From 8th grade to Emeritus: Impressions of DfL 2018

June 11, 2018

Two conference participants, an 8th grade student and a Professor Emeritus, shared their impressions of DfL 2018.  Read more.


Designs for Learning – Design & Learning-Centric Analytics – what is happening at this new interdisciplinary crossroad? The diverse and stimulating presentations keynotes at DfL 2018 provided some answers.


With 56 attendees, Designs for Learning 2018 (#DfL2018), enhanced possibilities for new collaborations and research directions within different constellations of participants.  The proceedings from the conference are published here. Read more about highlights from the keynotes and guest lecture here.


Technology is the future

Two conference participants shared their impressions of DfL 2018. Nora Viken Sjursen is a Norwegian 8th grade student, who was attending the conference as part of a school project entitled, “Education Choices”. It was the first time she had ever attended a scientific conference and she says she found the experience very interesting. According to Viken Sjursen, “Technology is and will always be the future. Therefore, I find it great that this is something we are trying to learn more about.”


Olga Dysthe is a Professor Emeritus at the Department of Education, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen. A well-known, respected researcher, Dysthe underlined the importance of “smaller, focused conferences where you have time and opportunity to discuss with presenters”.


Use of learning technology varies greatly between schools


The first conference keynote, by Alexandra Weilenmann, University of Gothenburg, addressed experiences relevant to Viken Sjursen’s age group – using mobile phones to document visits to museums. Viken Sjursen reported that her school was not especially technologically active, and that there is currently no focus on the kind of technological possibilities for enhancing student learning experiences described in Weilenmann’s lecture. Viken Sjursen’s comments underline an unofficial theme that surfaced many times during the conference: teachers need time and training to develop competency and literacy around the development of new pedagogical approaches using technology.



Dysthe also reflected on this theme as she considered the different school experiences of her own grandchildren. She said there are extensive differences between the schools her 12 grandchild attend in terms of technology use in the classroom. Dysthe says that school leadership and teacher training opportunities are key to effective integration of new learning technologies. She also believes that students who have opportunities to develop and expand their skills with technology have great advantages when they reach higher education levels.


21st Century Skills

Viken Sjursen spoke of having selected “Media and Information” as an elective at school. She said she had hoped the course would introduce her to computer programming, and expressed disappointment that this was not the case. Many speakers at the conference spoke of digital skills as being key for the 21st Century workforce. Invited speaker Richard Halvorsen, University Wisconsin-Madison, said that young people learn many of their digital skills outside the classroom, but underlined that their home and school experiences affect how these skills transfer and that this aspect is particularly relevant to today’s digital gap. Viken Sjursen’s technology experiences may reflect this lack of transference from her relatively rich, what Halvorsen refers to as “home habitus”, to her more limited “school habitus”. She spoke of using her phone informally to document her experiences. She named Snapchat as her most frequently used social medium, as this was most popular among her peers, and said that while she can play video games, she, herself, does not play often.



Dysthe underlined the importance of balance in the learning design – learning analytics equation. She says that balance is important for all aspects of learning in schools. Teachers and researchers need a balance between the practical and theoretical aspects of pedagogy. She felt DfL 2018 gave her better insights into how learning analytics could provide data that could help teachers make more informed decisions about both their teaching and their students’ learning, and, in particular, about how to design learning activities and interventions to facilitate such analyses. However, she highlighted the need for making time available for teachers to develop competencies in this area. Teachers need 21st Century skills too!


Small, focused, collaborative, accessible 

Viken Sjursen attended the conference as part of a school programme to help students learn more about their interests and potential future directions by actively observing people in a workplace. DfL 2018 gave Viken Sjursen a chance to reflect on issues that may be relevant for her as she makes school choices that will influence her future.


Dysthe shared some reflections for young researchers beginning their scientific careers, based on her years of experience as researcher who has attended many conferences, organised many, and been an invited speaker at many. While she says that it is always a privilege to attend an international conference, and to listen to dedicated researchers share their work, she adds that over the years she has come to prefer smaller, more focused conferences such as DfL 2018, where there is time and opportunity to meet and discuss with colleagues and presenters.


To young researchers faced with a vast number of attractive international conference choices, Dysthe suggests:

  1. Choose the conferences strategically, with the double purpose of getting relevant feedback on your own work and extending your professional network.

  2. Prepare. Reading the abstracts. Check up on previous publications by key participants with whom you might like to talk.

  3. First and foremost, be curious and ask questions!

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