First lessons from the Open Education Challenge

transforming education

Transforming education. © Syda Productions |

Graham Attwell makes an interesting review of the Open Education Challenge in his blog. He rightly questions the meaning of our phrase: “All projects are welcome; the only condition is that they must contribute to transforming education”.

What do we mean by transforming education? I would suggest three things:

-          Trusting enough in the individual talents of teachers, educators, researchers and students to find innovative solutions for the future of teaching and learning;

-          Thinking that innovation in education also means creating new jobs in the education sector;

-          Considering education as a global issue that transcends borders, nationalities, skills…

After just a few days of receiving submissions, we are learning a lot about the meaning of innovation in education:

-          Education is a global issue. Proposals come from Europe, Australia, South Africa, India, Kenya… when a Polish girl develops a project with a UC Berkeley graduate she met in India, they all see Europe as the place to build their projects.

-          Ambition is tremendous to:

  • (re-)construct knowledge;
  • allow students and teachers to create, exchange and use contents remotely;
  • cope with the increasing level of violence in schools;
  • develop multilingual collaborative communities;
  • create an interactive platform on literature;
  • focus and manage social and emotional skills;
  • etc.

-          Innovators are incredibly diverse:

  • a salesman with 13 years’ experience in education;
  • a team made up of a writer, a philologist and a data analyst;
  • three former engineering school students;
  • three professional women with postgraduate studies;
  • a university research group;
  • etc.

-          Market is an enabler to:

  • develop a digital platform for high schools and universities;
  • create a partnership with publishers;
  • build a marketplace for online video courses;
  • offer a free collection of logic and math problems;
  • etc.

Attwell is correct to write that calling for innovative ideas and supporting startups should not be “just another step to using technology to privatise and commercialise education”.

The Open Education Challenge seeks to demonstrate that education is a market, but a socially responsible one. The startups we will support will only succeed if they are based on true convictions and a real passion for education. Passively watching high-tech companies selling tablets to education ministries is not sustainable in the long run. Innovation should come from within the education sector and invite as many actors as possible.

Real-life innovative projects are complex. They are a combination of passion and doubts, conviction and paradox. How can education be profitable and remain absolutely free for children? This is the type of question that our mentors will address with the innovators. No answer comes to my mind at this moment as none came to the MOOC founders’ minds. But this is the richness of the process: to find new solutions.

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