30 years of serving and supporting education – shaping education for a post Covid era

This year we are celebrating 30 years of EDEN! It is a great anniversary, since for the last 30 years, we have been active stakeholders and contributors to the modernisation of education. I hope we will continue to do so for many years to come, since the EDEN community is very strong and active. We are still moving forward, there is still much to do, but in EDEN we are happy to provide a platform for collaboration, sharing and networking, and also be drivers of high quality education in years to come. Already in 2016, Antonio Teixera, then EDEN president, said on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of EDEN (Three decades of serving modernisation in education | EDEN (eden-online.org): “I believe EDEN is well prepared to support our community in exploring the emerging opportunities. Most surely, the best of EDEN is yet to come”. Well, I’m certain that at the time, he could not have predicted the present situation, and I agree with him, EDEN is well prepared to continue supporting the community in exploring the emerging opportunities and to be a co-creator in shaping the future of education.

These days we are still navigating our way through the pandemic that has changed the world, how we live, work, and learn. It is still very much ongoing, there is a vaccine but its roll out is progressing very slowly and unevenly. This process is far from easy, after such a long time we understandably feel tired, restless and even anxious. Our freedom has been restricted as well and we experience great turmoil in our lives. In such moments, the strength of the EDEN community and our friends and colleagues can help to keep us going. The ability to get together with others, albeit online, to feel that we belong, to share and to hear that others are facing similar challenges and dilemmas. If we think of the topic that has marked this year, it is certainly mental health. While this situation has affected all of us, maybe the most vulnerable group here are children and students. The current situation shows that a number of children and young people are experiencing significant issues with mental health. This is a topic that has been hidden and ignored for many years and has finally come to light now, and we have to seize this opportunity to deal with it and find good solutions, and more importantly, provide accessible and quality support to all those who need it. And as Daniel Ulf Ehlers says in a blog post “In order to be able to optimize teaching and learning to the extent that it can be successful and effective in this particular current situation and beyond it, one must first and foremost speak with those who are directly affected by it – students”. In this context, EDEN as a community can help significantly here, by educating and supporting each other.

In my previous blog post, I said it was time to reflect and see what we did well and what we can do better. This period is tough and challenging but at the same time, we have encountered numerous opportunities and situations that have opened new horizons and given rise to new experiences. We need new foresight and a visionary spirit to recognize what we have learned and what should be done. Therefore, this year’s Annual Conference is titled “Lessons from a pandemic for the future of education” and call is open. We are waiting for your contributions!

At the conference we will focus on, amongst other things, what have we learned, what we did well, what should be done better, what we want education to look like, and what actions need to be taken from now onwards. Besides the disruption, the pandemic has also highlighted a number of interesting and thought-provoking topics such as how online education can work as well as its face-to-face equivalent; why teachers really need new skills to be able to teach in new way; how using exam systems in online environments can be a fragile process; whether we are ready to abandon the assessment of content and start assessing skills and student development; and so on. The experience has challenged our understanding and made us aware that we need to relearn some things and do them differently. I would say that the pandemic has made us more open to new types of thinking. By now we have become aware that things will not simply go back to the ‘old normal’ and that we are still very much in the time of a pandemic wishing to reach the post Covid ‘new normal’ era as soon as possible!

One of the first activities this year was EDEN’s contribution to Open Education Week 2021, the global movement on open education. EDEN has participated in this week for the fifth year in the row and it was great success.

EDEN Open Education Week 2021: session titled Role of the openness in shaping of the post-pandemic education (Role of international associations)

More than 1000 participants and 37 speakers and moderators joined in six EDEN webinars. I would like to highlight here the session with eight prominent global associations / organizations working on open education. The joint messages from this session is that we support openness in education, research and in life as it is a culture that will enable us all to equally participate in life we were given. Now, more than ever it is evident that openness in education is needed yet still small steps in adoption are taken, while awareness is raising. I hope that this will result in the end with significant steps towards the OER and OEP popularisation.

In the end let me announce to you the spring series of webinars #onlinenetogether that will start in April. More information soon.

I will leave you with the quote by J. A. Shedd „A Ship in Harbour Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For.”

I think this quote present the issue of education now. Therefore, we need to step out of the safe zone, not to think how to get back to normal but to dare to take these changes permanently, to adapt the education environment and shape it in a way we want and need at this moment and in future.