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Seal of Excellence

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After strenuous paperwork, we just received good and welcome news from the EU: Our application for Horizon 2020 has been awarded the so-called Seal Of Excellence. The seal is a new arrangement for projects that satisfy all demands needed in order to be approved. As the European Union has allocated all its funds in the project, the recognition in practice serves as a recommendation for national funding. newSchool have received assurance of funding from Innovation Norway.  

Oslo EdTech Cluster welcomes newschool

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Mihaela is where it happens: newschool is now present at Oslo EdTech Cluster. The cluster works to develop, commercialize and export Norwegian learning technologies. They work with business development, growth and internationalization of Norwegian EdTech companies, and cooperate with market participants and research environments to develop world class Norwegian EdTech companies.Oslo EdTech aims to ensure interaction and added value between member companies, R&D groups and the market, focusing on strengthening the competitiveness of the cluster members and contributing to a stronger Norwegian EdTech industry.

newschool at first Startup Extreme at Voss

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Nils Jacob and Fredrik participated in the first Startup Extreme organised at Voss in Norway this past weekend.

They enjoyed highly rewarding days with fantastic experiences while getting to know great people in rather unusual circumstances. This was certainly not the last time newSchool will participate in this event!

See this post by Robin Wauters for for more pictures and a summary.

Newschool team attends Startup Weekend Education

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A team from newschool joined the Startup Weekend Education i Bergen in April 24th-26th. It was a great experience and a Great Team we got. Unfortunately we did not win, but the whole experience was fun and learning. We came up the the product "Classboard" - a visual dashbord for teachers to plan their teaching based on student self assessment on mobile

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How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

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Although a bit outdated in its references (2008), this book its still a valid analysis of the challanges and possible approaches to fix our current education system. Clayton Christensen applies  his theory of disruptive innovation (developed for other purposes) on education.

Unless top managers actively manages the process, their organizations will shape any disruptive innovation into a sustaining innovation - one that fits the processes, values and economic model of the existing business - because organizations cannot naturally disrupt themselves.

Dissruption in the education system is a shift to individual personalized learning, where each student can progress in their own pace, instead of the "batch" approach that we apply today. This can happen by using computers in a smart way,

Sometimes I had the feeling that Clayton Christensen is to focused on "fitting" his existing theories on the new field, rather than approaching the area of education with a fresh view. On the other hand, he probably invites "business people" to take part in the education system challenges by using a familiar vocabulary and set of references.

Learning {Re}imagined

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How the connected society is transforming learning

For anyone interested in the future (and current state) of education this is a must read. Graham Brown-Martin has traveled around the world and visited schools in US, Dubai, Africa, Europe and documented stories in words and pictures. He has also had conversations with many of the thought leaders in educations, and share his own reflections. The book is beautifully designed and is a masterpiece both in content and form. This book is also a tribute to the good old paper format :-) Also check out the books website

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

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Reflections from reading "The Element" by Ken Robinson

Being in your element is when you feel the flow and nothing else is present. Finding that zone where time moves more quickly and fluidly happens mostly when you do something that you are really passionate about. Your element can be a medium of expression or a field of interest.

Sir Ken Robinson is one of the sharpest critics of our educational system. He show in this book how important, and sometimes hard it is to find our own Element. Schools should help us find our true passions - unfortunately they very often fail, sometimes without an attempt . Each one of us has a unique personality and unique way to get in the zone. Thinking in terms of categories like the Meyer Briggs 16 personalities types, prevents us from finding our  unique Element. I like his critic of the Myer-Briggs personality test; according to Robinson neither Ms. Briggs nor her daughter Ms. Myers had any qualifications in the field of psychometric testing when they designed the test, still used on millions of people every year. It limits our thinking of personalities down to categories.

