The 2004 conference in Crete saw an upsurge of interest in the work of this group with twenty four papers accepted that were organised under the following eight themes:
- Developing Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Role(s) of ICT and Distance Education- Issues of Policy and
- Pedagogy Student-Centred Learning Practices in Online Learning Contexts
- Electronic and Face-to-Face Learning Practices - A Focus on Communication
- Developing Democratic Values and the Role of Online and Face-to-Face Contexts
- Working with Values: Citizenship, Democracy and the Curriculum
- Digital Learning, Pedagogical Neutrality, Globalisation and Identity Formation
- Cultural Diversity and Open Learning Practices Informal Learning Contexts
The Network Meeting was preceded by a discussion on the theme of "Open Learning and ICT in a global context - implications of recent policies in UNESCO and other global forums" that was introduced by Jyrki Pulkkinen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland. Jyrki began by emphasising how much the world is divided between those who have access to education and ICT and those who do not. Accordingly, the provision of equal access to education and information, with help of ICT where possible, is seen to be the global challenge for the education community. UNESCO's strategic plan for 2002 - 2007 was highlighted and in particular the aim to promote development based on the principles of freedom of expression; equal access to education; universal access to information and cultural and linguistic diversity. Furthermore, this plan has defined as a cross-cutting theme, the contribution of information and communication technologies to the development of education, science and culture and the construction of a knowledge society.
The implications of this global challenge for educational research communities were discussed. We were asked to consider the global challenge of education, and the promise of ICT in particular, in terms of the implications for rethinking the organisation of what was seen as the "fragmented research field". We were challenged to consider how the structures and agendas of our research networks and communities correspond to the global challenge of education and therefore how they influence the research interests of researchers. We were challenged to reflect on the major problems in education globally and how we should consider the major themes when organising research communities, especially at the European level. These questions were raised not only for the consideration of OPENnet but also to the EERA more widely. Furthermore they will continue to shape the future development of the work of OPENnet in 2005 and beyond.