Chronicle of a biomimetic celebration

sangakoo2A circular room, dark light, dance, mimics, saxophone music, audio-visual projections and much more. You might think that this is a discotheque, but it is not. It is a top notch intellectual performance. Last March 19th we went to CCCB to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hèlix3c, the “constructory” specialized in services that generate non-conventional thinking and transformative action. On the stage stood out the presence of Pere Monràs, the founder and inspirational leader of Hèlix3c.

The celebration was organized as a continuous dialogue between Pere Monràs and some of his collaborators and friends who presented Hèlix3c origins and trajectory. The event was the practical demonstration of one of their main concepts, biomimetic, which promotes nature based innovation. In this sense, Hèlix3c was portrayed as an actor grounded on a biomimetic ecosystem, in which several projects had emerged.

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Art Schools Go MOOC, With a New Online Platform

Teaching free courses in the arts as MOOCs had bee tried before via Coursera, but it did not work out well, so its authors frustrated by limitations of the Coursera platform,  just left  it – until now.

The new virtual art school Kadenze has teamed up with 18 institutions, including Stanford and Princeton Universities, to create a digital platform designed for  arts courses. According to a company co-founder, Perry R. Cook, an emeritus professor at Princeton, the platform will be multimedia rich and allow students to create online portfolios, upload music files and scanned art, watch videos, and participate in discussion forums.

Kadenze will initially offer about 20 courses on subjects including music, art history, and technology and art. Students will enroll in courses and watch videos free, but if they want to submit assignments and receive grades and feedback, they will have to pay $7 a month. There will be courses offered for credit, for fees of $300, $600 or $900 a course.

Kadenza’s founders anticipate that Kadenze’s courses will attract a broad range of students, but that the primary interest will be from artists, performers, and those interested in going to art school.

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UNESCO launches a fundraising campaign to bring relief to Nepal


On April 25 and May 12, Nepal was hit hard by two earthquakes that brought about awful consequences to the country and its citizens. The first earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8-8.1, killed more than 8,000 people and injured other 23,000. The second one, with a magnitude of 7.3, killed 117 people and left 2,500 injured.

To help the country recover from this natural disaster and the humanitarian crisis it is sunk into, UNESCO is leading an international fundraising campaign. In addition, UNESCO is assessing the damage at the World Heritage site of Kathmandu Valley, which is composed of seven groups of monuments and buildings. The seven monuments and sites include the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu), Patan and Bhaktapur, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. To donate, go to:

In addition, UOC (Open University of Catalonia) has teamed up with the Red Cross to raise money for the cause. The donations will be devoted to alleviate the damages caused by the earthquakes in homes, schools and health centers. The goal is to raise €1,500 and you can donate here and spread the campaign on twitter with the hashtag #UOC4Nepal. The twitter campaign will start on June 22.

Technology and Higher Education: challenges and opportunities for coming years

nmcLast month the New Media Consortium (NMC) released its annual Horizon Report which identifies six key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education and six challenges hindering its adoption. The NMC is a not-for-profit organization stemming from the confluence of higher education institutions, museums and companies that centers its research activity on emerging technologies.

The report divides the trends accelerating ed tech adoption into fast, mid-range and long-range trends. Fast trends are the growing perception of online learning as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning, and the gradual emergence of new learning environments. As for mid-range trends, the report identifies the credit increasingly gained by the open education resources and the growing use of data left by students on the internet, which helps improve the educational experience. The long-range trends are the ever more positive attitude of universities towards change (especially the one driven by technology) and the boost of cooperation among higher education institutions.

The six challenges impeding ed tech adoption in higher education are divided into solvable, difficult and wicked challenges. Solvable challenges are digital literacy, a skill addressed in school that encompasses the need to blend formal and informal learning. Difficult challenges are those concerning the emergence of the myriad ways of communication and interconnection and the difficulties when it comes to personalizing learning. Finally, the competition between new and traditional models of education and the lack of rewards for teaching are labeled as wicked challenges.

All in all, some trends repeat over the years, while others disappear or change to a greater or lesser extent. Technology and Education have become two inseparable realities that affect each other. Education is undergoing a seamless reshaping process, clearly influenced by technology, while the potential of technology cannot be detached from the traditional dynamics of bricks-and-mortar higher education institutions.

