12 Lessons from Around the WorldWebmaster
Aristotle’s Golden Mean. The Aptus. Pedagogy of care. Tu Pan Suk. Renewable assignments.
These are just some of the things that were talked about on the first day of the International Conference on Education (ICE2021), held last 20-21 September.
And what a conference it was! ICE2021 had an impressive line-up of 12 keynote speakers who deliberated extensively on the four sub-themes of the conference. Looking back, what were the major takeaways that we can all learn from these eye-opening presentations?
The 12 keynote presenters who made ICE2021 an event to remember.
While Digital Transformation for a Better Future in Education was the conference’s main theme, both Prof Dr Vassilios Makrakis of Frederick University and Dr Hanna Teräs of Tampere University of Applied Sciences advocated for strong fundamentals and an ethical approach to underlie any educational initiative.
Prof Dr Makrakis highlighted Aristotle’s Golden Mean, reminding us not to simply assume online learning as a panacea to solve educational issues. Instead, striking a balance and ultimately attaining the Mean requires educators to think about “using the right materials for the right learners, at the right time, for the right reasons, and in the right ways.”
Meanwhile, Dr Teräs said that even if many people hope that technology will revolutionise education, we must not forget about the pedagogical basics that make teaching and learning meaningful, authentic and engaging.
Nevertheless, digital innovations will still be a big part of the online learning narrative, and there is an especially meaningful opportunity in using technology to bridge gaps in education.
The Aptus is one such example that has had amazing success for that purpose. According to Prof Naveed Malik, founding Rector of the Virtual University of Pakistan and now Special Advisor at the Commonwealth of Learning, this low-cost mobile learning device, which needs neither electricity nor Internet access, has made a “Classroom Without Walls” possible for deprived learners in poor or remote areas.
Swayam, India’s national massive open online course initiative, is also gaining traction in this South Asian country. Pro Vice-Chancellor at Indira Gandhi National Open University Prof Uma Kanjilal shared that Swayam has been especially popular during the pandemic as Indian learners look for ways to continue studying even under lockdown.
In the discussion regarding distributed online assessment, Prof Patricia B Arinto from the University of the Philippines Open University shared three assessment strategies that universities can consider in the current environment, but stressed that any approach needs to minimise cheating and foster deep learning and higher order thinking.
Technology-based solutions always appear exciting, but new ideas can be difficult to execute. According to Dr Kyoung Phil Joo, the Internet-based testing system piloted at Korea National Open University this year promises to make exams more convenient and flexible, but does come with complex challenges, like server overloads, and discrepancies in individual devices and technical abilities.
In the final keynote session of the day, Dr James Brunton of Dublin City University focused on well-being in the academic circle. He emphasised the need for a human-centric approach in academia, and talked about how ‘pedagogy of care’ can make way to a more caring and empathetic approach to teaching. Radiohead fans would secretly delight in the Easter egg that was Fitter, Happier, More Productive, the title of his presentation.
The other keynote speakers were Prof Daryono SH of Universitas Terbuka, Adam Brimo of OpenLearning, Dr Dinh Tuan Long of Hanoi Open University, Prof Dr Boontip Siritarungsri, formerly of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, and OUM’s own Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Tajudin Md Ninggal. Each spoke of advancements and scenarios in their own institutions and countries.
Prof Dr Siritarungsri talked about Tu Pan Suk, a food bank initiative in Thailand that encourages people to share during these difficult times.
From designing an online learning course in Indonesia that is mindful of the need for social presence, to an artificial intelligence-based facial recognition system to curb cheating during exams in Vietnam, coping strategies in the Thai healthcare system, and emerging pandemic-related challenges in Malaysia, the audience got a special peek into what’s happening in online learning around the world.
Despite all this talk on technology, the happiness-sharing pantry concept of Tu Pan Suk in Thailand shared by Prof Dr Siritarungsri perhaps best reflects what was achieved at ICE2021. By sharing their experiences, these 12 keynote presenters have given all of us a chance to learn something new.
By Tengku Amina Munira