ICDE 2008 Conference

Back home, after three days of ICDE 2008, the International Conference on Distance Education sponsored by the ICDE in Santo Domingo. Just a one-hour flight and I was on the sister island of Hispaniola. I had reserved the Intercontinental, but instead of the Universidad del Caribe, as announced, the conference was being held at the Hilton Hotel, so I had to commute every day.

The conference was organized by the Latin American section of the ICDE, under the direction of Marta Mena, an Argentinian with whom we had published an article a couple of years before. The presence of the most well known names in the region ensured a great conference indeed. Plus, big names as Michael Moore and Rory McGreal, Marta Mena, Ángel Facundo and Ricardo Valenzuela helped to its success. The presentation of Marta’s new book, a compilation with participation from 18 countries from the region was also very well received, and showed the interest and need there is on research in the accreditation agendas of Latin American countries, including of course Puerto Rico, of which my friend Tito Meléndez wrote in a paper, also presented here.

Dr. Moore’s presentation was -Marta had expressly asked him this- a review of his theory of Transactional Distance. The theory itself is pretty old, but Marta wanted to see if the author himself believed it was still significant and current, which he confirmed. His talk was interesting, but his slides I have to say, were a bit oldish and very textual… lots of text, actually. A little energy came from Moore’s talk, until somebody asked him a question, at which point he cited the classical example of a professor who says he at last has all the needed technology to do his teaching stuff online. “I believe this is what Distance Education needs to avoid!” Moore said with a lot of passion, at last! We want to do things differently, and not import the bad things of traditional education into the new medium. Let’s jump out of the current situation and see things differently, Ángel Facundo added later to the same tune.

All well, then, except a couple of issues:

  1. Too many “speeches” of people who read an article!
  2. Absence of Web 2.0 tools and techniques
  3. Too many panels, too little discussion and active participation from people attending. If wireless access had been present, people would have had a chance to chat and exchange comments, thus achieving a great sense of participation and community. It must be said that it may have been a cost problem.
  4. Last, I couldn’t blog or Tweet *during* the talks, and I felt a little powerless!

On the second day, a Panel on research was held. Two most intersting positions were Facundo’s and Meléndez’s. Angel Facundo (Colombia) talks about the German School and his personal view of Web 2.0 use. He argues there’s no point in keeping the old education “standards” when developing distance education. That’s exactly my point, and we exchange a few lines of thought.

Tito Meléndez did a great presentation on the fundamental issues of research on DE. He talked about our Innovation project, and the way the theory of innovation allowed to study and understand DE as an emergent technology (he is the first, I believe, to talk about DE as a technology!), which may soon become the dominant technology in education. He then added the need to follow up that study and try to understand students’ learning styles and intelligences. This way, he said, we’d have a better view of their needs and will know where to direct our efforts in education. The nicest thing is that only through DE will we ever be able to implement such a discourse.

In my presentation later in the day, I would pick this issue up and state our intention to work a research project on students’ learning styles.

My presentation itself came quite late in the afternoon, and I’ll post about it next.

In the photo, Santo Domingo’s Cathedral, the oldest in all the Americas, dates form 1540, is a splendid Baroque and Gothic achitecture. Impressive in its diminute external appearance, and gorgeous interiors which include paintings and woodcarvings. From Wikipedia.

About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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