The 29th EDEN Annual Conference is quickly approaching. For the EDEN association and its members, this is the biggest and most important event of the year. The Annual Conference is held each year in June, and every one of us looks forward to it: meeting friends and colleagues, sharing experiences and knowledge, and getting some new ideas to take back to the workplace. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Annual Conference will be held fully online, and albeit completely virtual, I am certain that this will not make the conference any less good or interesting – or any less of a place to network – than a face to face event. It has been a challenge to move such a big conference online through the last months, but challenges are here to make us better, providing us with opportunities to be innovative and to act and advance with determination.
Hosted by the Politehnica University Timisoara, this year’s EDEN Annual Conference will focus on a very important and current topic: Human and artificial intelligence for the society of the future. As a result of the pandemic, educators have had to adopt new technologies and to use more tools powered by advanced artificial intelligence. The lockdowns and the forced move to online teaching and learning have changed the role of physical space in education and has put more pressure on teachers to design new learning environments that are flexible, adaptable, and suitable for a multitude of different users at the same time. We recognise the need of the education community, and this will be evident during the three days of five parallel sessions with distinguished keynotes at the EDEN Annual Conference. The conference will offer something for everyone, and I am sure you will find interesting and relevant information and will enjoy engaging with others in discussions on the many topics presented at the conference. In addition, let us not forget the social programmes provided by our host, which will make you feel as if you are in Timisoara in person at the moment!
For the last three, four months we have all become much more aware of uncertainty and the impossibility to control the events impacting our lives. We are slowly recovering from the pandemic, from the lockdown, from working, teaching and learning from home, from not being able to meet friends… Such situations and changes affect us all, and it is not easy to adapt to new situations. However, what has been the most memorable part of these challenging times has been the support of and collaboration with friends and colleagues, as well as people whom we do not know personally. One example of this was the EDEN initiative education in time of pandemic – webinars #onlinetogether, which started at the end of March, through eleven weeks addressing timely and relevant topics related to the day-to-day challenges teachers and educators have been facing and continue to face during the pandemic. Eleven webinars with 35 speakers and moderators – experts and experienced practitioners within the field of open, distance, and e-learning – gathered more than 3500 participants from all over the world. This initiative confirmed the need for collaboration, for sharing and networking within the education community. This is why EDEN plans continuation of this initiative for the autumn, further focusing on the issues confronting education in the time after pandemic.
Challenges, brought to all of us by the pandemic, have forced us to move from our safe comfort zones into the unknown. Things we have been talking about for ten or twenty years have suddenly become possible and are swiftly pushing teachers, students, and educational institutions into the digital era, regardless of their interest, skills or level of education. Although a situation that has been forced upon us, the pandemic also offers an opportunity to take up the challenge. Let us take advantage of it and jointly find ways for making education and our lives better! Join us next week for the EDEN Annual Conference – be a part of our community, share and collaborate, contribute and make a difference.