Opening up education: is it only about technology?
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The interministerial conference that just opened in Oslo challenges our views towards the future of education systems. The conference questions the role of technology to open up education to the new challenges our societies are facing in the 21st century.
Commissioner Vassiliou introduced the discussion highlighting the symbolic coincidence surrounding this Conference that is starting when the EU is about to receive the same say and in the same city the Nobel Prize for peace. Ultimately education is about peace and freedom: freedom to learn for anyone, anywhere and any time. This is where technology can make a difference in supporting a major transformation of our education systems. This is why the European Commission is preparing a major initiative to rethink education.
The “Rethinking education” communication highlights the social urgency that surrounds the transformation of our education systems: “European education and training systems continue to fall short in providing the right skills for employability, and are not working adequately with business or employers to bring the learning experience closer to the reality of the working environment”.
In words of Commissioner Vassiliou, new technologies provide a unique opportunity to broaden equity in learning opening up education to non traditional learners, many of them on the verge of dropping out school. Innovative education should contribute to a smart, inclusive and sustainable growth pushing up entrepreneurial spirit and creative skills.
The challenge is huge: according to George Demostehnou, Minister of Education and Culture in Cyprus, technology in education should contribute to create and strengthen our democratic education and better support our young people to be prepared for the 21st century with all the skills they need to solve problems, work in teams, be innovative.
Kristin Halvorsen Minister of Education and Research in Norway insists on the promissing results that have been registered over time with the introduction of ICT in the learning process. There are many examples from very early age in kindergarten to vocational learning and higher education that support the vision of opening up education through technology. In fact young “millenial learners” are more and more so-called “mobile learners” and this mobile mindset is one of the characteristics that our education systems must adapt to.
Very often, digital skills on the teaching side are seen as a bottleneck for the transformation process.
Speakers insist on the role of the teachers and the need to strengthen their digital skills so that they can effectively confront their students that are getting used to ICT from a very early age. Nothing will be achieved without teachers. Bottom up initiatives to reinforce peer learning encouraging communities of practice should be multiplied. The role of teachers in the learning process should be reinforced. The ultimate goal is to attend students’ need and take better care of their education needs.
Technology is therefore a tool but not a goal. But in words of Mrs Halvorsen, we need more return on our investment” i.e techonology should achieve a more profound transformation of our educative systems.
In this new context, open education and open educational resources are promissing features for the future of our education systems. To create or reuse quality contents, share results and practices open up a wide range of new learning opportunities that goes beyond technology itself.
The new contents that will be created and shared should respond to a real need of the community of users: Learners and teachers. They are the ultimate owners and actors of this transformation process.