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All united to open up education

The current education system, at world level, is under debate. In particular, the teaching methods, the contents, the tools used and the role of teachers/professors and students are some of the topics that are being analyzed. For years, ICTs have proven successful in transforming sectors such as Healthcare and Finance, and they will also have a transformative role in Education in the coming years.[1]

Aware of the potential of ICTs to improve education, governments, academia, the private sector and other organizations are creating initiatives and partnerships to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities.

In September 2013, the European Commission launched the “Opening Up Education” initiative, which aims to increase the use of digital technologies for learning and teaching through the development of Open Educational Resources and policies across the European Union. “Opening Up Education” focuses on three main areas:

  • Creating opportunities for organizations, teachers and learners to innovate;
  • Increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER), ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding are available to all; and
  • Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.

With regards to academia, some US universities have been transforming the way they give courses through the use of digital technology since the beginning of 2012. Specifically, top US universities such as Harvard, M.I.T. and University of California have been partnering with other world top universities to give a more interactive variant of online courses called Massive Open Online Course – MOOC[2]. These courses, which are available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time, depend on highly sophisticated digital technology. However, MOCCs are very simple to use and professors involved believe that they mark the beginning of the change of higher education by the internet. These courses differ from traditional education not only in the technology they use or the amount of people they reach but also in that “they are there to help you learn, not to evaluate your intelligence”.

 

In Telefónica we are improving the quality of education by implementing quality pedagogical models, promoting collaborative networking efforts, training teachers, and connecting teachers and students from different countries to foster the exchange of educational and intercultural value.  We also boost innovative education through awards, such as the “Telefónica Foundation Award of Innovative Education”, whose main aim is to boost an actual change of methodology in the classrooms through the acknowledgement of teachers that work with ICTs in an innovative way, and congresses such as the “EducaRed International Congress”, which provides a space for debate on subjects concerning Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and education.

Telefónica also has several programmes that contribute to the innovation of education, such as Think Big School – we have committed to teach digital literacy to 50,000 students through our Think Big Schools programme -, Telefónica Learning Services, Fundación Telefónica Classrooms and Fundación Telefónica Labs among others.

Last but not least, different organizations are creating joint ventures and partnerships to make online education more inclusive through the use of technology. For example, last year, Telefónica Learning Services, CSEV (the Spanish Higher Center for Virtual Education), UNED (The National Distance Education University) and Banco Santander signed a collective agreement with the M.I.T. to develop a social web environment to create and spread learning resources and dynamics on the MIT App Inventor tool in Spain and Latin America. MIT App Inventor is an application that allows to anyone, even to people which are not familiar with programming, to create applications for smartphones with Android operative system through a visual interface. The objective of this agreement is to jointly promote an open educational offer on two main pillars: technology and entrepreneurship.

Let’s work all together to make real the dream of the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes: “To have every classroom digital by 2020”!

[1] A Digital Manifesto_An Open and Safe Internet experience for all

[2] Redefining education on the Web, The Global Edition of the New York Times, page 19.

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Chema Alonso

Chief Data Officer, Telefonica.