Online Educa Berlin (#OEB13 in Twitter)


This year, and thanks to the ECTEL 2013 organization best demo award, I had the opportunity to assist and participate in the Online Educa Berlín Conference, one of the most important conferences in Europe about Educational technology that joins together researchers and business in this field. I have participated in one of the Head Talking presenting etiquetAR sessions and being interviewed by one of the journalist of the event.

Lot of interesting talks and meetings are happening here. You can have a look at the entire program to see who is participating and also the summaries that the efficient press team is providing about every day. Up to know it’s been a really interesting event where I’ve could share thoughts and ideas as well as maintained exciting conversations with enthusiastic people in the educational technology sector. I leave here some of the impressions about the first day of the conference.

The Opening: big data, education 3.0 and humanized leadership

The conference started with a plenary session chaired by Beate Wedeking in which we had the opportunity of listening to fantastic speakers such as Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, Jeff Borden VP of Instruction and Academic Strategy at Pearson, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, co-author (with Kenn Cukier) of “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think”  and Professor at Oxford University’s Internet Institute in UK
 and the Prof. Gianpiero Petriglieri.

Barroso could not assist to the conference but left a welcoming video in which he highlighted the relevant paper that educational institutions have in promoting innovation, preparing citizens to acquire digital skills (essential for employment) and in creating open and innovative teaching and learning open models for the future to promote citizens participation.

Mayer-Schönberger did a very inspiring intervention about the importance of big data in MOOCs.  Mayer-Schönberger started the presentation stressing the idea that “the big potential of MOOCs is not access, but data”. Using Duolingo as an example, the author of “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think” highlighted the importance of using data to learn about how people learn and what they learn, depending o their background, language and culture.

For Mayer-Schönberger, “an increase in quantity (in data) can translate into quality”.

And he highlighted three concepts about big data that relates with this idea:

  • More: Now, we can collect more data than ever before to understand the question that we want. The important think is to focus on the question we want to answer and select the appropriate sample of data to make sense of the world around us.
  • Messy: The second quality of big data is that it can embrace messiness and the messiness, he said, is part of humanity. Revising the data we could better understand what happens with people.
  • Correlations: We, as humans, act using causal linkages to make that we understand the world. Big data and analytics techniques could help to understand what is important to us and, although it cannot tell us anything about the “why”, correlations give us information to infer the “what”.

We are living the “datafication” of education. This “datafication” is for Mayer-Schönberger something that adds value to education since it offers several opportunities: (1) to have a better understanding about what students are doing and to provide them with a better and more personalized feedback and (2) to improve the decision making processes regarding the course as it advances.

However, Mayer-Schönberger also wanted to finish his intervention signaling some of the challenges and dangerous situations that the “datification” of education also brings into the news education scenarios:

“We have to be careful and protect from the data barons. No big companies control all the data leaving out the rest of the people”. Data is also about “Accountability and responsibility. We need humility to address the power of the bigdata in education because, as the greeks said, the data is just a shadow of reality. Humility and humanity is needed for addressing this big challenges”, was the closing sentence of Mayer-Schönberger.

Part of the message by Mayer-Schönberger reminds me one of the ideas that Cormier stressed when he came to the eMadrid event about MOOCs that we organized at the UC3M this last summer. Cormier believe that the huge potential of MOOCs relies on the participants and the data we have about them to see how they connect to each other and how they improve and advance in the course.

The third speaker was Jeff Borden. He talked about what he called “Education 3.0”, the sum of Neuroscience, Learning Psychology and Education Technology. And how all these sciences can work together to provide new innovative learning scenarios in which motivation is about autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Finally, the professor Gianpiero Petriglieri closed this session giving a talk about how technology help humanize leadership, empathizing on the idea that we are now “nomadic professionals” who work across companies and countries, seeing our work as another expressions about ourselves.

MOOCs, the trending topic of the conference           

Undoubtedly, the trending topic of the conference this year is MOOCs. Lot of talks and discussions, are happening around this disruptive phenomenon. Yesterday I assisted to the session called “MOOCs and Institutional Challenges” chaired by Seb Schmoller.

In this session we could hear Gary W. Matkin from ghe University of California, Irvine, USA
talking about “The Evolution of MOOCs: Should We Still Be Interested?”, Patricia Arnold from the Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany explaining some of their experience in with COER13, A MOOC on Open Educational Resources, the Prof. Carlos Delgado Kloos from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain talking about “Scaling E-Learning Glocally” and  Donald Clark, University for Industry, UK with his intervention “MOOCs: The Flipped University”.

Matkin highlighted what he considers the main elements of an institutional strategy about MOOCs: (1) Consistency with institutional goals, (2) Institutional exposure positioning, (3) Serves current Students, (4) Attract new students, (5) Readiness for learning revolution and (6) Opportunities for public services and research. Arnold highlighted about the nice results they got running the COER 13, stressing also the importance of the MOOCs as the natural trajectory of OERs. The Professor Carlos Delgado Kloos explained a real case study in which the Kahn Academy was used at the University to support freshmen students.

Delgado Kloos emphasized the idea that “MOOCs are only the top of the iceberg” that carries on a lot of alternatives for higher education.

Delgado Kloos also presented the idea of SPOCS (Small Private Online Courses) and of  “MOOC and SPOC interoperability” as an opportunity for higher institutions to benefit from the benefits of MOOCs to support the actual needs of higher education institutions and overcome with the production efforts they demand. Finally, Donald Clark closed the session talking about the idea of the opportunity offered by MOOCs for “flipping the university” going through the different myths about myths that are actually good opportunities.

However, different talks about this MOOCs were running at the same time in different rooms. Here you can have a look about some of the opinions that we could hear yesterday abou this “hot topic” and you can also follow them in twitter with the hashtag #OEB13.