Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Herding cats" - that's what I remember of Erik Duval's talk . . .

... when I first saw him. According to the date in the news clip that I reported on that event, it must have been an early summer in 2002. Me and my colleague followed him out for a cigarette afterwards, he's talk was so different from the others in that event, so we wanted to know more.

Later, in 2005, I signed up for the pre-doctoral programme in his department at KULeuven. Erik Duval had such a magnetic stage personality and strive for his thing that I thought if I'm going to stick with the field of Technology Enhanced Learning, I'd better be with people who are inspirational - with those who are the "doers and shakers". So I kicked off into a slow uphill scramble with my doctoral studies and we managed to do a few things together.

But the story didn't turn out to be a sweet one. If he was the reason for me to sign up at KULeuven, a few years later, he was also the reason for me to sign out. It was troubling times, for both of us, I assume. When we last talked then, he said something that stuck with me. It was something like "one day, much later, we will talk and you will tell me what went wrong". I was thinking "WTF, I will never talk to you - not ever again". We did talk, and even reconciliated, but we never talked about that. I hope the thing did not stick with him like it did with me.

Now I feel grateful that only some half a year ago, through some professional exchange, I had a chance to let him know that I actually had learned to appreciate that period in my life and that there was a lot that I had learned from him. Sometimes we don't really know it right away, but for me, little things in my academic practices would remind him (e.g. the rigour to demand user studies and not to accept papers on prototypes only; asking "how do you know you are successful with your study/experiment/?").

It's funny how some people just stick with you - I guess Erik is one of them.

I cannot imagine the loss that his family is feeling now - my thoughts are with them.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Call for Papers: ICCE 2016 Sub-Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT), Learning Analytics and Digital Infrastructure

ICCE 2016 Sub-Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT), Learning Analytics and Digital Infrastructure

Mumbai, India

November 28 - December 2 (Monday-Friday), 2016

Organized by the Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education http://www.apsce.net/
Hosted by Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India

In response to emerging research diversity, ICCE2016 will be a meta-conference, comprising seven co-located theme-based conferences. This is the Call for Papers for the theme-based conference, C3: Sub-Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT), Learning Analytics and Digital Infrastructure

All accepted papers will be published in proceedings which will be indexed by Elsevier Bibliographic Databases (e.g., Scopus, Engineering Village and others). Authors of accepted distinguished full papers will be invited to submit extended versions of their papers for consideration of publication in Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning (RPTEL), the official academic journal of the Asia Pacific Society for Computers in Education.

This sub-conference of ICCE 2016 will focus on recent and emerging directions in aligning digital infrastructure requirements with innovations in digital learning. In particular, it focuses upon advancements in learning technologies due to new and inventive use of data as representations of learning activities and also as a resource for learning. This brings into scope learning analytics and its sub-processes of capturing, collecting, storing, analyzing, visualizing and using data to improve learning, and processes that enable it, such as educational data mining, open educational resources, interoperability standards, and digital infrastructures.

This theme-based conference of ICCE will provide an opportunity to present and exchange ideas and results about recent research in the application of digital technologies in education and training. This conference focuses also on innovation that spans open educational resources and interoperability standards, both of which are important driving forces of sustainable digital technology adoption in education and training. The conference aims to inform standards development in the area of systems and resource interoperability and to report on and inspire design of new and advanced learning technologies.
The scope of the conference will cover but not be limited to the following topics
  • Implementation and organisational development of advanced learning technologies
  • New generations of educational technologies
  • Design and application of learning analytics systems
  • Data sharing for learning analytics
  • New repository technologies and network systems
  • Pedagogical models and learning analytics
  • Gathering diverse learning data, e.g., related to linked and open data
  • Development and management of algorithms for analytics based on gathered data
  • Predictive models, visualisation and statistical analysis
  • Privacy concerns and policy aspects related to learning analytics
  • Open platforms, Open Educational Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), open data, and open learning methods
  • Evaluation and Assessment, including E-testing and new test theories
  • International developments in open source and open standards
  • Technology standards for content, portfolios, learner information, and competencies
  • Life cycle management of technical learning objects
  • Organizational readiness
  • Social media and learning
  • Personalized educational and learning systems
  • Learning systems platforms and architectures
  • E-learning, knowledge management and their organizational management
  • Automated assessments
  • Recommender systems
  • Open Educational Resources (OER) – systems and application
  • Learning content retrieval and recommendation 
  • New directions for standards development in the field of digital learning
  • Digital Badges and open badging systems
  • Design Thinking & Human Computer Interaction
  • The Internet of Things and the future of learning
Paper categories(Note the revised page limits)
  • Full paper (8-10 pages)
  • Short paper (5-6 pages)
  • Poster paper (2-3 pages)
The paper template is available here. For past authors of ICCE, please note that the template has been substantially revised since ICCE 2015. Do download the latest version of the template when preparing your manuscript.
All the accepted full papers are eligible for the competitions of
  • Best Overall Paper Award
  • Best Student Paper Award (restricted to papers whose first authors are graduate or undergraduate students)
  • Best Technical Design Paper Award
In addition, all the accepted poster papers are eligible for the competition of Best Poster Design Award(s). Please visit this URL for the award rules and criteria.

