Thank you all participants!

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Thank you very much to all participants in the workshop, both those coming to Maastricht and those that have participated in the mailing list. The workshop was very interesting, and the results opened exciting lines for research until the next edition of ISEE. Sergio and Manolis have written a summary of the workshop. We hope to see you again in the next Workshop on Intelligent Support for Exploratory Environments!

ISEE'08 is here!

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The first International Workshop on Intelligent Support for Exploratory Environments will be held in conjunction with the third European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL '08). It will take place in Maastricht (The Netherlands) on the 17th of September, 2008.

This workshop will tackle the challenging problems posed by the application of intelligent support to exploratory learning environments. The innovative format ("learning cafe" methodology, see below) of this inter-disciplinary workshop will ensure productive discussions about both technical and pedagogical issues


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This is the schedule for ISEE'08:

  • 09h00 Workshop presentation & table assignment
  • 09h30 First round of discussion
  • 11h15 Break
  • 11h30 Second round of discussion, swapping tables
  • 13h15 Lunch
  • 14h30 Presentation of conclusions from the two tables
  • 14h50 Final discussion
  • 15h30 End of the workshop

Proceedings are already available online at CEUR-WS. Papers in the proceedings will be used as the basis for the discussions

Important dates

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  • Submission deadline: June 15, 2008
  • Abstract deadline: see below
  • Notification of acceptance: July 8, 2008
  • Camera-ready version: August 20, 2008 (extended)
  • Workshop: September 17, 2008, full day.


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There is an increasing trend of research in exploratory learning environments (henceforth ELE), as opposed to traditional systems with a clear delimitation of the domain and well-defined sequences of tasks to be performed. ELE support a constructionist approach for learning encouraging the learner to create their own solutions to problems. This has shown to be particularly beneficial in terms of providing opportunities for acquiring deep conceptual and structural knowledge.

However, there are several factors that prevent appropriate learning within an exploratory learning, not least the 'play paradox', which recognises the pedagogical power of playful, exploratory learning, yet acknowledges that students may potentially learn material that was not predicted by the designers. The key learning over many years is that a crucial determinant of learning is the level of support of the learning process by teachers, peers, technologies and the structure of the activity sequences. There is a need for a certain level of support of the learning process. These are particularly true in the case of mathematics where, unlike physics or other science domains, knowledge is rarely a directly observable outcome of a simulation under exploration and therefore other more expressive tools are required to permit students to externalise their ideas.

There are two aspects of this support that are relevant: intelligent support and support for collaboration. Both of them provide important challenges


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  • Design of exploratory learning environments
  • User modelling in exploratory environments
  • Collaborative tools for open environments
  • Collaborative learning in open environments
  • Adaptive feedback for exploratory tasks
  • Modelling based on open-ended tasks
  • Fuzzy and probabilistic techniques for modelling
  • Educational data mining
  • Development of generalisation thinking
  • Sequencing of activities in open learning enviroments
  • Application of learning standards in exploratory learning enviroments
  • Support for teachers in blended learning scenarios with exploratory learning environments
  • Authoring of open-ended tasks with intelligent support

Questions to be addressed

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There are many open problems with regard to ELE that are relevant for the broad TEL community: intelligent analysis of the learners actions, adaptive feedback, collaborative support, etc. Many of these problems are common to any TEL system, but the relatively unconstrained nature of ELEs adds new concerns. We briefly outline some of these (although this is far from an exhaustive list).

  • Balance between freedom and guidance. The strongest design intention of ELE is the playfulness and freedom with which they provide learners, so that they can investigate the system while engaging with it as a personally meaningful activity. Nevertheless, the play paradox points to the need for achieving a balance must be struck between exploration and learning.
  • Encouragement. Learners in an ELE need a certain level of motivation to remain focused. Without guidance, learners are unlikely to feel they are learning anything and may lose the motivation to use the system. Detecting motivation automatically is a hard problem in itself (not so hard for a human system!), but the open nature of exploratory learning activities makes the problem more difficult to address (e.g. the same behaviour can sometimes be interpreted as interested exploration or as disengaged playing with the system).
  • What counts as correct? There is no clear set of strategies for solving an exploratory task; different approaches can all be valid, and it is challenging to distinguish a correct one from an incorrect one, except for trivial cases or a set of canonical solutions. For some domains, in which the knowledge cannot be easily assessed in an explicit manner (e.g. mathematical generalisation), the problem presents even more difficulties.
  • The value of error. One of the advantages of ELEs is that learners are given the opportunity to make and hopefully realise their own mistakes and learn from them. Exploratory systems need to provide learners with feedback that encourages reflection on their actions, even if these actions have not led to a correct solution.
  • The adequate level of feedback. In traditional systems feedback is provided at the end of the activity, after the results have been evaluated. In ELE, the construction of the solution is just as important as the solution itself. Feedback must, then, be provided during the development of the activity.
  • User model, domain model... activity model? Given the above-mentioned challenges, a classical approach to learner or domain modelling based on concepts does not always fit the purposes of ELEs. The classic scenario, in which learners are required to study materials about a concept and then their knowledge level is assessed through testing, is not appropriate. Several approaches have been proposed based on different heuristics, bayesian networks and neuro-fuzzy systems, but it remains an open problem. Given the inherent complexity of exploratory activities, a level of modelling in between the domain level and the user level may be necessary for adequate support. However, the task of modelling an open-ended activity is a challenging problem.
  • Intelligent analysis. In order to understand the actions of the learner, machine learning and data mining techniques can be used to analyse the data provided by the system. Applying these techniques in an open environment, where the number of possible courses of actions is much higher, poses additional challenges.
  • Teachers need support too. Both learners and teachers can be supported in blended learning scenarios. As teachers often use exploratory activities in the classroom, it is easier to integrate ELE in a traditional curriculum setting, as their open nature allows them to be used in different ways that can be adapted to different classroom routines. Therefore, support for the work of the teachers becomes more important.
  • Collaboration scenarios. Collaborative learning has been shown to provide a deeper understanding of concepts, and longer-lasting retention. The problem of collaboration in ELE has not been properly addressed yet. How can exploratory activities be designed in a collaborative learning scenario?
  • Collaboration tools. The learning process is influenced by the tools available, and this becomes more important in ELE because the learners have to search for their own way of structuring the learning. Thus, selecting the best tools for collaboration is more important in this scenario.

