Feb 13, 2011

Media & Learning Brussels Conference 2010

Last 25 and 26 November took place the 2010 edition of Media & Learning Brussels, the biggest conference on media and technology for learning that takes place every year in Belgium. This edition attracted over 230 people from 31 countries interested in how media can be used to enhance learning opportunities for all citizens. Supported by DG EAC Lifelong Learning Program, the Flemish Ministry of Education (its headquarters being the venue) and ATiT, and sponsored by top ICT organizations, it constitutes a unique forum of discussion over the present path and the future challenges of instructional media and the configuration of collaborative and resource networks for trainers, teachers, higher education institutions and companies. In addition, this is the setting where the MEDEA Awards are given every year. This event has also the handy particularity of always taking place just one week before Online Educa Berlin.

All the event long, stands from INgeBEELD, European Schoolnet, the LLP, KlasCement and the Agence Wallonne des Télécommunications were present at the main lobby, demonstrating their services and informing on their actions. 

After an auspicious opening plenary hosted by Jan de Craemer, titled Developing, Recognising and Embedding Media in Education and Training: Towards the Era of Digital Fluency, where high-ranking speakers -like Pascal Smet, Flemish Minister for Education, Youth, Equal Opportunities and Brussels Affairs; Giorgos Zisimos, Member of Cabinet to Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou; Paul Bottelberghs from Ambrosia's Tafel; and Özge Karaoglu, winner of the 2009 Creativity and Innovation MEDEA Award- outlined core policy considerations, the parallel sessions started in 4 different rooms. Because of this simultaneous structure, which allows more presentations and workshops, I keenly advise any participant interested in taking part to it, to carefully plan the sessions to attend, by checking online the event agenda beforehand.

In my case, I attended the workshop by a 2008 MEDEA Awards finalist, in which Catherine Chapman from BBC Learning English, facilitated the construction of a simple yet effective didactic unit in the form of an animated cartoon story, showing a funny conversation for EFL learners. This was made following the example of the soap opera developed by BBC Learning English: The Flatmates. In just 1h30, to my greatest surprise, we all four small groups of participants managed to build a funny and useful animation suitable to be recorded and posted for immediate use by  EFL teachers and learners. Other interesting sessions that took place during that first half of the day were the round table ICT and Media Literay - the Policy Framework: What is Europe doing to keep ahead on media and digital literacy? -with top DG EAC, DG INFSO and EUN presenters-, the demos of Multimedia-Rich Educational Games, and the discussion Are ownership and regulations surrounding the use of existing media resources strangling creativity within the learning sector?

Following the de rigueur buffet-style lunch, I continued participating to the offered workshops for the second half of the day. This time, a 2008 Highly Commended MEDEA Award winner: Distant Train's Director and Founder Fiona Passantino depicted the consecutive stages and everyday challenges of her online Flash-based educational resources development company. This was a good opportunity to reflect on the process of online educational game development, as well as to become fully aware of the commercial efforts needed to overcome the obstacles typically encountered when leading initiatives of this kind. Other sessions that took place during this shift were the round table Enhancing learning with media, the presentation Training schemes for teachers and others to create their own media resources and the discussion Meeting the costs of multimedia-rich educational games. The last shift was for the sessions named Re-using existing media resources for education and training, Cool tools and innovative practices -with demonstrations of educational practice with tools such as the iPhone, podcasts and MMS-, Is media literacy best taught as a unique subject in primary and secondary schools?, as well as two more 2008 and 2009 MEDEA Award finalist workshops.

For the second day, the plenary session Seeing the Wider Picture treated the future of enhanced ICT and media literacy in Europe, focusing on its key players and constraints. That morning simultaneous sessions were National schemes aimed at enhancing media literacy, Online services that provide access to media-rich materials for learning and Higher education and media resources - can universities keep up with student expectations and experience? The afternoon brought us equally interesting ones: Using media to support learning in higher education: what are the best practices?, Innovations, projects and initiatives increasing media usage in schools and The Future of Learning and the role of media and ICT, a debate moderated by Yves Punie that had actually been taking place on its LinkedIn fora during the previous months.

Lieve Van den Brande chaired the closing plenary over the advancement of the ICT and media literacy agenda, the lessons to be learned from stakeholders and the next steps to do.

And finally, the ceremony of the MEDEA Awards presented the 2010 finalists, outlining the comments from the jury to each project, and gave the prizes in each category, the Overall Award Winner (as well as the Professional Production Award) going to the very exciting BBC School Report, a project that manages to engage thousands of 11-14 year-old students and their teachers across the UK while mobilizing a massive amount of professional broadcasting resources.

Over the two days, exchanges between professionals, educators, organizational development specialists, institutions, sponsoring and participating companies, took place not only physically but also through an internal SMS alert system as well as with a website specifically designed to further enhance networking all during the event. With a diverse range of learning levels and professional branches represented among the participants, as shown in the conference's final report, 88% of them found these opportunities very good to excellent.

The next Media & Learning Brussels conference will be held on 24-25 November 2011. Their latest press releases already state that interested individuals, project teams, institutions and organizations are invited to submit proposals to give presentations, demonstrations and workshops at this conference. The closing date for submissions is 1 June 2011.

Likewise, the MEDEA Awards are already calling out to all creative minds who produce educational media: if you want to participate, submit your entry online before 16 September 2011 to have a chance to win in one of the award categories:

You can be informed on this conference and other media & education matters through the Media and Learning News newsletter.

Other conferences of the style in Europe:

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