Analysis, criticisms and solutions: OEB 2014 keynote highlights

The plenary sessions from ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014 gave us a glimpse into the future, questioned how we are changing learning to meet new demands, and gave a frank assessment of the education sector as it stands today.


Providing varied and upfront insights; see what industry experts had to say in our roundup of memorable keynote quotes. 


Chaired by Special Advisor to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Aida Opoku-Mensah, the opening plenary brought three experts from diverse fields to the stage. Under the overall theme of “changing learning”, the speakers addressed topics ranging from co-learning, ‘peerogogy’, big data and learning sciences, as well as taking a look into an uncertain future through the eyes of a futurologist.


Dr Opoku-Mensah highlighted the role that ICT-enhanced learning will play in the expansion of access to education globally, calling on the audience to look for transformative “options, opportunities and potential” in their industry, and noted that the worldwide e-learning market will grow to $51.5 billion by 2016, with an annual growth rate of 7.9%.


Dr Howard Rheingold, Critic, Educator, Expert in ‘Virtual Communities’


Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold


“The idea is trying to create a conversation that is greater than the sum of its parts”

“For teachers it’s very scary to admit that you are learning, to admit there are things that you don’t know, but it is very empowering to open up that dialogue with students.”

“I think it’s important not just to know your way around [the Internet] but also how to control the methods of publication. The web is not just Facebook; it’s not just what corporates give us. It’s important for students to take their content into their own hands.”




Lisa Lewin, Managing Director, Technology Products (HE), Pearson


Lisa Lewin

Lisa Lewin

“The big news story of higher education in the 20th century was really one of access … Now we are onto a revolution in technology.”


“I would argue that we are at the end of the first s-curve of edtech … There continues to be innovation, but … the gains have become somewhat incremental, not the dramatic lift in learning outcomes that I think we can achieve.”


“We know the impact of sleep deprivation, diet, stress and frustration. If we can apply more of what we know now, we can make ‘brain-informed’ teaching and learning strategies.”



Mark Stevenson, Ideas Generator, Author and Futurologist


OEB Opening Plenary

Mark Stevenson

“I call it institutional bewilderment: where organisations look at new technologies and new ways of thinking, and have absolutely no idea what to do with them.”


“This is what’s happening: technology does something that we previously thought was impossible, moves into the real world, changes the way we think, and can totally destroy business models. And this is going to happen in your industry as well.”


“If you try to recreate a school or a corporate learning environment or a lecture hall, then you’re just reinforcing the old, and we can’t have that.”



Friday morning brought a chance to take stock: if much of the opening day had been devoted to the future of learning, this plenary shifted focus very much to the present, with three speakers from the cutting edge of the ed-tech world sharing their diagnoses, criticisms, positives and solutions. Together, they offered a fascinating insight into the current state-of-the-art of education and innovation.



Stephen Downes, Senior Researcher, National Research Council (NRC)



Stephen Downes

“Educators and education technology companies will have to come to grips with the fact that they no longer own students or students’ work.”


“You can have all of the data in the world but if you’re answering the wrong questions, it doesn’t matter.”


“It’s not just about reclaiming learning, it’s about reclaiming personal learning.”


“We need to think of ‘ed-net neutrality’, the idea that access to services, goods, resources and people in the educational network should not be determined by the provider, whoever that provider is.”


“The kind of learning we get depends of the technology choices we make. We collectively need to decide whether our personal information is a thing to be commoditised or a thing we own ourselves.”



Dan Peters, Senior Solutions Engineer, Blackboard.


Dan Peters

Dan Peters

“I think selfies are empowering … in many parts of the world selfies take an important role in social protest.”


“Selfies are the coming together of trends in mobile, internet and social networks that already affect us greatly.”


“The impact in efficiencies of consumer technology is really one of the most striking things to have happened in the last few years.”


“In many institutions when overhead projectors were replaced with multimedia projects, and transparencies became PowerPoints … nothing else changed. We should not use new technology to teach the same old ways.”


“Selfies are a symptom of the desire to produce rather than consume. We already have the methods and technology to ride these trends to greatly improve education. We just need to involve students in that process more proactively.”






Ola Rosling, CEO, Gapminder Foundation.


Ola Rosling

Ola Rosling

“We need to remove bad knowledge.”


“Chimpanzees beat us on general knowledge because we generalise knowledge.”


“There are some things that we know that we need to unlearn.”


“Why is there so much ignorance?  Who is guilty? Highly educated people in Europe and the US always blame the media … I don’t blame the media because I would never expect the media to give a fact-based world-view … it’s not their job.”


“We have intuition that makes us jump to conclusions too fast. What’s the solution? Education.”


“Fact-based world-views are based on data, but are still views.”


“We need to teach students how their intuition fools them. That has to be a core required element of education. It will protect students from so many things if they learn to rationalise.”


Read the full summary of the second Friday plenary ‘Less Talk, More Action! Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs Today’ here.


WATCH: Interviews with Lisa Lewin and Dan Peters at OEB 2014


LisaLewin video















Dan Peters video

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