The report can be found here.

X International Seminar videos now available


Videos of the X International Seminar have been published on UOC’s youtube page. The 2-day seminar led to several discussions on the challenges and opportunities of education regarding to curricula. Our speakers discussed on what is and should be taught and learnt, the role of schools and teachers in learning, the educational needs for the next century and the policy implications of the changes to be made. Also, demo presenters shared with the rest of the participants many hands-on experiences of change-triggering practices. All this you can find clicking on the links below.

Opening Session (Josep A. Planell Estany, Emma Kiselyova, Albert Sangrà)


Changing Higher Education from the Classroom Up (Cathy Davidson)

Patterns of Innovation-Transforming Early Learning and Beyond with 21st Century Skills (Helen Soulé)

The New Curriculum: Policy into Practice in Scotland (Mark Priestley)

A Curriculum for Ownership, Ubiquity and Accountability (Núria Miró)

Do Schools Conceal or Reveal Learning? (Joe Bower)

Learning {Re}Imagined: How the Connected Society is Transforming Learning (Graham Brown-Martin)


Encouraging Pre-Service Teachers to Re-Vision Mathematics: Focusing on the “Have a Go” Aspect of Numeracy (Audrey Cooke)

Sangakoo: Proven Effects of Collaborative Learning (Pere Monràs and Judit Castro)

Agilifying Learning: How Agile (SCRUM) Organization Techniques Can Enable Learner Agency, Dialogue and Democratization in Learning Within Any Curricula (Jasmina Nicolik and Karl Royle)

Interaction, Reflection and Competencial Work (Antonia Dolcet and Alba Rodoreda)

Holistic Education: the New Model’s Learning Objective (Anna Díaz and Paco Rico)

Can Learning Using the Internet in the Context of Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) Replace Traditional Vocational Education and Training? (Cathy Ellis)

Open Assessment and OERs as Enablers in Competency-Based Education (Tom Caswell)

Zero Cost Management Graduate (Ankit Khandelwal)

Conclusions and Takeaways
(Albert Sangrà)


You can visit the official X Seminar’s website here.

What are the top three things our students need to learn in order to thrive in the world we live in?

Cathy Davidson, from City University of New York and The Futures Initiative, gave the first keynote talk of our X International Seminar. During her speech she asked the participants to write down on a card the top three things students need to learn in order to thrive in the world we live in. On a blog post, she says that people came up with great insights. Among the ideas she gathered, many of them point out the need of a competency-based curriculum, which should be far more flexible and created by students and teachers rather than distant authorities.

You can find a small taste in the snapshot below, and you can read the complete list of suggestions on Cathy Davidson’s article on HASTAC’s website.


X International Seminar tweet by tweet, debate by debate

Danica Savonick, from the Futures Initiative, has created a detailed Storify page with a representative selection of the conversations and moments that took place during the Seminar. It is a good summary of the debates and the dynamics of our 2-day event, which enabled a unique opportunity to share knowledge and ideas and to learn from others’ experience. Thank you, Danica!


Highlights from Day 1 of X International Seminar

This post was written by Tom Caswell

Day 1 of the X International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in Education and Technology for Social Change was lively and thought provoking. After a warm welcome from Josep Planell, President of UOC, Emma Kiselyova, set the stage for the seminar. Her remarks were a call to action, citing parental and student concerns that the current system of higher education is not doing enough to prepare them for the world of work. She quoted Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Brenda Gourley, former Vice-Chancellor of the Open University UK, introduced Cathy Davidson, who began by stating that her passion was not for higher education but for unleashing human potential. Her message: “Stop thinking about subjects and start thinking about solving problems.”

Cathy shared historical insights into the Industrial Age origins of our system of higher education. The first two organizations to adopt letter grades were meat packers were replacing more detailed feedback in colleges the meat packer’s association rejected the idea, considering it an insult to give meats a letter grade. How sad that cuts of meat would receive more careful and nuanced evaluation than college students! Cathy also asked participants to list the top 3 changes that could be made to improve curriculum. The Wordle below gives a visual representation of the various changes suggested.

