Massive, Open, Online, Over?

A quick write up of last month’s #EdDigEra Webinar, which brought together 6 experts to discuss the future of European MOOCs. You can view a recording at

  • Ruth Kerr, EMMA
  • Mike Sharples, FutureLearn
  • Fabian Schumann, Iversity
  • llaria Merciai, Federica
  • Edite Sarva, Mission Possible
  • Judit Llavina, Empieza Por Educar

Massive. Open. Online. European.

European MOOCs have their own distinctive character. They are democratic, social and utopian. In the US a competitive marketplace exists, whereas in Europe there is a commitment to collaboration and openness. Still, Fabian Schumann argues it is hard to encourage collaboration. MOOCs cost something to create, so collaboration needs to benefit institutions in some way, for example via an exchange of content.

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Is It Time To Stop Tinkering With School Structures?


This week I featured in The Independent newspaper’s education pages. The article by Education Editor Richard Garner drew on an idea I shared with him and asked ‘Is it time to stop tinkering with school structures and invest in teachers instead?’ I plan more articles on important themes in education today to follow soon, and an improved byline photo.

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What Works (and Doesn’t) in Education?

I had breakfast with John Hattie and Peter Hill yesterday. Along with another thirty souls. We talked about what works and what doesn’t in education. I’ve written out the best of it below.


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The Automated Teacher and Other Myths

Below is the text of an interview I carried out for the European Commission’s Open Education Challenge site. You can see that post at this link.

Do you believe in the idea of an automatic teacher?

The idea of an automatic teacher is the stuff of science fiction. If you look at the types of jobs that machines are taking over, they tend to include ‘routine manual’, ‘routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine manual’. The kinds of jobs that humans are still needed to do are the ‘non-routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine interpersonal’. For me, you could define teaching as being all about non-routine cognitive and non-routine interpersonal skills. That is what it is. Happily, in a famous recent academic paper about which jobs computers are going to take over in the next 20 years, it was predicted that teaching and its related activities are in the top 10% of jobs least likely to be automated.

how-to-best-shape-teacher-policies-10-638 (3)

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Postcard From Canada

In late February I led a delegation to Ontario to see what lessons its high performing education system could teach us,[1] and think about how to use those lessons to achieve systemic change at home.


“They’re all our children.”

Dr. Richard Lanz

Travelling through snow in temperatures as low as minus 30, we visited the school boards of Peel in suburban Toronto and  Kawartha Pine Ridge in rural Peterborough, met with representatives of the Ministry, OISE (the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education)  and NGOs such as the Martin Aboriginal Initiative. Visiting these organizations, entering schools and speaking to a number of system leaders, we were able to build a picture of the factors contributing to Ontario’s success.

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Madness and Education

Everyone in Louis Theroux’s new documentary has Anti-Social Behavioral Disorder. Happily for the US legal system, this particular psychiatric disorder (and it is held to be one by the American Psychiatric Association’s infamous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), this syndrome does not disqualify a person from being deemed competent to stand trial.


This is important. If this syndrome did count as a disqualification, then by extension every single criminal in the US would be due a place in a psychiatric facility, rather than a bunk in a prison. This throws up a Foucauldian Catch 22. Because if you’re sick enough to be medicated for a syndrome, then surely the state is admitting the involuntary nature of your condition.

The lesson here is that most prisoners should be in hospitals or schools, their crimes the result of the effects of a troubled upbringing, our belief one in the capacity for the human mind to be restored.

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Worst Practices

Nice blog from Michael Trucano outlining the 10 worst practices in education technology:

  1. Dump hardware in schools, wait for magic to happen
  2. Design for high resource environments, implement elsewhere
  3. Think about content only after you’ve rolled out the hardware
  4. Assume you can just content from somewhere else
  5. Don’t monitor, don’t evaluate
  6. Make a big bet on unproven technology or a single vendor
  7. Don’t think about total cost of ownership
  8. Assume away equity issues
  9. Don’t train your teachers (or school leaders)
  10. Fill in the blank
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New Visions for Education: Ontario, Lucknow, Boston

A First Nation reservation in Ontario. A study hall for girls in Lucknow, India. A room full of consultants in Boston. A disparate bunch, with one important thing in common: they are all showing us how to use technology to improve education today.

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

This month I’ve spent time out Europe in India, Canada and the US. And I’ve been fascinated to see new practices that are expanding educational opportunity around the world. On the way, I read this great report from the WEF on Unlocking the Potential of Technology in education. In advance of our webinar on Open Educational Practices in April, here are a few examples:

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Utopia Within Reach?

What if a school combined a deep commitment to social justice, outstanding leadership and world class professional expertise? And kids in the school were enjoying it? It sounds like utopian stuff, but believe it, because you can see it at Reach Academy Feltham.

reach academy

I brought 12 School Leaders from the Teach For All global network to visit the school this week, and they – and I – were humbled by the place. Led by Teach First Ambassadors Ed Vainker and Rebecca Cramer, and staffed by many more, the school is transforming the lives of kids in Feltham, and pushing our sense of what is possible in education in the UK. Continue reading

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How to Improve the Quality of Girls’ Education?

Girls education matters. Last Sunday marked International Womens Day, and with it a round of new commitments. The OECD reported on the gender divide, the Obamas launched a campaign to improve the schooling of girls. Meanwhile the film India’s Daughters showed people around the world why this is still a key issue.

On Teach For All’s website right now, in the Forum we’ve asked four leading global experts to respond to the question of what it will take to improve girls’ education around the world. And the entries are fantastic.

Each of the contributors will be checking in to the online discussion throughout March 9-13, so please do join us. There will also be a Twitter Chat at 2pm GMT on Friday March 13. Use #TFAllForum to join.

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