Our Man In Havana

KMi Chief Scientist Marc Eisenstadt presented a Keynote speech today at Teleduc04, the Third Latin American Symposium on Distance Education and Lifelong Learning, in Havana, Cuba — hot on the heels of an interview for Cuban TV.

Eisenstadt&#39s speech, entitled “The Problems With E-Learning: What Works and What Fails” undertook a personal tour through the highs and lows of e-learning, highlighting the advantages of personal content creation over the perils of “learning objects” which, in Eisenstadt&#39s view, risked trivialising the learning experience.

TelEduc is attended by some 250 participants almost entirely from Latin America, with some representation from Europe via Spain and our man from the UK. The conference was formally launched by Francesco Lacayo, the Latin American UNESCO Regional Office Director for Culture, who emphasised that education “goes beyond the [mere] acquisition of knowledge, because it entails the transformation of attitudes, abilities, skills, capacities and behaviours.” Lacayo also stated passionately that improving education was the key to a better world.

Eisenstadt presented a few welcoming remarks in Spanish during the opening ceremony on 1st November, leveraging his newly-gained skills from Open University course LZX194. During the opening session Eisenstadt draw parallels between the Open University&#39s “Four Opens” (people, places, methods, and ideas) and the larger vision of TelEduc, its host, and its participants. These parallels raised enough interest to warrant Eisenstadt being interviewed (in Spanish) on the morning of 2nd November by a crew from one of the national Cuban TV stations — segments of which were then broadcast in the prime-time 8PM news slot later that day!

TelEduc is characterised by a large number of practical and empirical studies, emphasising the evaluation of new approaches to distance and e-learning. A number of tools are highlighted in lighted of the empirical studies, including a slick portal/e-desktop environment called SEPAD (Sistema de Enseñanza Personalizado A Distancia) which smoothly integrates offline and online document handling, conversation threading, chat, and embedded simulation tools.

A discussion of some of the classic tradeoffs concerning Linux, Windows, and Open Source generally resulted in some lively debate. Linux and Open Source are clearly near and dear to the heart of the majority of participants at TelEduc, yet most users instinctively prefer to use Windows when they can, because many of the environments are more well developed and it gives them access to a larger market. A classic tradeoff!

[The photos show, clockwise from the upper left, the TelEduc audience listening to a stunning operatic interlude presented after the opening remarks (seriously: it was fantastic!); conference President Tomás López Jiménez, Director General del Centro de Gestión Empresarial, Superación Técnica y Administrativa (GESTA); Eisenstadt with gizmo preparing talk under Havana moon; local group entertaining the conference goers after the welcoming ceremony.]

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