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CETIS10:Never Waste a Good Crisis

Christina Smart
Last modified 18 Nov, 2010
Published 18 Nov, 2010
Resources and Reflections from the seventh JISC CETIS conference, Never Waste a Crisis, Innovation and Technology in Institutions, held in Nottingham this week.

Here is a brief (and personal) overview of keynotes as well as links to the parallel sessions. Presentations and resources are available from the conference site.

The JISC CETIS conference has always been an unashamedly technical affair, a place where RDF, APIs and XML are discussed openly without embarrassment. This year was no exception. The theme, "Never Waste a Good Crisis" borrows a phrase used by Obama's former chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, who in 2008 suggested that a crisis often opens up opportunities for more radical policy. This conference focussed on the technological opportunities that Universities and Colleges might seize in a period of radical changes to the way in which higher education is funded.

Paul Hollins, Introduction

Paul (co-Director of CETIS) asked his virtual colleague Dr James Boring to open the conference. James explained that due to cuts he had been created to provide a low cost virtual alternative to a real member of staff. Unfortunately, a technical error meant James couldn't continue and had to hand back to Paul. Reviewing the last seven years of JISC CETIS conferences Paul focussed on some of the developments that had emerged from previous conferences such as, XCRI, SWORD and the concept of the personal learning environment. Looking to the future the recent Browne review and the government's response would shape the next few years in higher education and "something new will emerge" he said. He announced the start of the JISC Observatory, a joint UKOLN and JISC CETIS project to scan the horizon for new and emerging technology trends.


Anya Kamanetz - DIY U: The transformation of HE

In her opening keynote Anya Kamanetz, American journalist, outlined the theme of her book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Setting the scene, Anya began by reflecting on John Mayer's notion that universities are "Cathedrals of Rationality". Universities like the Church have remained largely unchanged for a 1000 years, she said. However the recent global demand for higher education means that the "old model is broken". Recent years have seen a drive towards higher participation rates in both the UK and US, she explained, but above 40% participation rates problems occur. Issues around massification, cost shifting (where governments push the costs onto students), and student loans are all at play. There is also the influence of Baumol's disease, where disciplines like the performing arts, are unable to make efficiency savings by reducing teacher to student ratios.

Anya argued that the combination of cost, access and quality made a compelling "case for radical innovation" in higher education. Shifting towards open content, socialisation and accreditation could result in that radical innovation, and Anya expanded on the benefits of Open Educational Resources, Personal Learning Networks and open accreditation approaches. Citing developments like Mozilla drumbeat's P2PU - School of Webcraft, Anya described how "professional networks can bypass the need for diplomas". She concluded with the prediction that new business models for HE would emerge, as mp3 players and digital music had transformed the business model of the music industry.

Mike Sharples - Designing Learning

Mike Sharples, Professor of Learning Sciences and Director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham closed the conference on an optomistic note looking to the potential for more open, flexible, blended, distance and personalised learning. The recent report Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology highlights the need for a "new approach to R&D in education". Mike explained how a new science of learning was emerging that combines the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, machine learning and engineering.

Moving on to technology design, Mike discussed one of the problems of traditional design, where "hill climbing", incrementally improving software, leads to missing "other peaks" or design possiblities. The new interdisciplinary design approach aims to avoid some of those pitfalls, through rapid development, prototyping and frequent evaluation.

Two examples of developments using this methodology are Group Scribbles and the SceDer system for orchestrating 1:1 classroom learning and nQuire a personal inquiry tool. nQuire is used in schools to scaffold scientific inquiry around a lifecycle of steps from outlining the problem to data capture and analysis.

Mike summed up saying that by combining the key elements for design-based learning; transformational vision, interdisciplinary approaches, design based research, openness, scalability and large scale embedding and evaluation, we would be able to exploit new opportunities for learning.

Adam Cooper - Plenary Feedback

With the tough task of feeding back on the parallel sessions, Adam (co-director of CETIS) began by asking "Why are we here?". He reiterated the need for foresight activities in times of rapid change and reflected on the conference's role in encouraging "systemic thought through discourse". Many of the ideas that emerged at the 2009 conference had been progressed through the year, he said, including the start of the "Distributed Virtual Learning Environment": programme and the establishment of a CEN special interest group on Competences.

As in previous years the rich and diverse discussions in the sessions were captured in a series of summary slides (which can be found by following the links below). I will not attempt to summarise the slides here, but for me highlights from sessions include David Kernohan's video 2010: Death of the University, Mike Ellis's Activate the World and Pat Lockley's unmissable video The Plight of Metadata.

Parallel Sessions

The Backchannel; Twitter, Blogs, and Conference feedback

The backchannel was as vibrant as ever, more on Sheila MacNeill's summary of the CETIS10 backchannel conversation

A couple of final thoughts on Twitter;

paulwalk #cetis10 conf was as good as ever - nice range of subjects covered & some positive thinking in straightened times

m1ke_ellis "In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities, but in the mind of the expert there are few". Sums up #cetis10 for me...

Anyone for CETIS11? The campaign starts now.....


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