Bright and early with a 9am start, despite the excellent conference reception at the Vienna City Hall the previous night. I provide a generic night-time image of the gothic towers, and not a photo of the delegates, particularly in the light of Diane Rowland's presentation on photography and privacy! Speeches were given by the organiser, the chair of BILETA, and an Austrian member of parliament - welcoming us to the city.
Chairing this final session and blogging has been a challenge, but the last e-learning session was of interest as the speakers brought a wider dimension of e-learning in schools. Bernhard Racz from the EU Network of Innovative Schools spoke about the increasing need for ICT skills across all age ranges. Their e-skills week promotes not only the use of technology, but also the sharing and repurposing of materials across Europe. This has constraints - firstly Bernhard noted the differences between copyright, but also the language barriers makes sharing less straighforward. Termed TravelWell Learning Objects, the website defines and lists criteria for learing objects that 'travel well' and have value to an international audience.
The second speaker, Christian Dorninger from the Austrian Ministry of Education, also emphasised the point that the current generation of 'digital natives' expect technology in the classroom as it is used extensively in life in general. Decreasing costs are allowing students to have laptops in schools but pedagogic approaches to teaching require some changes to make best use of the hardware and software. Certification was also discussed to ensure general levels of competence, for example the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). Chrisian also spoke about community learning platforms, the use of Moodle and also simulations, which clearly resonates with many of the BILETA e-learning papers for law and higher education.
Gerald Futscheck, also president of the Austrian Computing Society (conference host), gave the third paper that furthered the discussion of certification, ECDL, etc. but also about more advanced requirements for those who wish to learin in depth, perhaps to create a more professional website or provide goods/services online. Gerald looked to the benefits of IT certificates for society as a whole (information society) as well as for the particular graduates who undertake the tests for higher levels of knowledge and for job mobility. Questions from the audience brought about discussion of a possible economic divide as the system in Austria does provide free certification for students (as it provides free education), but cannot provide the laptops or software licenses.
The fourth speaker, Thomas Menzel also from the Austrian Ministry of Education, furthered the discussion of Christian Dorninger regarding centralised IT services in Austria. The IT department within the ministry (smaller than that of the University of Vienna) provides e-learning tools to schools through various webites such as bildung.at. This paricular website allows teachers to browse for subject-specific materials for various levels of education and import these resources directly into their VLE for the school students.