I like to visit conferences. I love learning new things or approaches during the ‘formal’ sessions, but it’s the informal part of the conference that’s really important for me. A couple of days of conference for me is one big ‘out-of-the-box-thinking’ exercise. It’s about getting inspired and being creative. And it’s about being able to fully concentrate on that proces, which for me is more difficult when I’m back at work. So when the Diverse 2009 provides a forum where you are invited to process creativity with other international learning professionals, in the form of the so-called Creative Concept Coffees, I’m having a cup.
It becomes more interesting when there’s an award to win: tickets and conference fees for the next Diverse in 2010, Portland, Maine, USA. I sat down at the table together with Marek Oledzki of Nottingham Trent University and Frank Westland of Tilburg University. We skipped a few sessions, processed a couple of ideas into one concept, which got nominated with four other concepts, prepared a pitch, pitched it and won the award by two votes! I love the informal part of conferences!
Bringing the students’ voice to Diverse
So what was our winning concept? Bringing the students’ voice to Diverse. This needs some explanation. We noticed two things while attending the sessions. First, the community of Diverse is working really hard at providing innovative and creative learning environments, using visual technology to engage students in active learning. Second, the community is using more web 2.0 tools and social software, some of those we describe as ‘their tools’.
More and more, we are using the informal tools and approaches of learners in a formal setting. There’s a risk-factor here, it’s not always a recipe for succes. There is much to be learned in blending the formal education with the informal learning of students. So basically we noticed learning professionals thinking for students, using their tools and approaches. But Diverse is not asking the students about their ideas about using these tools in education.
What can we learn from students in using visual technology for learning? What’s the students’ voice in using visual technology in education? We think that’s an important question to be asked by the Diverse community. The answers can give the Diverse community more focus, new insights or confirmations in developing visual educational resources.
One other aspect we missed in the sessions of Diverse was the focus on media literacy skills, media smarts or “mediawijsheid” as we call it in the Netherlands. The Diverse community clearly understands today’s multi-media culture and all the resources it can bring for education, trying to engage the students. But it’s also about students learning to participate, learn and express themselves in this dynamic and rapidly evolving multi-media culture. Media literacy skills and media literacy pedagogy surely are a field of expertise for the Diverse community, we thought, discussing our concept at the Creative Concept Coffees. And again, what do students think of this. What part do they want education to play?
So the plan is to research the students’ voice about using visual technology in education. This is something I am familiar with, as I was part of a research project this year at the Centre of eLearning of INHolland University of Applied Science. In this project we researched the students’ voice of +2000 learners in primary, secundary, vocational and pre-service teacher education in the Netherlands. We asked them all kinds of questions about the technology they use while learning, in and outside school, and what they expect from education about using those tools in their learning process. It provided some interesting results (pdf). This research was obviously in the back of my head during our CCC-session, and the three of us build upon this further.
The main question we ask ourselves is how can we facilitate the students voice at Diverse? Are we using the informal approaches and tools of the students in a formal educational setting? And if we are, is that appropriate? What do students think about using ‘their’ approaches and tools? These, and other questions, amongst others, were the results of our CCC-session. Look for the mindmap below.
So how we go about this? We have untill November to prove we are serious with this and in March 2010 will be decided if the progress of the concept is on a level for presentation at the Diverse 2010. So it’s kind of a award with a catch. :) But we are willing to give it a go.
First step in august is to work out a plan. We’re thinking of creating surveys for and interviewing our students, maybe even use the network of the Diverse community. We’re thinking of writing a paper with the results and recommendations for the Diverse community. We are thinking of creating 10 profiles of students, who stand model for the different kind of learners the Diverse community is developing educational resources for. Ten profiles, because it’s the tenth anniversary of Diverse next year.
We’ll flesh it out in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted on my blog. We had fun though!
This is the mindmap Marek, Frank and I worked on during the CCC-sessions.
In this YouTube video you can watch our pitch. We’re up second. There’s also a part 2.
Tilburg University already posted the good news in one of their newsletters (in Dutch). i-Gadgets?