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From Online Educa Berlin (II)

07 Dec 2013

After the Online Educa dinner, it got hard to get up on Friday. Still the team got in time to the conference to hear the panel on Global Learning. It was a nice surprise to see the Ugandan ICT minister inviting all of us there to go to eLearning Africa. However, the most interesting talks came from America, eLearning Africa.

Social science was represented by Prof. Mitchell L. Stevens of Stanford University, USA. First of all, he introduced his fathers, research wise, including John Dewey. Then he introduced the concept of citizens, state and education, and how they form a unit that benefit from each other. He posed the idea that the MOOCs are disrupting the vigilant oversight of states in their citizens' education. With MOOCs, citizens become customers of private interests that currently fund MOOcs. This vision is interesting as it recognizes the power that private companies can held and the little accountability they have. As well, the contract between citizens and states is broken: states have it harder to promote "loyalty" to its citizens. However, given the emphasis put by government and supra-national institutions, read UE, on MOOCs, it seems that the agenda is in expanding their loyalties out of their borders and promote their other, read accredited, education to people in all corners.

The other great talk of the morning was given by Philipp Schmidt, of MIT's Media Lab. He presented the Learning Creative Learning offered online by MIT's Peer 2 Peer University and based on the Media Lab's 4 P's: Project, Passion, Peers, and Play. The presentation itself contained several successful activities that go beyond the classic ones and that promote Creativity instead of Consuming and Discovery against Delivery. The Marshmallow challenge was one of them. While difficult, the course seems to have managed to spark creativity and learning in a MOOC.

The Adaptive Learning session gathered a big crowd interested in the advancements and for a moment all we got was bit boring recap of the field. Luckily, Perry Samson, an extreme weather professor at University of Michigan presented what looked like just another slideshare clone. How wrong we were. His system, LectureTools, finally gives a meaning to students bringing laptops to lectures which can connect to the internet. For example, lecture notes taken using the tool are analysed real-time and used to produce a word cloud, quite appropriated for a meteorology course. As a business model, we also got to know that the product had been bought by Echo360, an active learning company.

Africa was represented in the Content for Africa session, Diane Mukami presented the amazing work done by the AMREF organization and their Kenyan partners in training thousands of working nurses. The training was tailored to the conditions and delivered in face to face courses or via distance education, including online material. Awuese Oku, from African Development Bank, introduced the need for re-defining education in Africa to spur inclusive and green economy. When pressed for concrete examples, she mentioned a few initiatives with good reputation: Open Data for Africa and, more importantly, the African Virtual University.

The conference ended with more informal meetings with old and new partners around the Marlene Bar in the Intercontinental Hotel, including Will, from Geddit, one of our partner companies in et.lakes, and who was visiting Berlin from San Francisco, Solomon, a possible future PhD student in the IMPDET program.

However, the day did not end just yet. Together with other people who have been in Joensuu or are going to Joensuu in the future, we celebrated the Finnish Independence day with a small reception at our apartment in Kreutzberg. Some Finncrisps, Fazer Chocolate and Fazer Finlandia candies took us back to Finland for a few hours.

Andrés Moreno

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