May 19, 2012

Media & Learning Brussels 2011

On November 24 and 25, 2011, took place, as every year, the Media & Learning Brussels 2011 conference. As in previous years, the venue was the Flemish Ministry of Education HQ. With 240+ people from 40+ participating countries, this year's edition added to the history of success this conference has in Belgium.

Apart from meeting some ex-colleagues and attending the debates, in this edition I had the opportunity to help the organization in two ways - by being a member of the jury of the 2011 MEDEA Awards and by moderating a discussion on ICT and learning. Needless to say, the experience was juicy. I could have a deep dive on impressive, high-level, state-of-the-art projects on media for learning, some of them really challenging to score.

As for the moderation of the panel titled 'What impact does the move from a literacy culture to a media culture have on learning?', it took place on Friday 25. Preceded by an online discussion, it allowed an active debate thank to the keen involvement of the audience, and presented the following in-depth analyses from the panelists:

  • Joe Cullen (Arcola Research, UK) outlined how it is premature to think of a real shift from a literacy to a media culture. He stated that ‘e-inclusion' is a premature notion, as 40% of EU citizens do not have access to ICTs. He talked about the ‘quality of use’, where evidence (IPTS) shows considerable variation in digital literacy and how many ‘at risk’, ‘excluded’ people –particularly young– remain ‘technologically barren’. He highlighted how ICTs combine with structural dynamics of social exclusion to create a ‘dual exclusion’ for many young people, leading to the ‘New Milennium learners’ (NML’s), those born after 1980, and to the idea that they, born and growing up in a ‘media rich’ environment, acquired different cognitive skills, and cognitive ‘hard-wiring’, than those born before. Yet, he continued, there is no hard evidence that this is the case. Although the examples of innovative learning approaches using Web 2.0 and multimedia to deliver new forms of learning, there are other initiatives (‘Notschool’) achieving good results with low-tech learning solutions. But initiatives delivering ‘media literacy’ are small-scale experiments. What is lacking, he finalised, is a broader ‘societal learning’ approach that addresses the big problems the EU faces on jobs, sustainability, poverty and climate change.
  • Yvonne Crotty (Dublin City University, Ireland) focused on the set of fundamental values that drives our actions when we teach, highlighting these values as a major and often forgotten factor of change in educational technology. She showed some of the activities and projects developed at Dublin City University, and featured at the Diverse International Conference.
  • Nikos Theodosakis (OliveUs Education Society, Canada) suggested that students' excitement in creating digital media invites educators to consider wrapping the learning and curriculum outcomes within a creative media project. He further suggested that the process of creating media in teams, and the experiences of bringing intangible ideas to life, held potential for the development of skills that could be utilized by students both in and out of school.
  • Nikitas Kastis (Lambrakis Research Foundation/MENON Network, Greece) talked about the transformation taking place in informal learning settings such and within educational systems. He stressed out the importance of fostering the capacity learn and to be creative in the context of the current unemployment crisis.
  • Andy Jones (Thomson Reuters, UK) focused on several ideas, arguing that how we learn hasn’t really changed, the tools we used have changed though. The culture, he stated, hasn’t really moved on either, there is still a consumption of different kinds of media available. He said that outcomes and employability are not built into many programs, and that in fact there’s a big disconnect between the end of a program and the start of a job. Last, he denounced the chasm between academia and the business world: "do not say 'pedagogy' to a business person, or ‘Sensemaking’, or ‘crowdsourcing’... they need to understand that you/we are on the same page with the same desires to make a difference".

The audience contributed very actively not only with questions to the keynote speakers but also by sharing their ideas and approaches regarding how technological change in education can be used to address the current issues that citizens are living, at the core of the largest financial, economical, political and social crisis in decades.

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