Association for Learning Technology Online Newsletter
Issue 8 April 2007   Friday, April 20, 2007

ISSN 1748-3603

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CAL07 Review
Development, Disruption and Debate
by Claire McAvinia

CAL07 was held from 26 to 28 March 2007 at Trinity College Dublin, focusing on ideas of Development, Disruption and Debate. Over 250 delegates participated, with colleagues from Australasia, South America and continental Europe joining those from the UK and Ireland.
The conference was organised around four thematic areas, with papers, symposia and poster presentations focusing on: Creative Expression and Learning; ICT and Learning; New Directions; and ICT for Development Education. While this review can only give a flavour of the very varied and exciting programme, the full programme is still available to view at the conference website

Figure 1: Trinity College

Creative Expression & Learning reported on research in creative expression by, or for, learners. Technology as a means to encourage creative thinking and invention, creative approaches to collaboration and evaluation, were all explored by speakers on this theme. Discipline-specific approaches to creativity with technology were also explored: Liam Murray and Triona Hourigan (University of Limerick) reported on a longitudinal study of blog writing to support creative expression, reflection and language acquisition for language students.
ICT and Learning - So What? asked why technology has not had a disruptive effect on education. Papers in this theme included a number of policy analyses and critiques. John Anderson (Queen’s University Belfast) and Kevin Marshall (Microsoft Ireland) presented a study of education technology policies in Ireland, in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. Saima Rana, Martin Oliver and Niall Winters (London Knowledge Lab) presented a critique of the documents produced by government and agencies in the UK, uncovering a ‘techno-reformist’ tendency. This, she argued, explains the apparent lack of return on the investment in e-learning in the UK. The ICT and Learning strand also included papers focusing on specific kinds of technology and discipline-specific approaches. Sub-themes here included the use of games to mediate learning, signs of educational change and ‘disruption’, and innovative uses of technology in Science and Mathematics subjects.  
The theme of New Directions examined the technological and conceptual developments that are having, or could have, a disruptive effect on education. Papers in this strand addressed themes including curriculum reform, mobile and social networking technologies, and the changing role of the learner in influencing the learning environment. New applications of multimedia and wider use of digital video were discussed by several speakers. Emotional factors affecting online learning were explored by Kim Issroff (Open University) whose paper identified a gap in research in this area which has previously focused on negative emotional responses to e-learning. A symposium on mobile learning and its capacity for creative disruption in learning, also formed part of this theme. 

ICT for Development (Education) explored the use of e-learning technologies in developing countries, and brought many international speakers on subjects relating to this theme. A number of papers explored policy issues, with speakers from Chile recounting experience there, and perspectives from Africa and Mexico given by speakers working with universities and agencies there. Links between private sector investment, political initiatives and development education were also explored within this theme, and through the keynotes on the second day of the conference.
An innovative feature of CAL07 was its approach to the keynote format: two speakers shared the keynotes on each day, bringing distinct perspectives to the conference themes, which were then discussed with the wider group of delegates. The first keynote, Perspectives on Disruption, was shared by Rose Luckin (London Knowledge Lab) and Langdon Winner (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). Rose Luckin’s discussion of the learner’s place, interacting with, and potentially helping to redesign the learning environment. Langdon Winner broadened the themes of this discussion to consider issues of access to technology, particularly in the development world. The second keynote, ICT4DEV, was shared by Astrid Dufborg (GeSCI, Ireland) and David Cavallo (MIT Media Laboratory). The theme of development education was explored by both speakers, and again with the wider group of delegates. The question of how really to make change happen was considered by Astrid Dufborg. Specific examples of ICT projects in the context of developing countries were shared by David Cavallo. He emphasised the importance of a participatory approach in these projects, focusing on what people need rather than how we think they should use technology.

Figure 2: Langdon Winner and Rose Luckin

The conference had a lively social programme, which was enhanced by unusually fine weather in Dublin. The first evening saw a reception in the Dining Hall of Trinity College, enlivened with traditional Irish music and dance. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin’s Liberties was the venue for the conference gala dinner on the second evening. A tour of the Storehouse and its interactive exhibition about the brewing of Guinness was followed by dinner, with music.

Figure 3: Conference reception, Trinity College

The conference themes were recalled once more in the closing keynote, during which three of the four keynote speakers, David Cavallo, Astrid Dufborg, and Rose Luckin, reflected on the conference as a whole. Development education came to the fore in this discussion, but again with reference to the difficulties in ‘disrupting’ and changing access to education in developing countries. There were calls from several delegates during the discussion following the keynote speakers for development education issues to be addressed more fully by practitioners in e-learning. However, the calls for a participatory approach in this work were once again reiterated. 

Figure 4: David Cavallo

The conference closed with final remarks from Brendan Tangney, Conference Chair, of the Centre for Research in IT in Education at Trinity College Dublin. He extended thanks to the keynote speakers, conference organisers, and delegates. The formal close of the conference was made with an invitation to join CAL09 in Brighton.
Claire McAvinia
Learning Technologist
NUI Maynooth,
Photographs by
Bas Andeweg
Delft University of Technology,

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