Saying goodbye to our new Finnish friends

Ale wrote several days ago about our ten visitors from Finland. At that stage, we were mid way through  their four-day schedule, which finished officially yesterday afternoon, but unofficially yesterday evening after a pleasant meal in a local pub.

As this was the first time I’d taken part in such a visit  – which included a  two-day Carpe Diem –  in my new role as Keeper of the Media Zoo, I thought it useful to reflect on the experience.

Overall, I believe it was a success for both sides. Our Finnish colleagues assured us that they took away with them a clear idea of what Beyond Distance does, and they certainly seemed to be fizzing with the way they could incorporate what they learned about podcasts, OERs and learning design.

There were also highly appreciative of and complimentary about the project presentations made on Day 1 and Day 4, espcially those by our institutional partners in Psychology and Education.

And as Ale said, we certainly were impressed with both their understanding of pedagogy and what works in teaching, and their comfort with technology. (Within five minutes of opening their laptops on Monday, all ten were happily eating up our wireless network bandwidth with no help from myself or Terese.) It also appears that Finnish HE students are similar to ours in one important respect: they don’t read any of the printed handouts either!

Our new physical Media Zoo stood up well to the task. At one point, it held 18 people very comfortably, with all interaction at a conversational level. The new murals – inspired by the graphics in the Second Life Media Zoo Island – drew warm praise.

But we will be rethinking our proposed layout and the positioning of the technical equipment. In a sense, we were very fortunate to have such a rigorous test of the room prior to any major purchasing decisions being made.

And of course, we made some great new friends. So cheerio for now to Eva, Kristina, Matti, Ritva, Taina, Tuula, Elina, Tiina, TK and of course Irma, who organised the trip so effeciently.

Simon Kear
Keeper of the Media Zoo
13 November 09

Finnish academics visiting Beyond Distance

Ten Finnish academics from Laurea University of Applied Sciences are visiting Beyond Distance this week. Their overall purpose is to learn about our research in e-learning and learning technologies, our projects and our approaches to learning design. A two-day Carpe Diem workshop has been organised as part of their visit.

Our visitors come from a range of disciplines including health care, business and management, tourism, safety and security management, languages and of course, learning technology. They have engaged with our work very enthusiastically, and they have gelled very well as a group – most of them didn’t know each other prior to their trip to Leicester.

Although I was expecting this, I am still surprised by how competent and knowledgeable our Finnish colleagues are in the field of learning technology. For example, all of them were familiar with Second Life, knew what wikis were and how they can be used (in fact, many of them have been using wikis with their learners for some time), and none of them was put off by the ‘complexities’ associated with using learning technology. All fluent users of their VLE (Optima) and very relaxed about Web 2.0… this compares very favourably to my experiences with academics elsewhere, including my colleagues at Leicester.

We’re half-way through the week and we’ve all learned a lot from each other. A fantastic opportunity for mutual development and future collaborative work.

Dr A Armellini
11 November 2009

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