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30 May 2007 / erikduval

Language Virus in Fréjus

Life can be charming… I just spent two days at the ProLearn Summer School in beautiful Fréjus, France. It is a real privilege (seriously!) to have some intense time with the young, gifted, interested and interesting PhD. students that represent the future of technology enhanced learning as a field of research. (Apologies for the Big Words – I do mean what I wrote though – language is a virus!)

In the morning, I gave a lecture on metadata for Technology Enhanced Learning (slides below). What was interesting and a bit surprising, is that there seemed very little resistance to the idea of metadata with that crowd of PhD. students. Often, when I talk to such an audience, they tell me that metadata is no longer cool, that content is not so important, that nobody likes to enter metadata, etc. etc. Maybe talking a bit about metacrap at the beginnen pre-empted their comments? Maybe they were recovering from whatever it was they did the night before? Maybe we’re finally past the less useful discussions? (If you were one of the students, then maybe you can comment?)

The afternoon was even more fun. The students explored with me the topic of “How do you know if your research is succesful? And why should it matter? For you?”. I ask them to explain in simple words (language is a virus, again!) what they are trying to achieve in their PhD. research. And why they want to devote an important part of their life to research this issue? And how they would know that they have been succesful, or at least making progress. They were very much struggling to come up with clear answers – which was fine: I explained to them that I am more a questions than an answers kind of guy myself. I also like the fact that their is no “right” or “wrong” answer, and that most answers lead to more questions – kind of like Real Life 😉

At the end, I asked them write down on a piece of paper what they took away from the session – that was fun reading. Here are some of their comments:

In order to make succesful research, it is important to have clear goals and measurable criteria.

How difficult it is to summarize a thing you are working on and thinking about all the time.

I have the responsibility to do it and to prove the benefits of this research.

Hard thoughts about my PhD. Is it really research what I am doing?

Important to select a topic that will make a change.

The benefit of meeting with like minded people and becoming exposed to constructive criticism.

Not to hide behind complex expressions nobody understands.

Thank you SO much to all of you! I meant it when I said at the end that I was quite optimistic for our research domain if you are its future! Feel free to leave more comments here!

And, of course, the REAL highlight was the game of football afterwards 🙂



Leave a Comment
  1. Iris / May 31 2007 12:42 pm

    Nice slides Erik! However, can you please record your talk next time, as Stephen Downs does, so we can enjoy both the slides and the talk 🙂


  2. Sky (Jim) Schuyler / May 31 2007 8:01 pm

    Erik – I just spent several hours following those links. The slides are nice, but the pre-conference meetings up on Open University are really interesting.

    Your whole slidespace at contains a ton of presentations (actually 11 at the moment). Will take some time to even scratch the surface.

    I (also) have not found any links to webcasts/videos of the actual PROLEARN meetings. Those would be more valuable, of course, than the pre-session online meetings. I am already using this as an example of how to jump-start a conference, but where’s the conference itself? (Some of the orgs I work with record their entire conference and make them available and they’re incredibly valuable! This morning I was planning yet another of these which will include both “local” and “remote” participants, plus a “studio audience” of educators.)

  3. Erik / May 31 2007 11:09 pm

    Actually, both for Iris and Jim, the morning presentation WAS recorded (not only audio, also video) and, I guess, will be made available a bit later. I’ll keep you posted here when I know more.

    The afternoon session was more of a discussion and thus difficult to record. Also, my experience is that recording such a session makes many participants more than a bit reluctant to contribute.

    Still: many thanks for your interest!

  4. Amine / Jun 4 2007 10:51 am

    Hi Erik,

    you´re not only a professional speaker but also a very good football player:-) I really enjoyed your talk, workshop, and the football game with you. Hope to see you again soon!


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