Workshop Format

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The format of the workshop is based on question-oriented organisation with lively discussions rather than a mini-conference or symposium. In particular, the methodology used will be based on an adaptation of the 'learning discussion forum' (aka Learning Cafe Methodology) which involves experts' introductions and group discussions ensuring that all participants can have a direct impact in addressing the workshop questions. This methodology has been successfully implemented in previous conferences (e.g. 'Towards User Modelling and Adaptive Systems for All' at UM'07 or 'Making of the Future of Technology Enhanced Professional Learning' at ECTEL'06).

The working methodology for the workshop is made up of the following steps:

  1. A short presentation is made that raises some open problems in the field and post challenging questions that the participants of the workshop have to answer in advance. Those interested in the workshop submit their papers, covering some of the challenging questions rose by the experts. Each paper is reviewed by 3 members of the Program Committee to provide feedback from different angles.
  2. The Coordinator sets up a collaborative environment to facilitate open discussion among workshop participants previous to the workshop day. The authors of the papers send the final version of their paper, which is shared with other contributors. Open discussion among participants can take place in advance of the workshop day.
  3. On the workshop day, participants bring a sheet with their relevant conclusions for each topic they have worked in their paper.
  4. Three round tables are settled, each managed by a Moderator. The tables have A-1 sheets and markers. A brief overview of each of the topics is done, raising the challenging questions. Each table brainstorms led by the Moderator. The ideas are written down in the sheet. When the sheet is full, they are stuck on the wall. After 15 minutes, the people from one table move to the next one (clockwise). The Moderators stay in their table and summarise to the new people what was discussed with the previous group. After 15 minutes, they move again to the next table and repeat the process. The same procedure follows for the other topics.
  5. Once finished, for each type, Moderators present the conclusions to the audience. Open discussions with all participants are expected to be risen. The Coordinator summarises the conclusions with the collaborative help of the group. Final conclusions are structured and uploaded in the website to be shared with the EC-TEL community. Moreover, the community of interest set up in the collaborative platform for the workshop will be kept and extended with people interested in the topics


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Authors are kindly asked to send the abstract (plain text is OK) of their contribution as soon as possible, so the organising committee is able to pre-assign referees and accelerate the reviewing process in order to cope with the notification deadline.

Authors are expected to send papers that clearly address some of the questions related to the workshop (see above). Papers are expected to be 6-10 pages long. All submissions will undergo a thorough reviewing and refereeing process in order to decide on acceptance. Accepted papers will be used as a basis for the discusions at the day of the workshop.

The submissions should be in the format of Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS). Please check the link for instructions on how to prepare submissions. Send your submissions to all following emails, with subject 'ISEE08 submission':,

The workshop proceedings will be published online as part of the CEUR Workshop proceedings series. is a recognized ISSN publication series (ISSN 1613-0073). Furthermore, two best papers will be selected between all accepted submissions, and they will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (IJTEL).

Program Committee

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  • Ryan Baker (Carnegie Mellon, USA)
  • Jesús González Boticario (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain)
  • Paul Brna (University of Glasgow, UK)
  • Andrea Bunt (University of Waterloo, Canada)
  • Cedric d'Ham (University of Grenoble, France)
  • Vania Dimitrova (University of Leeds, UK)
  • Celia Hoyles (Institute of Education, UK)
  • Ken Kahn (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Piet Kommers (University of Twente, The Netherlands)
  • Chronis Kynigos (University of Athens, Greece)
  • George Magoulas (Birkbeck College, UK)
  • Muriel Ney (CNRS, France)
  • Richard Noss (Institute of Education, UK)
  • Kyparissia Papanikolaou (School of Pedagogical and Technological Education, Greece)
  • Abelardo Pardo (University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain)
  • Alexandra Poulovassilis (Birkbeck College, UK)
  • Cristóbal Romero (University of Cordoba, Spain)
  • Olga Santos (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain)
  • Sophie Soury-Lavergne (CNRS, France)
  • Niall Winters (Institute of Education, UK)