Important dates (Main Conference)

Paper Submission Due: May 10, 2016
Notification of Acceptance: August 2, 2016

Program Co-chairs

Tore HOEL, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway (executive program chair)
Ulrich HOPPE, Univerisity of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Xavier OCHOA, Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, Ecuador
Jin Gon SHON, Korea National Open University, South Korea

Program Committee

Irene CHEN, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan
Jean-Noel COLIN, University of Namur, Belgium
Ingo DAHN, University of Koblenz, Germany
Dai GRIFFITS, University of Bolton, United Kingdom
Seungyeon HAN, Hanyang Cyber University, Korea
Yih-Ruey JUANG, Jinwen University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
Fanny KLETT, German Workforce ADL Partnership Lab, Germany
Tatsuhiro KONISHI, Shizuoka University, Japan
Eugenijus KURILOVAS, Vilnius University, Lithuania
Lam-for KWOK, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Chien-Sing LEE, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia
Jerry LEESON, University of Adelaide, Australia
Ching-Jung LIAO, Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan
Kin Chew LIM, SIM University, Singapore
Jon MASON, Charles Darwin University, Australia
Kenji MATSUURA, Tokushima University, Japan
Kuo-Liang OU, National Hsinchu University of Education, Taiwan
Luis ANIDO RIFON, University of Vigo, Spain
Robby ROBSON, Eduworks Corporation, USA
Manuel Caeiro RODRIGUEZ, University of Vigo, Spain
Eunice SARI, Univeristy of Western Australia, Australia
Hitoshi SASAKI, Takushoku University, Japan
Marcus SPECHT, the Open University of the Netherlands, Netherlands
Riina VUORIKARI, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, European Commission, Belgium
Maggie M. WANG, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The view on churches from the roof top in Triana

Triana, and Seville for that matter, is full of churches. They are everywhere; from one street corner you can always see another one (hmm, this is probably where Starbuck's got their idea…). From our roof top, you can count 8 church towers, some of them on the Triana side and others in Seville. This article is a good source of information on them, here are some excerpts.

Starting from North, you can see:
  • The tower of the Moorish Revival style Chapel of El Carmen with an altarpiece of the Virgen del Carmen. This is the cute mini-chapel just on the side of the Triana bridge (Isabella II, built in 1854). It's built by Aníbal González in 1927, but there is a long history to it.

    It is located where the old castle of Triana once was, first built in the 10th century. Later, it was made the seat of a fraternal society, the Order of Saint George, which changed its name to Castillo de San Jorge (Castle of Saint George). Later, in 1481, under the rule of the Catholic Monarchs (Isabella I), it was made the seat of the Spanish Inquisition until 1785.

  • La Giralda, the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral, was originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period (started in 1184), with a Renaissance style top subsequently added by Spaniards.

  • One church tower can be seen by the Maestranza, the bullfighting ring, but I don't have the name.

  • The Church of Santa Ana (Iglesia de Santa Ana), considered the Cathedral of Triana by popular sentiment. It was the first Catholic church built in Seville after Muslim rule ended in the city in 1248; its architecture combines early Gothic and Mudéjar styles.

  • Capilla de los Marineros (Sailors' Chapel), seat of the popular brotherhood known as La Esperanza de Triana (Our Lady of Hope of Triana). Their Easter procession is impressive, it starts at 1am and lasts some 11h.

