Online Educa Berlin 2014 in review

Although not a huge fan of mega-conferences and trade shows, I have to admit that this year’s Online Educa Berlin was a refreshing change of pace.

Yes, there was a lot of the same, old same-old: the same large platform providers, the special tools developers, and a fairly wide range of public bodies all pushing the traditional theme of « more (technology) is better ». On the other hand, there were a number of presenters who were willing to take a more future-oriented approach and ask critical questions about just what we’re doing with all this technology.

No one was saying, « It hasn’t proved its worth, let’s get rid of it. » What could be heard, though, were questions such as « Are we using what we have effectively? » « Have we been missing something in our rush toward technological solutions? » « Is the purely technological answer always the best answer? » and the answer is simply « no ».

There are serious and important changes going on all about us. While some would maintain that the actual technologies are changing, it seems more to me that they are primarily getting faster and more detailed. It’s easy to lose sight of the forest for all the trees. And while there has long been talk in educational technology circles that the learner is king, it was just this year that we started hearing — from some, not from everyone — just what that means. A few examples:

  1. In his opening keynote, Howard Rheingold not only differentiated between technologies and purposes (e.g., blogs for the individual voice; forums for a group voice; wikis for collaborative production) he went on to show how mind-mapping and other techniques are also available for collaborative work. Learning from one another; treating students as « co-learners » and his notion of « peeragogy » are having dramatic impacts on education in general.
  2. Mark Stevenson gave us a very entertaining talking-to. He correctly noted that we tend to see too many things too narrowly: we don’t have an energy crisis, we have an energy-conversion crisis; that learning is not a place, its a natural state of mind and goes on whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not. The shift occurring across the digital world in shifting power to the masses, but he questions whether we’re up to the challenge. Most importantly, he pointed out that humanity is by its very nature co-inspirational, and if we don’t soon understand what that means, we could be in for potentially disastrous consequences.
  3. This theme was picked up on and further developed by Stephen Downes, a long-time worker in the field. He broke it down into practical terms: being producers as well as receivers of knowledge and products, we need to reclaim our personal power. While the technological product-providers like to stress how their tools can personalize things, it is actually more important to recognize what is personal and allow the person to decide what’s to be done with his or her own contributions. We’ve turned the learning model on its head.
  4. That we tend to get things backward was also the point of Ola Rosling‘s plea for developing a fact-based view of the world. While we think things are getting worse, the data shows us that in general things are improving; we think sharks are killers but they kill so few people that it’s almost not worth mentioning. In other words, we tend to generalize where it is not applicable (from one’s own personal experience to the world at large) and exaggerate what we fear. His entertaining, practical portrayal of the Ignorance Project brought the message home.
  5. Jef Staes, finally, made a passionate plea for all of us to find our passion and talents and use those to steer our own learning lives. If we’re teachers, it’s our existential obligation to awaken our students’ passions and talents as well. Our current social, educational and economic structures serve primarily to drive our passion, talent, and creativity out of us, making us more manageable for those in charge. To his mind, this is why too much education and corporate training is simple ineffective. It’s time for us to take our fates into our own hands, exercise our own power and do what we each do best, because it is the right thing to do and it ultimately benefits everybody.

These are only four of the dozen or so talks and presentations I was able to attend, but there was a lot of challenge in each of these. Making things meaningful, not just technologically snazzy, is our current big challenge. Are we up to it?

« Jobs for Europe: Sectors with high job-creation potential »

The Commission held a major conference on employment policy, under the title « Jobs for Europe« , on 6-7 September 2012.

 »Jobs for Europe: The Employment Policy Conference – Sectors with high job-creation potential » is the summary report of that conference, within which, the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as determinants of competitiveness is outlined. 

According to the report, ICT is a sector where the lack of skilled workforce (the « ICT skills gap ») is the most acute. Therefore, acquiring, developing and maintaining ICT skills is vital in becoming and remaining employable. 

Moreover, it is one of the sectors of Europe’s economy that has been expanding even during the economic crisis: the number of ICT practitiones has been growing at around 3% a year. If currents trends continue, by 2015 there will be 700,000 unfilled vacancies in the EU for ICT practitiones.

EU : ICT is one of the 3 areas with the biggest job potential in the future

« Job creation must become a real European priority » said László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. While unemployment is hitting records across the 27 EU member states, European Commission presents a set of measures to boost jobs. It also identifies ICT as one of the 3 areas with the biggest job potential in the future. « All together, the green economy, the health and new technology sectors will create more than 20 millions of jobs in the years to come. Member States need to seize these opportunities, mobilize existing resources and stimulate their labour market in close cooperation with the social partners. » said Barroso. In pratical terms, members states are encourage hiring by reducing taxes on labour or supporting business start-ups more. The employment package aims to create a genuine EU labour market to restore growth and to face major structural changes and includes proposals such as :
– Exploit the big job potential areas for the future such as the green economy where 20 million jobs could be created between now and 2020 and to include green employment into their’ National Job Plans, strengthening green skills intelligence
– Support an increase in highly qualified ICT labour and promote digital skills across the workforce.
– To improve the matching of jobs with job-seekers, the package proposes to transform the EURES job seeker portal into a true European placement and recruitment tool and foresees (as of 2013) innovative online self-service applications to provide users instantly with a clear geographical mapping of European job offers.

Sustainability Systems Developer – one of the ten green jobs for the next decade

Massive investments in clean energy promise to keep farmers, urban planners, and green-tech entrepreneurs in business for the next decade. The profile of Sustainability Systems Developer has been listed together with other 9 non IT profiles as one of the ten best green jobs for the next decade!
The green economy needs a cadre of specialized software developers and engineers who design, build, and maintain the networks, as well as developers familiar with open source and web 2.0 applications.

More information

Top 60 Jobs That Will Rock the Future

We know where the jobs are now… but where will they be ten years from now? Twenty? Some job descriptions will always be in need (most secure jobs of the future), but many others are evolving to fit the ever-changing course of technology and science. When the future of employment comes, will you be ready? Read on for some ideas of what to expect:


1.Medical Roboticist

New technology is doing amazing things for medical patients these days, especially in the world of robotics. We aren’t quite at a Six-Million Dollar Man level yet – but we’re getting awfully close. From physical therapy exoskeletons to new and improved forms of prosthetic attachments, science-minded individuals will be needed to help develop medical technology that is better, stronger, and faster than it ever was before.

2.Genetic Counselor

As genetics continues to be fine-tuned, doctors will be able to run tests to predict all manner of markers and conditions. Genetic counselors have the job of helping families make decisions about their future children in regards to available genetic technologies. At the present, according to MSNBC, « about 2,000 counselors are recognized by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. » As technology improves and becomes more widespread, expect the need for counselors to grow right along with it.
to see the 58 missing….: