Kick-Off BILAD: Getting to know each other digitally

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On November 11, 2021, our network kicked off with a digital launch event. This first meeting was an opportunity to get to know each other and get an idea of who we will be working with in the coming years. We therefore took a lot of time for a round of introductions, in which each individual network member was able to introduce themselves. Already this round of introductions showed us all how much expertise from different fields of informal education comes together in the BILAD network. The special feature of our network is also its internationality: Experts from different places and countries participate in BILAD and bring in their different perspectives.

Magdalena Novak and Stephanie Moser then presented the BILAD project as described in the project proposal. They focused on the central goals for the next three years: (1) to establish an open, international and interdisciplinary network in the field of empirical educational research on informal learning; (2) to foster close cooperation between educational researchers and experts from museums, science centers and memorial sites; and (3) to facilitate a continuous exchange of information between the network members. They also presented the schedule for the next three years and the different modules that are planned in the network for communication and collaboration.

After a short coffee break, Stephan Schwan gave a keynote speech about the positioning of the BILAD network in empirical educational research. Besides formal education and mass media, there is the field of informal education. The distinctive feature of informal learning sites is that they provide authentic objects, places and learning experiences. They use both stationary and mobile digital media to present a variety of different information. These authentic and digital forms of mediation are not mutually exclusive, but go hand in hand. How these elements are selected and staged depends on the nature of the informal learning environment. Is it an art exhibition, a historical site, a science center, or a natural history museum? Either way, the result is a unique interplay of authentic and digital learning experiences. This is precisely where the BILAD project (Educational Research at Informal Learning Sites in the Interplay Between Authenticity and Digitality) comes in. Together, we want to define our core concepts, specify our main empirical questions, and develop a “toolbox” of appropriate methods to answer these questions over the next three years.

After a small discussion round on Stephan’s presentation, Doris Lewalter presented proposals for products that we would like to realize together in the next few years – these range from presentations at relevant conferences to joint publications and joint research projects. Finally, Marc Halfmann presented first drafts for the planned BILAD website and the MS Teams – platform for internal exchange. We are already looking forward to the next joint workshop in February, where we want to continue the discussions that have already started at our kick-off event.