Conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities

August 19, 2010

Today I attended the first day at the Conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities. This is what I found useful and took with me.

Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, opened with a speech.

The most interesting part of her speech was her announcement of a new network: “In the wake of the conference today, I will establish a national network ensuring exchange of best practice within the field of ICT-supported learning.” 

The need for this network was strongly supported by Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Dekan for the humanistic faculty, AAU) who addressed the issue that  Denmark is currently in the top five in the Network Readiness Index, but NO Danish universities are number one.

Renate Fruchter (founding director of Project Based Learning Laboratory, Stanford University, USA) also commented on the Minister’s initiative. She said that it appears that Denmark is a place where things are happening, not just talking about things that should happen. Renate Fruchter opened her speech with this acknowledgement: “Madame Minister, you are such a role model”.

Renate Fruchter and her research team has developed what she referred to as “a working educational model for cross-disciplinary global teamwork”. The ingredients in this are:

  • PBL Lab
  • R & D
  • Educational Strategy

PBL global teamwork consists of theory and ethnographic observations, practice in classes and industry, and collaboration with technologies and services.

Renate Fruchter stated that any educational working model is “as good as people using it”.

Furthermore, that we are NOT dealing with “neat disciplinary problems”, but rather “complex interdisciplinary challenges”.

Also, she claimed: “The Millenniums are here” (i.e. born digital)

All Renate Fruchter’s and her research teams projects involve fire P’s (P5BL Lab): People, problem, process, project, product.

Furthermore, each project involves: Develop, test, deploy and assess.

The goal is: “To be world leaders in global teamwork”.

The P5BL Lab is cross-disciplinary and involves: architects, management and engineers.

Each project is about “crossing the four chasms”:

  1. Discipline
  2. Technology
  3. Time/space (e.g. you can actually squeeze 3 days into 24 hours in a project including people from all over the world)
  4. Culture (both national, local, technological and organizational)

One example of the models developed by Renate Fruchter is “The fishbowl learning” which comes from a model in natural sciences where e.g. medical procedures carried out by doctors are put on display in a lecture hall encircled by glass (i.e. a fishbowl).

Renate emphasised that a foundational premise in her projects is: “That learning happens in all directions” (i.e. not just from an instructor to a learner)

Important matters to Renate Fruchter are:

  • scalability
  • sustainability
  • assessment

P5BL is an evolving ecosystem consisting of: people, places, ICT, devices and network infrastructure. It is a M3R: Mixed Media Mixed Reality.

Renate Fruchter commented that many teachers abandon computers and phones from classes: “If you think that if my body is there, then my mind is there too…”

It is important to consider the challenges as they unfold differently for:

  • learners
  • educators
  • institutions

The four stages of P5BL, are according to Renate Fruchter:

  • Experiment course
  • sustain (not just a professor with a great idea for a couple of years)
  • Institutionalize
  • constant reinvention             

I really liked Renate Fruchter’s emphasis on both culture and reinvention. Furthermore, what seems really interesting about the P5BL Lab is the focus on people, problems, projects, products and processes as a joint venture between students, teachers and industry in global teams.

Phillip Long (Professor of Innovation and Educational Technology, founding director of the Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology, University of Queensland, Australia) talked about “how does a university establish a culture of open scholarship and engage students in legitimate peripheral disciplinary participation? In is necessary to switch between “learning to be” and “learning about” he claimed. He showed a thought-provoking video “A vision of students today” that was coproduced by the students.

I just checked the Digital Ethnography work groups home page, which is where the video can be found, and this is definitely a recommendable place to visit for inspiration on how to integrate video into our university teaching practices.

Another instance of how videos are actively finding their ways into Danish Universities was illustrated by Per Holten-Andersen (Dean at The Faculty of Life Sciences). Just try to search for videos and Copenhagen University. You will find a lot of commercial videos on YouTube with an international approach. LIFE is another example of a strong emphasis on the global aspects of knowledge exchange and collaboration. “The Faculty developed its language policy nine years ago and adopted a ten-year implementation plan, i.e. the policy shall be fully implemented by the year 2010.” This is among other represented in the fact that LIFE offers information for international students in 20 languages.

While most speakers were concerned with ICT, Morten Misfeldt ‘s(Associate professor at Department of Curriculum Studies, DPU) speak was notably concerned with the flexibilities that are built into (or not) the physical frames and study environments of universities.

As Hanne LethAndersen (Professor and managing director of CBS Learning Lab) commented: when considering ICT in Danish universities it is central that we look at differentiated incitements, because there exist large differences between educational programmes e.g. whether they represent small or big areas. Furthermore, she stated that we need to take more than ICT and the physical environment into consideration. Also subject area, educational models and goals/objectives, and many other things must be taken into consideration. Furthermore, she stated, students are not just learners. They are also producers and creators, and how do we acknowledge these contributions? (e.g. in the assessment system).

Jørgen Bang (associate professor at Information and Media Studies, AU) stated that in 2007 the European Union and politics went from a focus on e-learning to a focus on lifelong learning, which means that universities need to look not only into the ICT-support related to the everyday conduct of teaching activities, but also into how ICT may take part in creating new educational possibilities in a lifelong learning perspective. According to Jørgen Bang, Danish universities need to put more focus on and emphasize lifelong learning as an integrated aspect of the further development of Danish universities.

Associated with this, Simon Heilesen (associate professor in net media and  computer-mediated communication, RUC) underlined that Roskilde University has moved away from the term e-learning and instead they are referring to “academic IT” (i.e. using ICT where it is meaningful not only in relation to the educational programs but also in administration, as support for research etc.).


  1. […] Fruchter’s workshop at the “ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities” was another good reminder, that the value of brainstorming processes as a kick-off for idea […]

    • This looks interesting project. Innovating to have a better collaboration in projects using our current technology will surely make us more efficient.

  2. […] and Learning Exploring Learning Space Designs August 22, 2010 From the conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities, I took with me several insights that I want to share and have already done so in several […]

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