I just returned from the annual conference of the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) held in Oslo, Norway. Several thousand attendees from more than forty-five countries participated. EDEN was an exciting conference and I had the opportunity to present a closing keynote following Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra and June Breivik. The program featured many key European leaders in distance learning.
Sir Ken Robinson led the way by cautioning us to pay attention to our education systems on the premise that they “kill creativity.” Professor Sugata Mitra followed by explaining his idea of building a school in the cloud and amplifying the premise expressed through his assertion that the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they are most needed. Mitra offered new insights from his real-life experiments carried out from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy where he gave kids self-supervised access to computers connected to the web.
He is now regularly reporting results validating the importance of collaborative learning and demonstrating what young people can and will do when simply allowed the freedom of opportunity to access to new technology bolstered by positive encouragement. Oslo’s June Breivik supported all that was said and explained the growing importance of enhanced learning through “disruptive education” in Norway.
My purpose with this synthesis is to add my own summary of the conclusions of the keynote speakers, including myself, and to say how important I think the 2013 EDEN Conference has become as distance education continues to gain momentum and mature worldwide.
Professors from European Universities
The EDEN conference opened with a performance by an Oslo string orchestra comprised of young musicians who launched the theme of harmony in distance learning while playing together. During the days that followed, distance learning educators from the many countries in attendance shared ideas, developed relationships and found their collaborative way. I made many new friends from locations throughout Europe.
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Following are “Nutshell Summaries” of major themes including the importance of:
1. Keeping your eye on learning and the guiding principle that learning is even more important than teaching.
2. Recognizing that any technology device that exists is already obsolete.
3. Developing self-organizing systems to better understand learning and reaching large groups worldwide.
5. Knowing that we are dealing with a new generation of learners that are not inhibited in using technology and who come by its use naturally.
6. Realizing that worldwide distance education is increasingly successful because of the harmony and cooperation that is forming throughout Europe with the added potential of linking globally to the Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia.
7. Understanding that “Distance is dead.” While there are many national border issues to resolve, education is a vehicle that can enhance global harmony.
8. Acknowledging that population demographics are at the center of change and that “Generation C” will now lead the way.
9. Applying new knowledge to the nexus between learning, human behavior and media through increased “understanding the technology of the mind.” Discoveries in “Brain Science” are progressing apace and applications of this new knowledge to learning theories are essential.
10. Realizing that globalized massification is the enabler for large scale learning opportunities.
11. Understanding that social media on the cell phone is dominating devices and all manner of new appliances and services for audio, video and information sharing are emerging.
12. Recognizing that there is a new iteration of “E”xpressive” global internet. Beyond electronics, the new internet is actually comprised of words, thoughts and ideas. At the Conference it was clarified that what Marshall McLuhan actually said was, “The Medium is the Massage.” Think about it.
13. Fostering new global expansion in higher education and professional development, including new BA, MA, Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in media psychology, coaching and teaching in the virtual classroom.
14. Developing new and emerging global leadership through associations like EDEN that include Ireland, UK., UAE, Israel, U.S. Italy, South Africa, Russia, India, Israel and all other nations of the world.
15. Cultivating new professional opportunity for those with 21st century abilities, current understanding of how and why people behave, and a passion for open and distance learning, and
16. Sharing our vision by demonstrating open and accepting minds.
My synthesis of the EDEN conference only highlights some of the many themes. I also wish to thank some of the strategic leaders for their insights:
Key leaders that helped me refine my conclusions include:
Andras Szucs, Secretary General of EDEN.
Morten Paulsen, President of EDEN and Professor of Online Education, University of Oslo, Norway.
Steve Wheeler, Professor of Distance Education, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
Bill McNeill, Professor, The College of Estate Management, United Kingdom
Antonio Moreira Teixeira, President Electt, EDEN, Professor, Distance Education, Universidade Aberta, Portugal
Sugata Mitra, Professor, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Sir Ken Robinson, Education Consultant, United States of America
June Breivik, Professor, Norwegian Business School
EDEN website Link: http://www.eden-online.org/index.php
DR. BERNARD LUSKIN is President and Professor, Applied Psychology, Wright Graduate Institute, President-elect of The Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46 of the American Psychological Association and CEO of www.LuskinInternational.com. Luskin is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), School Psychologist and Coach with extensive education and business experience. He has served as CEO of colleges and universities as well as divisions of Fortune 500 companies. Bernie Luskin received life achievement awards for contributions in media and education from the American Psychological Association, the UCLA Doctoral Alumni Association, California State University, Los Angeles, The University of Florida, the Irish Government and European Commission. Email: Bernie@LuskinInternational.com.
Special thanks to Toni Luskin, Ph.D. and Susana Bojorquez, M.A. for their valuable assistance in preparing and posting this article.