The following sums up his view on our educational system:

"The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education but to personalize, to build achievement on discovering individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they naturally can discover their true passions. The key is to embrace the core principle of the element"

This book is simply great and worth a read from anyone. It was for me a start on a journey to find my own Element - I have discovered interestingly enough that I am really passionate about learning and education. If you want a teaser check out Sir Ken Robinsons TED Talk How schools kill creativity

eLearning Africa 2014

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It was exciting to attend the 9th eLearning Africa conference in Kampala, Uganda last week. My 4 key takeaways from the conference was this:

  • A lot of innovation is taking place in the Afcrican content right now. Both in terms of developing new technology and content, as well as deploying solutions in schools.
  • Content must me localized. Standardized content from US or Europe is not sufficient. The richness of African languages and culture, must be considered an asset and not a problem. For students to connect with the content, it must relate to their lives.
  • Connectivity is essetial. Internet connectivity in Uganda is poor and very expensive - although the minister of ICT Hon. Nyombi Thembo tried to argue otherwise. I guess the fact that we only had internet connection on 1 out of 50 attempts on the conference Wifi says it all. Offline solutions are required, but there is a huge job to be done with connectivity in Uganda - I think many other African countries (e.g. Kenya) are better off.
  • Technology itself does not solve any problems. Studies show that implementation of technology does not increase learning compared to taking same actions without technology. However technology has the potential to scale things, and make things more efficient - the potential lies in scaling up things that are good.

The approach of presenters and exhibitors fall roughly into 6 categories:

  1. Give more people access to internet and technology. In this category there is a span from the cool small scale operation of StudyTech who brings iPads and internet connectivity to rural schools for a day of two; to the large scale providers of platform and connectivity via satellite communication (SES from Luxenburg, Yazmi from India and YahClick from South Africa). Mark East from Microsoft also mentioned TV white spaces as an promising technology for providing the "last mile" connectivity.
  2. Digital curriculum on tablets to support teachers delivering the content. The Bridge international academies from Kenya is pretty extreme here- they script every lecture and have their teachers follow this script strictly via a Nook eReader. Their mission is to bring education to everyone and does this by setting up extremely standardized and efficient school at large scale with school fees at $6 pr month. iSchool from Zambia also provides a standardized curriculum on tablets both for supporting teachers and student consumption.
  3. Digital curriculum on tables for student consumption. iSchool as mentioned falls into this category as well. The educational authorities of South Africa has done a huge project in digitizing the books and content for their curriculum. A lot of the content looked entertaining and interactive. "We are tired of paper behind glass - we want engaging content" stated Henry Kavuma from mini try of education , South-Africa. Kenya has also made the complete P1-P7 curriculum available on a single USB dongle, and are in the process of rolling out 1.2 million laptops to the school children of Kenya
  4. Co-creation of content. Creation of digital content as part of the learning process. Dr. Eric Hamilton from Pepperdine University are working on a very interesting project focusing on content creation as a core learning process but also a way to change the traditional teacher-student relationship. Read more about the project at www.teacherscreate.org. It is also worth noting that Microsoft has launched Office Mix, which is a free plugin to office for simple creation of eLearning content.
  5. Using mobile technology to make administration and communication at schools more efficient. The Bridge academy is a very good example here as well. All payments are done using mobile Money; no cash transactions are taking place. PEAS - a network of secondary schools in Uganda and Zambia is another example of smart use of technology in school administrations. Plan Uganda has also done an interesting project using a SMS platform to improve communication between all school stakeholders
  6. Tablets and self-learning as as an alternative to schools. What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they'll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Very interesting to hear Michael Girma Mekonnen talk about the "one tablet pr child" project and the results of MIT´s research.

Other cool stuff was

Fundi Bots
whose mission is to "use robotics training in African schools to create and inspire a new generation of problem solvers, innovators and change-makers."

A cool ultra sound breast cancer detection glove contacted to a smart phone - from the 

Hive Colab Innovation Hub in Kampala

The Brick box - a last mile connectivity router.

It was a great inspiring conference