GMW in Zurich, a look back

Better late than never. It’s been a month already since the GMW conference in Zurich, finally time to recap the experience and make sure all the interesting reflections don’t fade away too fast.

A few notes on some of the workshops and presentations…

The first one and a half days of tutorials was a great way to start off. Signing up for 3 different ones, 2 of which overlapped a little, I allowed myself the luxury of doing a workshop degustation.

The first tutorial, Wiki + Weblog + E-Collab einfach im LMS integriert, actually started the week before the conference, offering a blog space for participants to roll up their sleeves and start blogging right off.

Some tidbits from the workshop:
Interesting options for integrating an RSS feed into any HTML page:
Javascript RSS Box Viewer
MagpieRSS for PHP

An example of a wiki used in teaching and learning at the Neue Kantonsschule Aarau.

The next tutorial was given by the folks behind ELBA (for E-Learning-Baukasten), a project of ETH-Z. An excellent hands-on approach for getting familiar with the tools offered by ELBA. ELBA itself is an elegantly simple approach to eLearning: provide straight-forward, easy-to-use tools that work for any platform and budget, and do just one job at a time. Support is offered on the technical and the pedagogical side, along with nice manauls created by the ELBA team (just 2 people!).

The ELBA toolbox contains these goodies right now:
Hot Potatoes (various quizzing tools)
Cmap Tools (concept mapping)
Phorum (that’s a forum ;-))
Wiki (collaborative online work)
EVA (for document exchange)
Survey and Survey Monkey
Plone (for creating simple web sites)

ELBA’s practical approach of evaluating and offering a limited list of separate and simple tools for different purposes is appealing, especially when working with instructors who may be hesitant to dive into the complexities of an LMS platform when they’ll only use a small part of it.

Then Podcasting in der Lehre, one last workshop on Tuesday morning before the conference officially began later that day. An interesting statistic, courtesy of “Podcasts dienen zur Unterhaltung (93%), Information (75%) und Weiterbildung (29%)”. It looks like podcasting is establishing itself as a means to education, if mostly informally.

A popular link in podcasting for learning:, to learn English as a Second Language. Examples of podcasts in higher education:
iTunesU (apparently only US institutions) (Hamburger Hochschulen)
Medienlabor der Hochschule Osnabrück
Podcast für politische Bildung (students)

And finally, a special tip from this workshop: did you know that Angela Merkel has a videocast?

On to the main conference… Many presentations at the GMW ’06 are available as a download or you can play it as a stream.

In the opening keynote address, given by David Jonassen on e-Problem Based Learning: An Emerging Paradigm, we heard about the practical approach of problem-based learning. As Professor Jonassen said, we are teaching university students to be good at taking tests, and not necessarily at solving real world problems (that they’ll be faced with as soon as they graduate). His book on this subject, Learning to Solve Problems, promises to be a good read.

To finish up on Thursday, the keynote by Dr. Gabi Reinmann, “Nur ‘Forschung danach’? Vom faktischen und potentiellen Beitrag der Forschung zu alltagstauglichen Innovationen beim E-Learning” was excellent. Questions about applying the results of research in educational science to the everyday situation of learning and teaching are not the easiest to answer.
My favorite thought to take away from this talk is how Dr. Reinmann referred to “hard” and “soft” sciences: the “hard” sciences are the “easy-to-do” sciences; the “soft” sciences are the “hard-to-do” sciences. I’ve often thought that the grey zones of humanities are the bigger challenge.
The complete text is available as a pdf document.

The closing keynote by Prof. Dr. Christa Dürscheid, entitled “Neue Lernwelten, neue Kommunikationsformen – Ein Blick in die zukunft”, gave an overview of where we are and we might be going. In particular, some examples of the evolution of language as used by students using new media provided for reflection (as well as amusement/amazement).
Some resources:, a book on language and communication on the Internet, and, a portal to language in the media.

Last but not least, the stars of the show are the projects competing for the medidaprix, a 100,000€ prize from a well respected gremium.

This year’s winners are:

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