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Collaboration, Innovation and Learning in Barcelona

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Earlier this summer Matthew Waters from An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC) travelled to the Spanish city of Barcelona to present at EDULEARN - one of the largest international education conferences. The trip took place as part of the ERASMUS+ ‘Making an Impact at European Level’ project. Organised by AONTAS it supports the professional development of our Community Education Network (CEN). Here Matthew shares the highlights of his trip.

Blue skies, great food, incredible architecture and friendly faces everywhere

Attending EDULEARN17 meant my first trip to Barcelona and a welcome change from the Irish summer. Blue skies, great food, incredible architecture and friendly faces everywhere - what a city! This Erasmus+ mobility represented the culmination of two years of work for me. I had just submitted work for my Masters in Applied eLearning the previous week and here I was, poster in hand, ready to present at the EDULEARN17 conference on my work.

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EDULEARN17 is a large conference which brought 850 attendees over 2 days to the Palau de Congressos de Catalunya – an award winning, architecturally stunning conference centre in the heart of Barcelona’s prestigious business district. It was an opportunity for educators to present on research they are doing in the area of education and technology. There were multiple themed sessions running concurrently throughout the conference with presenters taking 15 minutes each to give an overview of their work.

The keywords were collaboration, innovation, sharing and optimism

The EDULEARN17 team were great and the welcome pack was very generous with enough supplies to keep me going for the two days. The keynote session on Day One set the tone for the conference, with personal and humorous presentations from Alec Couros and Jennie Magiera on the intersection of education and technology. The keywords were collaboration, innovation, sharing and optimism. Collaborative learning is the name of the game and it proved to be a message heard again and again over the conference.

With my poster session scheduled early on the second day, I reluctantly missed the end of the keynote and found my way down to the communal breakout space filled with exhibitors and fellow poster presenters. After finding a spot that I liked between a German project on student feedback and a Japanese poster on language learning, I displayed my poster documenting my project on supporting VCC learners through a mobile support app.

It was a great opportunity to discuss the work of An Cosán VCC on an international stage

I am glad I opted to participate by poster presentation as it enabled me to engage with interested attendees on a one-to-one basis. There were roughly 50 other posters and I spent three hours chatting with anyone who expressed an interest in my work. It was a great opportunity to discuss the work of An Cosán VCC on an international stage and I made some interesting connections with Welsh, American, Latvian and Slovakian educators.

With the poster session closing, I was free to enjoy the rest of the conference. There was a huge variety of topics on offer at all times and I moved through the 11 different areas attending presentations on Educational Trends & Best Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Blended Learning, Flipped Learning and eLearning Projects. It was great to hear about the work going on around the world from engaging Aboriginal Australian communities, Roma Communities in Slovakia to retaining online learners in the UK and sharing our own work at VCC – what an experience!

In terms of outcomes of the mobility, it was great to create interest in the work of VCC. It was also a significant professional progression opportunity - ideal for me at this stage of my development. It increased my networking and presentation skills and broadened my experience of conferences. Seeing the work of VCC in supporting adult learners to engage in education through blended online learning in an international context highlighted for me how much we have to offer. With invitations to collaborate sitting in my inbox, I look forward to building on this experience at future conferences.

And with that, a final thankyou to AONTAS, Leargas and Erasmus+ for this fantastic opportunity. I met so many great educators and innovators and took so much from the experience.