Last summer, I was one of several lucky students in my research lab to present at the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (the field commonly known as CSCL) in Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference brings together education researchers, technologists, and computer scientists from all over the world to share and discuss ideas on issues ranging from designing modern learning spaces to using social media in the classroom. Not only was I geeked about my paper being accepted, I was also geeked to be going to Scandinavia. I’d heard stories and saw pictures from people’s travels, but it never crossed my mind to visit. After finding some affordable tickets on Priceline, a colleague and I landed a quaint AirBnB flat just five minutes from the conference location. I was set to go.
I presented on the use of mobile devices (e.g. tablet computers, mobile phones, and PDAs) in the classroom. We found several instances of studies investigating how teachers incorporate mobile devices in their lessons and these devices affect students’ learning outcomes and their collaborative behaviors. One interesting find was that tablet computers allowed for more fluid and natural interactions between group members. Tablet computers allowed team members to face each other or freely move around in order to create a collaborative space, whereas, with laptops, students tended to be fixed in a position and had less eye contact with fellow members. Students using the tablets felt the tablets enhanced their collaboration and discussions.
The presentations were short and the atmosphere was very casual. I was the only presenter in a tie, while the other presenters were in jeans- some with sneakers and some with casual dress shoes. This made for a different vibe I was not accustomed to. The last education conference I attended was the American Education Research Association conference in Chicago. People donned suits and the presentations had an air of hefty scholarship and cerebralness, which was starkly different at this conference in Sweden. For the tablet computer workshop, the presenters had to present using the PechaKucha format. With PechaKucha the presenter has exactly six minutes and forty seconds to present. Once time is up, the presentation closes. There were about 12-13 presentations, all showing the varying ways tablet devices were used. Overall it was a good experience. The people were friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed.
My trip in brief:
City: Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden with a population of about 543,000 people living in the city proper and an additional 400,000 living in the metropolitan area. It is located on the southwestern coast of Sweden. Gothenburg has an eclectic mix of architecture ranging from gothic to modernist styles. The city is home to two universities- University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology- and annual film and music festivals. It has a strong shipping and fishing industry, and it is the birthplace of Volvo.
Food and drinks: The food is delicious and really fresh, while the alcoholic beverages are pricy.. To my surprise, 7/11 had cheap and delicious prepared meals, unlike the ones in the States. If you have access to a kitchen, buying a few groceries would help cut down the costs of eating out. If you have a sweet tooth, Sweden is the the place to indulge in sweet desires. If the coffee cake during Fika, the Swedish word for afternoon coffee and dessert break, isn’t enough, or you want to stock up for the month, check out their candy shops. They are literally brick and mortar candylands. Once you walk in, your jaw drops, your pupils dilate, and you salivate at the sight of aisles of delightful colorful and mouth watering treats from Swedish gummies to chocolates to hard candies.
Money: The currency is known as the Krona with the abbreviation SEK(Swedish Krona). It is worth slightly more than the dollar; A 100 SEK is equivalent to 1.14 USD. Nowadays, US bank cards can be used overseas, especially those with the chip. Though this can be useful if you have a lot of transactions, one must be forewarned that a conversion fee may be assessed. Check your bank for details. Carrying cash is optional but best to have some for emergencies and small purchases.
To do: I like visual art, so I always make it a point to find an art museum. Take your student ID because most of the time the museum offers student discounts. Explore! We walked around exploring areas to find new restaurants and bars after conference hours. Only if I had Pokemon Go then!
Getting around was easy. You can walk, bike, or take public transportation everywhere. They have dedicated bike-only pathways throughout the city. They also have a tram system that runs until 12 am.
Communication: BUY THE INTERNATIONAL PLAN or check to see if your phone plan includes international calls. If this is not the case, something as small as texting can have an exorbitant cost. I racked up $400 in charges between texting and checking social media sites. Luckily I was able to get the charges reversed after retroactively purchasing the $30 international plan. What a relief!
Roosevelt Faulkner is a graduate student in the School of Education and research assistant in the Conundrums, Complex Systems, Collaborations, and Computers Lab (4C). In addition to his research work, Roosevelt works at the Black Film Center/Archive assisting with the blog, and designing promotional materials.