A tale of 2 educational conferences: #DED15 & #ELDF15

Last week I had the privilege of attending two conferences for educators interested in digital learning and teaching: the eLearning Didaktik Fachtagung in Linz, Austria on 23rd October and the Digital Education Day in Cologne, Germany on 24th October. The latter was a lucky coincidence so to speak, as I was in town visiting relatives so I decided to stop by and meet my fellow #EDchatDE twitterers.

I say privilege because it’s always an opportunity for me, not only to meet friends and get to know new ones, but to learn a lot. And by a lot, I mean a great deal. Whenever I leave a conference I have a very long to-do list – articles to read, apps to try, links to check out, people to contact or actions to follow up on. And still, it remains one of the most enjoyable aspects of the teaching profession in my view. Here’s why …

The People

I feel really lucky to not only work in a profession where I can use my creative and intellectual energy to help and inspire others, but also to be active at this moment in time, where digital technology is increasingly establishing itself as a mainstay in day-to-day education. Teachers who are tech geeks and early adopters like myself have always been eager to try out new things. And now, slowly but surely, the early/late majority is catching on, and this is being reflected in classrooms all over the world, and also in German-speaking countries like Austria and Germany. Wherever I go I love to connect with others, learn from their examples and share my experiences – thus growing my personal learning network.

In both Linz and Cologne, there were hundreds in attendance. I got to meet up with passionate educators who are movers and shakers in their field of expertise. Both conferences were organized in a bar camp fashion i.e. there was a program of short workshops and talks taking place parallel to one another, followed by question-and-answer sessions. I love the fact that these kinds of get-togethers often have an organic feel. There is a session plan put together beforehand, but there is often room for last-minute contributions. This forces you to decide which room/speaker to visit, which can be a bad thing if you’re interested in many topics happening concurrently.

The Program

In both locations, the program was focused on different aspects of digital education. The Big Themes at the moment seem to be OER, digital textbooks, flipped classroom, teaching with tablets, BYOD, inclusion and copyright. Documentation of the sessions worked well at both conferences. Plenty to read and muse through. Cologne was especially interesting for me as I got to see Etherpad (an online editor for collaborative editing) in action for the first time. My session was recorded here. Cool tool!


The Learnings

Besides the obvious reinforcing effect that these conferences have on me, I really appreciate seeing how others solve technical and tool challenges in their part of the world. In both instances I heard about lots of new tools, platforms and webspaces that I’d like to try out. There are too many to list here, but I hope to post reviews and lists on the blog soon. Worth a quick mention are two: the organizational committee in Cologne used walls.io to host a great twitter wall. And in Linz a speaker used popplet to present his project. Definitely bookmarked for future use. Apart from that I was inspired by my peers to start blogging in earnest. I’ll do my best!

Sharing is Caring

At both conferences I had the chance to present a session on the topic of teaching with tablets, which was a first for me, after intensive months of research. Feedback was very encouraging and a lively discussion of pros and cons ensued in both locations. I’m really grateful for a chance to think my thoughts out loud in this way, as I gained key insights on how to direct and fine-tune my energies for tablet implementation at my school.

Linz vs. Cologne

My experience at these conferences was almost the same – which goes to show that educators, despite different local rules and regulations, have a lot in common. I loved the energy, the quality of the sessions and the dynamic format. I wouldn’t have missed either. Interesting difference: In Cologne (#DED15) there was much more activity on twitter than in Linz (#ELDF15). Which may be because Twitter has not yet caught on among Austrian educators. Another minor difference: In Linz the presentations were grouped by sub-topic, which made it possible for example to follow a series of presentations on the topic of flipped classroom, instead of switching from one room to another. Neither detracted from a great learning experience!