Last week I was in Crete, Sissi to be precise, to present our work on chat analysis at the ADML workshop (Applying Data Mining Techniques to e-Learning) part of EC-TEL (European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning).
Crete: here we come
I went to Crete with Wilco Bonestroo, who had a paper at another workshop. When we arrived in the hotel around 21:00 and showed the voucher that would guarantee seven days of Cretean hospitality we were bitterly disappointed. Think of an arbitrary Monty Python sketch:
- We: We have a booking for this hotel.
- Hotel manager: I have not received your booking, and your voucher is not from a travel company I know. (Neckermann, TUI, etc.).
- We: But the travel agency acknowledged the reservation.
- Hotel manager: You don't look like a bus load of tourists to me.
- We: Do you have free rooms?
- Hotel manager: No, and if we had we would not give them to you.
What to do? With very little choice, we walked down the road and asked at other hotels whether they had rooms available. After about five attempts, and getting more desperate while time was running out, we finally got a room at a cheap place (€ 29 a night including leaking tap, breakfast and a view on the beach). The next morning we walked into the direction of the conference and found an appartment for € 40 per day for the rest of the week. After some searching we also found a place that serves a good (English) breakfast: the Pyramid bar at the beach front in Sissi.
About half a year ago I started working on Educational Data Mining (EDM). The general idea of EDM is to apply data mining techniques to educational data (e.g. log files of learning environments). The ADML workshop (Applying data mining techniques to e-learning) seemed an excellent opportunity to get in touch with the EDM community. So far, I had followed EDM research through the portal: educationaldatamining.org.
Seven papers were presented at the workshop, followed by a general discussion. My overall conclusion is that EDM still has to figure out precisely what the main issues are. Several papers presented work on (very small) case studies that are difficult to generalise. Agathe Merceron's paper was probably the most general: the application of association rule mining to find combinations of student errors in a learning environment. The potential would be that course material can be improved when it turns out student errors are caused by a poor organisation of the learning environment itself.
In the seven papers, no less than six different data mining techniques were proposed. This is also an indication the field is searching for direction, or perhaps even, interesting problems to attack. At the conference there were also a number of papers hinting at the use of data mining and one shocking example was a presentation in which the data had been fed into Weka (a data mining toolkit) and the algorithm that produced the best results was presented. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the person in question had neither an idea what the algorithms did, and much worse, no idea how to interprete the results.
The photo's, kindly provided by Galit Ben Zadok, were taken during the informal dinner after the workshop. A research community in the making, evidenced by the fact that the restaurant ran out of traditional Greek beer after midnight ... (No, it was not only me!)
For my own 15 minute presentation I decided to present the background as slides, and give an interactive demo of the results. A screendump of the chat analysis tool used for the demo is shown below. The idea of the avatars is described in Avatars in learning environments. And, contrary to the reviewers :-), the workshop participants like it.
After a couple of days José Kooken joined us. She had a paper and presentation at the EC-TEL conference, and given that this was her first conference presentation, she was a little nervous (that is what she told us anyway :-)). For me this was a little peek in the past, I still remember being very nervous for my first presentation a long time ago. I suppose that one thing every researcher faces sooner or later is that what appears self evident (or even trivial) to you, may be very interesting to others. José's presentation went very well and she also got a lot of questions from the audience.
I still have to find my way in the educational research world (what's hot and what's not) and tried to carefully select sessions to go to in the conference. A session of particular interest was called "Ontologies / Knowledge Management", topics I have a past attachment with. Amal Zouaq presented a tool called Knowledge Puzzle which "automatically" extracts domain concepts and relations from text (paper title "Building Domain Ontologies from Text for Educational Purposes"). From my perspective, it is at least interesting to see that this kind of language / semantic web technology is being introduced to the educational world.
On vacation ...
I actually did a little bit of cycling, although the mountains, the sun and the poor quality of the rent bicycles made this a demanding exploit. Crete is a nice place for a stressless short holiday near the beach. I did not have time to visit the historical locations. A look at the impressive mountains, the lack of proper roads, and not having a driving licence might explain this.