The European Academy of Digital Media’s Networking Conference 2011 took place in Graz, Austria, on 10 November. This year's conference followed the theme 'Digital Media - Shifting Landscapes: Embracing change, enhancing learning, innovating the future'. Most of the 17 presentations on this intense day looked at how digital media should be, can and is used for educational purposes.
The conference was set in the context of the World Summit Youth Award Festival - an inspiring global contest that promotes and celebrates young entrepreneurs from all over the world who use digital media to make a positive change in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
The conference’s first panel was opened by Nico Meißner's (Salford) talk 'Preparing Students for a Professional Life in the Digital Age: a call to include entrepreneurial skills into the media production curriculum'. Meißner demonstrated the enterprising opportunities digital media provides and criticised that HE media production courses in the UK, largely, ignore those developments, therefore dismissing a critical skill set for students’ career development in today’s digital age. In an act of brilliant scheduling, Dan Livingstone (Plymouth) followed with his talk 'Interactive Systems Studio: Gamification and tangental learning'. What Meißner had polemically demanded for the field of media production, Livingstone showed possible in the field of game design - enterprise as a central aspect of the BSc Computing & Games Development at the University of Plymouth. For instance, students have to upload their first year games to online portals. Half of the mark depends on the feedback they receive from the games community. Students will also exhibit their games at trade shows (alongside industry giants like Nintendo). At the end of the course, five students will be given the chance to work for the School's commercial arm Interactive Systems Studio.
Alfredo Ronchi (Politecnico Milano) highlighted the fact that today's teachers are 'digital immigrants' who try to teach 'digital natives'. He called for a partial re-training of the trainers in order to continue to reflect market knowledge and demands in curricula. Gregor Cholewa's (Research Studio Austria) talk on 'Microlearning' completed the first session. Cholewa introduced the delegates to KnowledgePulse a digital microlearning application that allows teachers to integrate learning into the technological devices their students use.
After a short break, Walter Nagler (Graz) presented another use of digital technology in learning: podcasting. Nagler recorded almost 1,500 lectures since 2006. The recordings are indexed and therefore enable students to easily find the topics they are looking for.
James Norwood (Lillebaelt Academy) presented a fascinating example of including entrepreneurship into the curriculum. InnoEvent is a one week workshop. Industry partners will present students with problems they are facing in their work. Student groups will then think about possible solutions and put them into practice by developing prototypes. In 2011, eight of the developed 24 solutions were turned into commercial products.
The second morning session was concluded by Arnau Gifreu Castells' (Vic) 'proposed use of the interactive documentary in the field of education'. Castells argued that interactive documentaries are a useful resource in the classroom as they are half-way between learning and entertainment, providing information in an entertaining way, engaging students and allowing them to actively participate and even add content to the learning material.
The afternoon sessions saw a number of interesting talks on culture, media and the digital by Vytautas Zalys (Siauliai) on 'The attitude towards music and feelings of safety', Kosta Gouliamos (Cyprus) on 'Digital culture and digital politics/democracy', Jak Boumans (EADiM) on digital media archaeology, using the example of new media history in the Netherlands (from ASCII to the Internet) and Peter Tomaz Dobrila (Maribor) on 'Open Source Art in Information Society’. Melissa Lee Price (Bucks New) talked in her presentation 'Viral or Social Friends?' about changing customer behaviours in the games industry, moving away from serious games and towards social gaming on platforms like Facebook. Following that, Richard Vickers (Lincoln) introduced his interactive documentary project 24-hours.in.
Suzanne Stein (Ontario) presented her fascinating Graduate Foresight Studio, where students develop rich dossiers of possible future scenarios in different markets. Innovations are created by forecasting the future – a technique that differs from the action based approaches Livingstone, Norwood and George Schneider (Trier) presented. The latter in his talk on a practical learning example that saw students combining architecture and interactive media installation, and exhibiting their completed work at the German Horticultural Show.
The day's papers came full circle with Gyorgyi Retfalvi (Budapest) and Albert van deer Kooij's (Academy of Pop Culture) talk 'Island CQ: Practice based learning via multi- and social media tools', arguing that education must change in order to reflect today's practice-based, entrepreneurial and networked business world. Retfalvi and van deer Kooij used the example of their joint glocal journalism project Island GQ, which brings together Hungarian and Dutch students to work on real world journalism assignments.
The final presentation of the day saw Vladimir Burcik (Bratislava), Ferdinand Chrenka (Bratislava) and Jon Radermacher (Pittsburg) joining forces in a video conference, talking about their joint 'design project supported by online technology'. In this project, teleconferencing was used to teach students in the USA and Slovakia. Students from both countries worked together on design problems, communicating, collaborating and later sharing results - all via the Internet. This is a powerful example of teaching students intercultural competencies, lingual skills, communication skills, problem solving and digital media skills in an international, practice-based way.
After the conference, most delegates followed an invitation to the World Summit Youth Awards’ opening night, where, in the modern and lavish environment of the ORF (the Austrian public broadcaster), the Award winners were presented. A truly inspiring end to a day of discussions on how digital media influences learning and innovation - here demonstrated in perfection by young entrepreneurs who used the opportunities digital media provided them with in order to have a positive impact on their natural, social, economical or political environments, therefore making a strong case to further embrace digital media in teaching and learning.
A book entitled Digital Media - Shifting Landscapes with most of the papers presented will be published by Springer/Gabler by March 2012. Stay tuned for its publication on Buziaulane.