I am writing this blog entry following the EDEN conference in Gdansk. First of all what a discovery the city of Gdansk was to me! The medieval city was reconstructed from the 1960s on after the total destruction of the Second World War, and a very beautiful job has been made of it. The fact that Gdansk was a Hanse city, one of the many cities that were in the Hanseatic League representing an early attempt to create a common trading area in Europe, is of contemporary interest! My photograph is of a Hanseatic warehouse, of a sort that can be found in as diverse places as Hamburg, Germany and King’s Lynn, England, both Hanse cities. The river Vistula flows to the sea through the city, and the conference took place in the wonderful new Filharmonia Centre, on an island in the middle of the Gdansk city centre.
As President of EDEN my perspective on the conference will be different from almost anyone else! My role was to act as a sort of continuity person: introducing the conference and reminding participants what sort of organisation EDEN is and how we have developed over the last year; and providing the concluding words at the end. Over the last year some 30 new institutions have joined EDEN, along with some 150 individual new members of our Network of Academics and Professionals. During the conference I met a range of individuals who want to build closer links with EDEN, including Carl Holmberg, Secretary-General of ICDE together with Prof Denise Kirkpatrick who is a member of the ICDE Executive Committee; Russ Colbert of Polycom, which has been a loyal sponsor to EDEN over a number of years; and Rob Abel of the IMS Learning Consortium.
The conference brought together more than 300 participants from 44 or so countries. You can find the keynotes elsewhere on the EDEN website, and they provided very stimulating introduction of a range of perspectives on our main theme, that of innovation and creativity in learning. In my opening remarks I spoke of the fact that the EDEN community was at the heart of innovation in learning by virtue of the commitment in so many different institutions and organisations across all sectors of education and training to use flexibility and new technologies. The parallel sessions in all their variety bore this out. The EDEN book, that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, appeared on time for launch at the conference: ‘Distance Education in Transition’ has more than 50 chapters drawn from the last 8 years, and gives a tremendous overview of the field. It repays study!
It was wonderful to welcome some of Europe’s foremost scholars in our field to the conference, namely Professors G. Michael Moore, Otto Peters, Torstein Rekkedal and Gilly Salmon. All made their own contributions to the meeting, and rarely can one meeting have had such a stellar collection of intellectual leaders at one time! It was also good to welcome back Past EDEN Presidents Ingeborg Bø and Erwin Wagner.
I should mention two more things: firstly that the conference dinner and dance revealed that the EDEN community love to dance and that we include in our number some very elegant movers and shakers on the dance floor! And more seriously, that we had to say goodbye to two very notable Executive Committee members who came to the end of their terms, namely Uli Bernath, of the Ulrich Bernath Stiftung, Germany and formerly of Oldenburg University, and Albert Sangra of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UoC). They have worked very hard for EDEN and we owe them a debt of gratitude. We elected Morten Flaten Paulsen of NKI Norway as Vice President, and we welcomed Alan Bruce of Universal Learning Systems, Ireland to the EC. They will be great colleagues to work with.
So all in all a memorable and productive week. Thanks to all who came. nd for those who want now to make a note in the diary: our next annual conference takes place in Valencia, in partnership with the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, from June 9-12 , 2010.