Norway’s education minister Kristin Halvorsen opened up the conference by stressing the promise and potential of technology in education. She ticked nearly all the boxes the EDEN delegates are concerned with; the advantages of openness in education (OER and open access), the potential of MOOCs, the flipped classroom and the need for professional development for teachers. These signals from government level are vital if we are going to change our education system. After so many years of grassroots development it is essential that this energy is complemented by some top-down commitment and of course funding. The example of student-driven initiatives to change schools showcased by Anna Kirah in her keynote was a fine example of the need to link grassroots creativity with some encouragement from above.
The role of technology in education has finally made the front pages and landed on the agendas of educational decision makers and I think we have to thank MOOCs for this. Whatever you think about MOOCs they have succeeded in putting e-learning on to the mainstream agenda. The reason is not so much the MOOC concept as such which has been around for several years but the fact that the world's most high status universities are leading the way. Reputation matters and gets you noticed.
Alan Tait developed these ideas in one of the afternoon sessions by examining the battle of ideas currently raging within education. There is a tension between radically different views of education; between private or public, open or exclusive, commodity or tax-supported, market forces or basic human right. Even if we seem to be opening up education there are strong commercial forces that see this openness as simply a way of repackaging the traditional model. Quality in education has so far been linked to exclusiveness but that notion is now under threat. However the move from seeing higher education as an exclusive activity for the chosen few to an open mass market has taken with it too many of the ideas from the exclusive elite form. You still have to adapt to the university and its demands rather than vice versa.