Sustainable 'Fishing' in the EU

May 11, 2016 by Antonio Moreira Teixeira   Comments (0)

The call for papers of the EDEN RW9, to be held this year in Oldenburg next 4-7 October, has just been announced. Following up on the success of the RW8, held in Oxford, two years ago, the theme is once again very exciting and thought-provoking - "forging new pathways of research and innovation in open and distance learning: reaching from the roots". The EDEN RW9 will be organised in collaboration with the Institute of Education and the Center for Lifelong Learning at Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, in Germany.

The announced selection of invited speakers is impressive and much diversified, including such names as Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Paul Prinsloo, Inge de Waard, George Veletsianos, Adnan Qayyum, Isa Jahnke and Som Naidu. This diversity and richness represents the current wide outreach and impact of EDEN in the research community worldwide.As you know and I've been pointing out in many of my blog posts, one of the focal points of EDEN's strategy and one of the major aspects of our Association's 25th years legacy in the field has been the support to the promotion, dissemination and recognition of quality research in open and digital learning. The organisation of the very successful biannual research workshops (the EDEN RWs) is only a part of that comprehensive activity, which has no parallel with any other association in the world in our field of practice.

More...At the upcoming EDEN16 in Budapest, our 25th anniversary annual conference, we'll be introducing a number of new innovative services to our research community, especially focused on supporting young scholars. Amongst these initiatives, I would point out the Young Scholars pre-conference workshop which will include a special strand dedicated to the best methods and techniques to write good quality research journal articles. This activity will be lead by some of the most experienced editors of the best journals in open and distance learning.

Meanwhile, an additional important role of our organisation is to participate in international research initiatives. To speak about EDEN's extensive support to research and its involvement in EU-funded projects, I've invited today my colleague and good friend Ildikó Mázár. She is the young Deputy Secretary General of EDEN and is a very talented and experienced project manager.

In her contribution, Ildikó presents a personal and moving account of her long experience as project manager at EDEN, highlighting the social and personal impact of the initiatives carried out.

António

 


 

Athens, October 2009. I remember that warm sunny day well for we had a guest teacher presenting at the final partner meeting of our FP6 project creatively entitled Rural Wings. His name escapes me, but I’ll never forget the passion and enthusiasm he brought to the room. He talked about how the satellite technologies provided by the project and the (until then unattainable) high quality wireless broadband connection helped his remote island get rejuvenated. Before Rural Wings virtually connected this tiny landmass with mainland Greece, the inhabitants’ usual life pattern was growing up, leaving to find a job and possibly returning when they retired. That’s the gist of the story anyway. Being a small island, there weren’t many children living there, and you can imagine the enormous challenge their teacher faced, with a class full of multi-graders. He was expected to engage them all. He had to cover every subject with every age group. …until Rural Wings provided the opportunity to connect his rural classroom with others in similarly disadvantaged places. In doing so the multi-grade teachers could divide the labour amongst themselves with, for example, one preparing classes in maths and the other in history, etc. Whilst one was presenting to all the classes from one location, the others would supervise their own classes receiving the lesson via Skype. The beautiful thing was that it wasn’t just the youngsters and their teacher whose lives had changed for the better. Parents and grandparents, often taught by their own children how to use IT, learned how they could use e-mail and Skype to stay in touch with their family members working in far off cities. And so they all lived happily ever after.

Image courtesy of Woodleywonderworks

 

By the time we had that inspirational meeting in Athens, I had been working at EDEN for 10 years, but it was really only after this project meeting that could I describe to people outside the field what my job was all about. I mean, people struggle to grasp what European Union Programmes actually do (apart from the notion that the EU is utilising their tax money). But now I had a personal story that people could connect with, and that helped them understand how EU projects, contrary to popular belief, don’t just equip schools with technology and equipment. That would be just like ‘giving fish’, but these initiatives actually more often ‘teach fishing’ to their stakeholders. Once I raise the interest of my audience I can go on to tell them how the EU programmes EDEN is involved with help children, youths, adults and even the elderly, get a more fun and engaging, better quality education. Education for life, that is, because the one thing people usually agree with is that lifelong learning is a reality whether you accept or ignore it. I tell them that there are children with long term illnesses, whom we can help stay connected with their peers and participate in their classes from their home or the hospital. I tell them that some of these EU funded projects help students develop invaluable soft skills that are more and more often required by their prospective employers (yes, I know that if you got your degree at Harvard or Oxford you’re still guaranteed to nail a job in no time, but wherever you got your degree from, you will need those soft skills to keep that job and make your career develop) and how open badges (designed and issued properly) have such great potential and prospect in evidencing these skills. And if I still have their attention I may even explain how some of these EU projects foster open and international professional collaboration and equip educators with the necessary competences and know-how to decipher and safely use educational big data.

And this is still just a superficial overview as there is so much more going on in EU projects, often with either subtler and/or more political impacts, that are difficult to explain in a brief synopsis. And of course there are project giants like Open Discovery Space, that are so extensive and diverse, I wouldn’t know where to start explaining its importance to school innovation and teachers’ professional development.

EDEN has been actively involved with over 60 EU co-funded projects since 1999 and supported many more of its members’ and partners’ initiatives by sharing their news and results on our online bulletin board and in our monthly NewsFlashes. We also provide a face-to-face platform at our conferences’ Synergy Strands for practice exchange and intellectual cross-fertilisation, and it is a whole different conversation topic how these face-to-face networking opportunities give birth to so many creative and innovative project ideas and new valuable partnerships. I suggest that you don’t take my word for it. Apply that ‘critical thinking’ soft skill of yours and come and see for yourself at our 25th Anniversary Conference on 14-17 June 2016 in Budapest.

To complete my EU project account, I’d like to add that for every successful project we have tenfold more applications that didn’t hit the bar (you can imagine that some of these programmes are incredibly competitive). And despite the disappointment we feel over lost efforts poured into these applications, we don’t lose heart or our dedication. After all it is in our collective interest to have lots of innovative ideas elaborated with great clarity and precision, with solid work plans and with visions of sustainability. Let the best ones win and let us learn from their examples! I, for one at least, believe that European collaboration means genuine openness to and support of others’ ingenuity, and will and commitment to make our continent, and the wider world, a better place for All.

 



Ms. Ildikó Mázár is Deputy Secretary General at EDEN since 2013. She graduated at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) in 2002 as bio-engineer where she also received training in course development and learning management. She worked as a part-time assistant since 1999 but in the year of her graduation she received a full-time contract from EDEN as a project manager and collaborated with the Association ever since, contributing to the successful completion of nearly 60 EU projects and assisting to an additional 130+ applications’ composition. Her roles within the organisation have focused in particular on the dissemination, networking, project evaluation and management/administration activities. More recently, she has spearheaded a number of innovative developments in the Association, associated with the widening of its outreach to the new generations of researchers and practitioners. Read more here.