Themes:

  • Innovation in 21st Century Learning and Teaching
  • Building Institutional Readiness

Expert panel speakers:-

  • Dr. Hoda Baraka
    Ministry of Information Technology and Communication, Egypt
  • Richard Descoings
    President, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris
  • Dorothy Gordon
    Director-General, Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT
  • Prof. Diana Laurillard
    Knowledge Lab, London Institute of Education
  • Dr. Jim Ptaszynski
    Microsoft, World Wide Higher Education

Topics discussed:

Funding

As has been previously discussed, government funding can rarely manage to foot the bill for an entire tertiary education system - and often it's not appropriate for them to do so. Education at the tertiary level provides an over-reaching benefit to society, through research, training of new graduates that can provide public services and value to the economy, and as centres for excellence, innovation and inspiration.

In Asia, public-private partnerships have allowed the training of educators in ICT - allowing not only the educators to improve the learning experience through technology, but also enabling the children to learn to learn, to be able to use technology to further their own learnings. Mobile units in rural villages were mentioned as a way to improve learnings in rural communities - but there's no substitute for training the educators and parents of students, that they can then pass on knowledge, and the art of acquiring it, to their charges.

Educators

Prof. Diana Laurillard was very clear in her strong opinion that technology itself can lend very little to the education of our students.

"What it takes to learn isn't going to change, you can't do transformational, mind-changing learning in a chatroom with your mates"

Mentors and educators, within a formal learning environment were strongly put forward as the key cogs in the machine of education - a view that has been almost skipped over previously in all the excitement about technology, and one that it would be well to keep close to our hearts. Even assuming we were able to perfectly vet the internet, and ensure that it contained all the knowledge that a student wanted to learn, Dr. Jim Ptaszynski reminded us - this would still not be enough for a student to properly understand and implement all that they want to learn. I would go one step further and say that a part of the role of an educator is not only to facilitate students learning what they want to learn - it is to inspire them and exponentially increase the range of subjects about which they have a passion, about which they want to know more.

But this is still a positive, still a strategy for success. We can use technology to invest in our educators (and this doesn't just mean faculty, often parents of students can be major players in their education). Technology can be used to help teachers use their time better, by moving from a variable cost to a fixed cost model through distributed learning, by helping teachers to use their time better - rather than just being used as a presentation model as it unfortunately so often is right now.

Mindmap of the workshop

Strategies To Overcome The Barriers

Please click the picture to enlarge

Peer learning

Dorothy Gordon provided a counterpoint to the above, showing an advocacy for collaborative peer learning, especially when implemented through wiki-like systems. This may seem a turn backwards, until you consider her inspirational statement:

"Online communities eliminate barriers of location and funding, because in a peer-learning community, education is free"

However, it's unfair to our speakers to suggest that any of them believe that only one route is correct, and indeed many of them advocated a blended learning approach. A particularly succinct explanation was 'teacher support peer learning' - combining the new with the old, which is often the only way to merge change into a well established, and currently very successful system. Change and improvement are necessary, important and will be superb to see - but we can't forget that our education systems today are producing many, many great results right now, and have been doing so for decades.

Educator Training

An oft-quoted 'excuse' as to the difficulty of change is that of faculty resistance, faculty readiness or other such terms in a similar vein. It is certainly true that our educators are well training in a current system, and as 'digital immigrants' will almost certainly know less about technologies than their students.

Richard Descoings suggests that faculty should be going out and learning technology if they're merely to keep up with their students, let alone have an edge which they can use to impart knowledge. He also came up with the interesting theory that educators may lose 'credit' with their students if they talk about technology with them and show a lack of knowledge. True - but may they not also learn through these conversations?

We also need to consider the tools which are provided to educators - we've given them PowerPoint and the web and they've embraced and love them, but consider this with the amount of technology often available to the average student. Without investment in our educators, those who facilitate, manage and run the learning for our students, how can we possibly hope to get a significant ROI on those they're educating?

New Business Models

It is important to understand what is driving academics - and according to Prof. Diana Laurillard the thing that is mostly driving them right now is high quality research which brings in big money for the University. What we need is a review of the fundamental business model of a University, in order to ensure it remains sustainable and relevant.

We should leverage the fact that the multi-nationals believe they have not only a social responsibility to invest in our education system, but also that public-private sector partnerships can be strongly beneficial to both sides of the partnership. As Commissioner Figel mentioned earlier in this conference, the research benefits, professional benefits and workforce benefits of a high-quality tertiary education sector can impact all aspects of a society and an economy.