Bianca Pereira
A researcher and software developer at work, a feminist by ideal, and an educator by passion.

jTEL Summer School 2019

Last week I attended the jTELSS2019, a summer school in the topic of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL).

Summer schools are excellent opportunities for PhD students to engage with the research community. In such events, we learn about the main topics under research in a given domain and meet the people working on these topics, we have opportunities to discuss our PhD work and, most importantly, we become part of the research community. In a few years time, when you start searching for collaborations (either within academia or as part of industry-academia partnerships), the PhD students that you see today in a summer school will be the people who you will be working with.

Having participated in summer schools in the past and acknowledging their influence on my professional development, I always recommend PhD students in their 1st or 2nd year to attend one. So, being a PhD student myself (again) in the 1st year, it was already at the back of my mind to participate in a summer school. But, which one!?

It was last year, when I attended the EC-TEL2018, that I heard the EATEL (European Association of Technology Enhanced Learning) was organising a summer school for this year. Since I really liked my experience in the EC-TEL2018, I decided to check what were the plans for their summer school. As the organisation of the jTELSS puts it:

The JTEL summer school provides a stimulating learning environment where participants get opportunities to: develop research skills, increase their knowledge base, collaborate with others in their own and complementary research areas, engage in debate, have access to experts in the field, and discuss their own work.

I applied to participate, got selected, came to Bari in Italy for a week, and had an excellent experience. The event was very well organised, I met amazing people, came out with a good list of ideas and topics to explore, identified prospective collaboration opportunities, learned from other people’s experiences, and as a bonus ate tasty food and learned more about Italy’s history and landscape.

Different from other summer schools I have seen, the program for the jTELSS2019 included a broad range of events: keynotes, thematic workshops, core methodology workshops, soft skills methodology workshops, career and innovation workshops, informal learning sessions, as well as social events. An additional interesting element, that I would not expect to see in a summer school but that I abolutely loved, was the connection with the European research landscape and with local research groups.

The connection with the European landscape happened through the keynote talk by Riina Vuorikari , a member of the Digital Competences Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, on what is in the European Union agenda for Technology-Enhanced Learning. From her talk, I learned how research is important in the construction of evidence-based policy (in contrast to opinion-based ones) and how the research agenda, in particular research funding, is linked with the work from the European Commission.

Slides from Riina Vuorikari's presentation at jTELSS2019

Regarding connection with the local community, we visited FabLab Poliba, a maker space that serves as inter-disciplinary school, business, and community centre in the manufacturing area. The place was founded by the Politecnico di Bari based on the FabLab model created in MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology). There we had a tour of the installations, where we had the opportunity to learn about the work of the local community in the use of 3D printing and wood cutting for art and architecture as well as the engagement of industry and the community in the development of digital skills.

FabLab Poliba

In the next few days I will be posting a reflection on the other talks and workshops I participated. So, if you did not have the chance to attend the jTELSS2019, I will be sharing my learnings in this blog. On the other hand, if you did participate, I would love to learn what you got out of this experience.

Have you ever attended a summer school? Or perhaps you plan to attend one? Share your experience or questions in the comments section below.

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