social media for my research, primarily in setting up a website and updating it with PhD activities, using Twitter during conferences, using LinkedIn and Slideshare. I thought this part was quite useful for the new PhD, since I myself struggle sometimes with keeping this online promotion up during my research.

Interesting talks

The guest speaker Grainne Conole had a very good speech which was filled by a load of references, tools, methods and practices. She touched upon so many aspects felt that I felt she presented a toolbox rather than a presentation. In her presentation picked up a great quote from Bandura I didn’t know before “people learn from each other through observation and imitation”.
Interesting was also the talk by Roland Klemke on the relation that technology and education have in the field of TEL. He detailed presented different angles how to approach TEL, whether we want to spark innovation or construct theories about teaching and learning practices.
Christian Glahn presented his keynote on micro-learning. His talk touched also interesting stuff, such as the concept of the minimal independent feedback loop. Christian also led the doctoral consortium session and the summer school giving precious suggestions to the PhD students (me included) on how to be strategic during our research, how to focus on the main research problem and highlight the contribution.

Award nomination

It was fun to take part in the competition for the Martin Wolpers Award to win a travel scholarship for a conference. The task consisted of preparing 2 slides and presenting them in 3 minutes. The slides had to cover 1) what is new in your PhD research? 2) what keeps from achieving it? My presentation apparently was good enough since I was shortlisted as one of 3 finalists. We will see if the deciding authority (UnirIted) will pick me as the final winner.

Albania European country

Framing this experience the city of Durrës, a great city situated on the coast of Albania not too far from the capital Tirana. Durrës is the big commercial port of Albania, a small country but of great history. For years Albania has been isolated from the rest of Europe due to oppressive regimes. The country is now in the midst of a cultural and democratic revival. Tourism and investments in the region are boosting the economy and the infrastructures allowing Albania to grow a stronger society. It was a pleasure to attend a European research event as JTEL in Albania.

Conclusions

Compared to the previous summers, I am much more aware of the challenges of the research I am conducting and I felt much more engaged in participating in peer-learning activities with fellow PhD students. The TEL area and the research methods are becoming more familiar to me and I am also becoming more agnostic and open about research topics far from my focus. JTEL is a summer school and not a conference. JTELSS is community building, peer learning, idea sharing, establishing common practices. Discussing research content it is as important as building a strong young technology-enhanced learning community in Europe.

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