Day 1 tag cloud
Day 1 Talks Tag Cloud

One of the themes that emerged throughout the day was that of empowering students with the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing and uncertain job market. Helen Soule shared her vision of 21st century learning through collaborative project based work, emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving in authentic situations. Audrey Cook gave useful strategies for how to teach and even enjoy mathematics. She challenged us to be positive about mathematics, especially with young women.

Another important theme was the need to develop curriculum around a clear purpose. Mark Priestley shared insights he gained while developing Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. Knowledge in and of itself is not a suitable starting point for curriculum development. We must understand the context of the learning and how to adapt it and keep it relevant into the future. Jasmina Nicolik and Karl Royle presented an intriguing demo on using Agile methodologies and open spaces to boost student engagement and democratize learning. Sharing Agile skills gives students proven patterns of collaboration and project management. Agile methods are widely used in software development, although they can certainly be used outside of the computer programming space to organize collaborative work.

There was also strong local representation this year, including excellent presentations by Nuria Miró (ownership and accountability), Antonia Dolcet and Alba Rodoreda (SetMesTres), Anna Díaz and Paco Rico (Institut Broggi). There were too many great ideas shared to include in a single post, but fortunately many participants used the conference hashtag (#curriculumBCN) to capture more of the conversation via Twitter.

Revisiting the fundamentals of traditional curricula

This post was written by Tom Caswell

the wolrd needs a new curriculum
Marc Prensky’s book cover

This week UOC and the UNESCO Chair in Education and Technology for Social Change will host a 2-day seminar called Revisiting the fundamentals of traditional curricula. Education thought leaders from around the world will meet in Barcelona, where the education reform debate will focus on what has been called the most fundamental unit of educational paradigms: curriculum.

Our curriculum should reflect our vision of the world, including how we will prepare students for a future full of information, technology, personalization, and change. But much of our curriculum is still built on a one-size-fits-all, lecture-style model where all students get the same lessons at the same pace regardless of their abilities. This is one example of how curriculum design has remained unchanged for decades while so many aspects of our lives have become highly personalized. How do we address this disconnect? What kind of learning experiences and assessments will prepare students to thrive in a future we cannot ourselves fully imagine?

The following skills and abilities could be valuable in a global, information-driven economy. How do we create curriculum to address them?

  1. Learn to search, sort, and evaluate information
  2. Learn to create new things and adapt to new situations
  3. Learn to build trust, relationships, and networks
  4. Learn to focus and prioritize in an age of distraction
  5. Learn to synthesize, interpret, and validate ideas
  6. Learn to lead, follow, and collaborate
  7. Learn to share and give back (e.g. OER and Open Source)

Is our curriculum going through a gradual evolution or is it in need of something more disruptive? Join us this week for an exploration of curriculum as an agent for change. Follow the discussion using #curriculumBCN as we highlight blueprints and working examples of curriculum models that are delivering on the promise of educational transformation.

Streets win over tuition fees in Germany, for Germans and international students

The German political decision to introduce tuition fees was defeated by popular opposition. The protests-leading German Free Education Movement was born when 200 organizations, including student unions, trade unions and political parties, formed the Alliance Against Tuition Fees. Students took to the streets all over Germany in response to the seven West German states that introduced fees in 2006 and 2007.

In Hessen Students occupied their universities and in Hamburg there was a fee strike. In Bavaria, a movement that began with hundreds of students protesting in 2008, grew to several thousand protesters by 2013. Then is when public opinion changed. Protesters proposed a state referendum on higher education policy and the petition was signed by 1.35M voters and caused the state’s premier to scrap tuition fees just a few days later.

And that was not all. On October 10, Germany announced that it is extending its tuition-free college education to all students from around the world. While cost of American college education is on the rise — with undergrad fees in non-profit schools ranging from $14,300 for state universities like UCLA, and from $37,800 for private non-profit schools like Harvard to 50,000+ in other schools -, this decision puts Germany in very advantageous position to attract international talent. The UK, where tuition fees have risen by 50% under Tory’s administration, might appear as less appealing for many international students.

Read more:
Germany scraps tuition fees after mass student protests cause shift in public opinion
Germany extends free college education to all students in the US
Germany offers free college tuition to US and international student
All German universities will be free of charge when the term starts