EC-TEL’07 Conference report

(Sissi, Crete, Sept 17th 2007)

The 2007 European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning is only celebrating it’s second birthday yet it already had 116 submissions and an acceptance rate lower then 25%. The conference, which is primarily a gathering of PhD students and researchers from around Europe, brings together adaptive hypermedia, data mining, semantic web and social software researchers interested in ‘enhancing’ traditional learning methods. Themes included Web 2.0 & social software, informal learning and workplace & industrial learning. The location, a sun-baked Creteian holiday resort, was quoted by several attendees as being too good (looking out at the clear turquoise sea made it hard to concentrate on the presentations).

Two very interesting science fiction authors were invited as keynote speakers (Bruce Sterling & Hermann Maurer) and both gave compulsive, engrossing, entertaining talks presenting views of the future which were both exciting, thought provoking and unnerving (often at the same time).

The quality of the presentations was generally high, although after several years spent in this community, I found little that I would have classified as particularly novel. It was good to see workplace learning taking a central theme at the conference indicating a trend towards more generic views of learning (although cynics could easily argue why make workplace learning a separate theme at all).

One of the take-home messages for me was Hermann’s forward thinking that with unlimited, freely accessible information at the touch of any digital device, the future for e-learning specialists would focus no on how to teach but what should we be teaching and when. Will we be able to distinguish plagerism? Do we need to learn languages at school with the development of babelfish-like translators? Does the complete sharing of people’s experiences means the loss of individuality in an increasingly open collaborative global society? Will we even need to teach reading and writing skills when we can start to use thoughts for communication?

Food for thought.


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