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How I got involved in Technology Enhanced Learning

I have been invited to the Meeting of Young Minds in Belgium at the end of the month. The idea behind this meeting is stated on the invitation as follows:

The idea of this meeting is to gather 12 young minds (below 35) to discuss the future of TEL research during two days (Nov. 28-29) in Leuven. We will then send a white paper to the Commission to help them to shape future call in Technology enhanced learning.

In preparation for this I have been asked for an informal introduction on myself and how I got involved in Technology Enhanced Learning – I decided to share what I wrote:

How I came to be involved in TEL: When I read this statement, “how I came to be involved in TEL”, I really had to think – how did I get here? My interest and involvement in TEL was by no means planned, it was really an accident.

I have always been interested in computers. As far back as I can remember I have been tinkering with (or breaking, depends on who you ask) a computer. After finishing school I did a degree in Software Systems. During my degree I liked to think of myself as a very technical person, only interested in hard-core technology issues. After my degree I wanted to get into more technical web issues and managed to get onto a research project that was investigating semantic web technologies. It just so happened that the domain that this project was looking at was TEL. To be honest, I can remember thinking that perhaps this project wasn’t for me, it was investigating TEL and not really important issues, I was pretty naive wasn’t I?

During this project I tried very hard to stay away from TEL and concentrate on pure semantic web issues but it was no use as soon as I started to contemplate some of the big TEL questions, like ‘will what we are doing really help people learn?’, leading to bigger questions like ‘How do we learn anyway?’, I was hooked. My research in semantic web soon became a means to an end. At the end of this project we received additional funding for a longer term project to look at commercialising the technology we were developing. It was at this point that I considered myself a TEL researcher. I was now looking at how technology could help people to learn and teach. This was what now excited me. It was during this project I also completed my PhD, which looked at using software modelling technologies in designing good courseware.

After completing my PhD. I had two loves TEL and, after working on a commercialisation project, entrepreneurship. I moved to Canada and worked in a start-up e-learning company that was spinning out of the University of Toronto’s Psychology Dept. During this time we were looking at how we could use assessments to test knowledge fluency. We worked with all sorts of people from pilots to ice hockey officials to academics. This was a great time, very exciting and innovative. Unfortunately it was short lived – as the cash dried up and the revenue didn’t come in quite fast enough.

After my time in Canada I came back to Ireland and joined a company that specialises in providing professional services for e-learning Open Source Software (OSS) (mainly Moodle). This is were I am now and finding it very interesting work – helping mould OSS around clients e-learning needs. There I am in mainly a consultancy role but do like to get my hands into the code every now and again.

I will of course blog about the meeting.

November 21, 2011 In: Blog Written by: Mark Melia