  • One of the towers of Plaza de España, although not a church tower as such, so does not count.

  • The top of the tower of the Capilla de Ntra. Sra. del Rocío where the Hermandad del Rocío de Triana is located. During El Romero, one can see the departure of the procession with horses and covered wagons to El Rocío.

  • Iglesia de San Vicente de Paúl on Pages del Corro. In front of the church, there is a statue of Rodriques de Triana, a trianero sailor who first spotted America with Cristobal Columbus.
    On the outside wall, there is a memorial plate  for the first single voyage of global circumnavigation. It started and ended here in Seville between 1519 and 1522 (the Magellan–Elcano expedition).

  • San Jacinto church, built in 1676 by Matías de Figueroa for the Dominican order, just in front of our beloved tapas place Paloma Blanca.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Expo '92, Suomi paviljonki - The Finnish Pavilion - El Pabellón de Finlandia

The old Expo'92 site in Seville is somewhat a magical place. It's easy to dismiss its charm as everything is run down and sorta abandoned. It's amazing to think that this year we are coming up to its 25th anniversary.

Not that I ever visited it back then, but once, while digging out some information on the Finnish Pavilion, I found this awesome news clip from the Finnish news which I actually think I remember seeing!

It says it's from summer 1992 and in the opening speech the dude, still a politician, mentions that Finland just turned in the application for the EU membership! Wow, these days, the whole idea of Finland not being part of the EU sounds crazy. It's kind of cool to think that today I work for the EU in Seville, and at the same building that was the Expo'92 headquarter.

Anyway, back to the Finnish Pavilion which is called "Helvetinkolu", a"Gorge of Hell". It's situated on Calle Marie Curie, 1 and can be viewed through the gates. It's still in use, namely by the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Architecture. The name of the building, I suppose, is a reference to a gorge in Finland with the same name. The geological features of this area were created millions of years ago (pic below right), says the web.


The building is pretty cool, its combo of rusting steel and natural wood has weathered well its time. On wikipedia it says that the Finnish Pavilion is divided into two buildings, called "keel" (wooden: a reference to the nature and tradition) and "machine" (steel, glass, black: represent industrialisation and modernity), leaving between them a narrow open space of only two meters wide, kind of a gorge. 

The cool thing about the wooden structure is that it is supposedly made of Finnish pine and its artisan execution follows the principles of shipbuilding.

I also found out that one of the architects is still in practice and working with pretty interesting looking wooden structures. There is a link under projects to the Finnish Pavilion. The designers and architects were young architect students; Juha Jaaskelainen, Juha Kaakko, Petri Rouhiainen, Matti Sanaksenaho and Jari Tirkknen, they are also interviewed at the news clip.

Last, worth watching is this promotional documentary from the Expo site, it's crazy to see how it actually looked like back then....


Saturday, February 13, 2016

My detective work on a Triana flamenco joint

Everybody who ever visited Seville knows that Triana is the home of flamenco with its own flare. Living in Triana is pretty special. I love observing the life here. So here's what I found out about the Flamenco joint next door on the legendary Calle Pureza.

On the walls, there are big, almost life size, paintings of a flamenco dancer in her mature age. She's really stunning with her facial expressions that rattle the earth below you. I had no idea that they were pictures of a real dancer, actually a pretty famous one.

Her name is Manuela Carrasco (in the pic), and of course she's born in Triana. Here's her history on wikipedia, she for example performed on Carlos Saura's both flamenco films.

I saw her performance in the Bienal de Flamenco in 2014. Even more impressive than her dance was the anticipation and feeling in the Real Maestranza when she performed, she's really loved here. Check the review of that performance, it gives you a taste of that. I've seen her a few times in the joint too, having a drink, but I've never seen her dance there.

I found out about her identity once talking to the owner of the joint. It took me many times of going there before he warmed up a bit for a chat. Actually, I think he only wanted to talk to my friend, but hey, we got interesting stuff out!

He turns out to be Joaquín Amador, Manuela's husband and her long time guitar player. Apparently, they played and performed a lot together in their early days in the 1980's (an old clip of them performing). My friend and I were exited to hear that he's guitarist, but he was quick to say that he never plays in his own joint, somehow insinuating that it's way below he's class. So I had to dig out some early recordings of his playing on YouTube, and I found out that he's the brother of the famous flamenco singer called La Susi! See a clip from the old age of him playing with his sister La Susi.


So if the owner does not play in his own flamenco joint, who does? Well, once there with another friend listening to a young flamenco singer with a honey-smoky voice, like I call her, my friend noted the resemblance between the singer and the pictures on the walls. At that time, I didn't know that the pictures were of Manuela Carrasco, so I kinda passed her comment.

Later, though, I realised that my honey-smoky singer is the daughter of Manuela Carrasco and Joaquín Amador. Her name is Zamara Carrasco. She sings also with the group called La puro mando, but I think her voice works better in a small bar than on the big stage, where she seems to be forcing it a bit too much. This tv documentary of her is done already some years ago, but that's how l love to see her singing.

And - to finally to answer to the question: who plays the guitar? It's Zamara Carrasco's husband! He's pretty kick-ass too, I really like to listen to him, you can see him in this video. The only thing is that you never know when they play…. The joints opens close to the mid-night, he's working behind the bar and serving drinks, and you might end up waiting for an hour before anything happens. Or sometimes nothing happens... We actually almost never go there anymore, as something has changed and things don't seem to run in the same old manner anymore. But if you are nearby, it might be worth the visit!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Recommendations for strategic advice: Finland, how to claim back the top spot in PISA?

I'm seriously inspired by the new PISA report called  Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection to help Finland! Let's create better strategies and training programmes to claim back our top spot in the PISA study!

The data in this report dates back to 2012. Next round of PISA will be in 2018 (just missed the opportunity for 2015!), so we have enough time to rise.

In this post I focus on increasing the use of ICT outside of school for schoolwork in Finland. The damning evidence is the following (p. 60):
Finland and Japan are the two countries where students make the least use of computers outside of school for schoolwork. 

Namely, the new programme that I will detail below with policy recommendations and actions for teacher PD is inspired by the above quote and Figure 2.8 below. Take a careful look at the variables used and try to identify the key to the success!



It's the email, stupid! Now that the culprit has been identified, I offer Finns a few easy steps to re-claim their success!

The 1st key step to the top of PISA charts: enhanced use of e-mail
Progress could be made by investing more effort, time and resources in the use of email in schools. For example, new teacher training programmes could focus on highly competent use of e-mails in two areas:
  1. how to teach student to submit homework or other school work to teachers by email, and 
  2. how to teach students to use email to communicate with other students about school work. 
It's the school website, stupid!

The 2nd key step to the top of PISA charts: design of school websites
Courses for those designing school's website should include intense design and implementation of features to allow uploading and downloading material on school's website. Additional added value will come from features allowing browsing the material on school's website.

The recommendations to encourage such features on school's website should focus on diverting attention away from all cloud computing solutions (forget about https://portal.educloudalliance.org/) or even digital learning environments (publishers?) or government sponsored educational portals, as they will not be featured in PISA study any time soon (data not available as the questionnaires for the PISA 2015 have not been released for public at the time submitting this article….).

Moreover, the area on the school website to feature announcements should also be designed and implemented with the utmost care! It is good to advice people responsible for such implementations to avoid any other "apps" or digital communication means for this (e.g. Vilma, Watsapp..).

It's the homework done on computers, stupid!

The 3rd key step to the top of PISA charts: homework done solely on computes Guidelines could be implemented to discourage teachers from accepting any homework done by students using any other digital devices than computers. Forget about smart phones, let's bring back the desktops for homework.

ps. this advice is given totally pro bono and has no connection to my everyday work!
ps 2. joke-joke-joke!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Neuroscience, education - neuromyths

Checking this years keynote speakers in various events and conferences, I've picked up on a trending topic of neuroscience. Hilary Leevers, for example from Wellcome Trust is on the topic in Online Educa Berlin, whereas ISLS as Professor Elsbeth Stern from ETH Zürich. Both European and women (for once!), it's great to see that keynotes are not any more dominated by grey males (no offence!).

Welcome Trust has interesting surveys (a survey of teachers and parents, really interesting stuff!) and reports (a literature review on the topic) available on the topic here: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/Education-resources/Education-and-learning/Our-work/Neuroscience-and-education/WTS040353.htm