Digitally Engaged

Innovator Alan Greenberg gets to the core of it all.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Alan Greenberg Director of Education MediaCoreA leader in education innovation, Alan Greenberg is the Director of Education at MediaCore. He has played a central role in helping educational institutions across the world embrace the digital revolution. He managed Apple Education’s Higher Education business in Europe, then Asia, between 2004-2009. In this role he project managed the launch, deployment and adoption of Apple iTunes U and ‘Beyond Campus’ initiatives throughout Europe. He also launched the iPhone University Developer Program and Apple’s mobility strategy throughout Asia. In this far-ranging interview, Alan shares some of his quick takes on innovation in education, disruption, self-directed learning, digital and mobile learning — and why some unlikely world regions may be poised to lead a digital learning revolution.

Victor: Where do you think we will see innovation within education?

MediaCore logoAlan: Extending teaching and learning beyond the classroom and lecture hall is the biggest change that the digital revolution is bringing about. According to the UK school standards agency Ofsted, half of secondary school (high school) students are being taught in mixed ability classes meaning that above average gifted children are often not being challenged and those below average aren’t receiving the extra support they require. The idea of the 20th century traditional classroom is being transformed, as digital technologies allow content to be accessed anywhere and at a pace that suits each individual learner. However, the question is how do they organise and make available content to teachers, students and parents on a broad basis? The answer lies in effective curating – technical solutions that allow content such as great teaching, learning plans, e-books to be captured, filed and shared. This is engine room that enables teaching and learning to beyond the classroom and school walls.

Victor: What segment of education do you think is set for greatest disruption?

Alan: Secondary Education, quickly followed by Primary Education; internationalisation of education.

Victor: What makes online video such an important aspect of digital learning?

CREDIT MediaCoreAlan: If the TV was the major 20th Century innovation, then online video is the TV of the 21st Century. The growth of individuals creating, uploading and viewing video on the Internet has been documented countless times. In May 2013 it reached a new high when YouTube announced that 100 hours of video were now uploaded every minute in 2013 compared with 48 hours two years earlier in 2011. For current and future learners the question of whether there is or isn’t video is immaterial. They will be creating, sharing and learning from each other. Education has the opportunity to sit at the centre of this. It can play a crucial role in supporting and facilitating this learning but it must be prepared for this to take place anywhere, anytime and on any device. 

Victor: How is self-directed learning developing?

Alan: Digital content that can be accessed 24/7 is enriching the learning ecosystem. iTunes U, YouTube Education, MITed, TedED and many more offer enormous opportunity for individuals to self direct their learning. But there is too much noise. We need a new breed of educator that can help learners to curate this huge mass of content. And that requires technical solutions, such as MediaCore, that assist educators to capture, file and organise the multiplicity of content available.

Victor: What are the priorities for universities?

Alan: Engaging with their alumni, Life long learning, bringing alumni mentoring back to empower the current generation of students, leveraging IP, and monetisation.

Victor: Is going digital a great way to enable learners to take control of their learning? What do you think that means for schools? How do they need to adapt and change?

Alan: Digital engagement is the paradigm shift. Teachers will tell you that standing in front of an audience of 30 students is not the most efficient way to teach. Equally a university lecturer will tell you that standing in front of 150 students in a lecture hall is equally inefficient. That’s not going to change anytime soon but digital adds extraordinary value and can transform teaching and learning. Digital provides 1:1 Learning, delivered 1:many, with each student progressing at his or her own pace. It reshapes where learning takes place and enriches the experience.

Victor: How do you see digital mobile learning developing in the next decade?

CREDIT MediaCore image2Alan: If you limit how teachers teach and how students learn, by time, by location, by technology, you will fail. Truly platform agnostic, tools that sit in almost everybody’s pocket, and seamless intuitive delivery are the key deliverables. This is what MediaCore does elegantly. Teachers are not interested in technology; they are interested in what you can do with it.

Victor: Which country or region do you think will experience the greatest degree of change in the use of digital learning?

Alan Greenberg: The emerging markets, China, India and South America react in hours and days to innovative technology. Whereas established markets such as UK, USA, Europe are far more process driven and risk averse, and can subsequently take months, even years to adopt innovation often leaving them behind the curve, whereas they could and should be driving innovation in teaching and learning.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education in general these days? What makes you say that? 

Alan: Not sure I am qualified to talk about my thoughts on education as I‘m not a trained educator. Nevertheless, as an observer, I believe there are two key strands to digital education engagement:

Curation. Getting rid of the clutter and reducing the ‘noise’ for users is essential. It’s about helping users to disseminate content that is relevant and accessible. This is the sandbox that MediaCore plays in.

Assessment. This is the greatest challenge, rather than leveraging legacy systems and methodology, it’s about finding the most engaging and pragmatic solution to this dilemma. It is not “badging” although that has some merit, particularly in the emerging markets. For me, it’s about Adaptive Learning -I am a major fan.

Victor: Anything else you’d like to add or emphasise about technology transforming or enhancing education? 

Alan: You cannot sell technology to institutions; there are too many examples of investment in technology with low ROI for the institutions. You can, however, empower teachers, provide solutions that enhance teaching and learning, develop highly intuitive technology platforms that are not intimidating to use, can be picked-up and used in minutes, fit for purpose, and highly scalable. That’s how we at MediaCore differentiate ourselves from our competitors. That’s why many of our customers are transitioning themselves from less intuitive environments. They want to use tools with confidence that they can share with students and that can increase their engagement.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Are you an edtech leader, trendsetter, or the creator of a cool edtech tool? The 2014 EdTech Digest Awards extended entry period runs until October 18, 2013. There is still time to enter. For full details, write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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One Response to Digitally Engaged

  1. Pouneh Lechner says:

    Great interview. Throwing technology at students without an implementation plan and the ‘curation’ process is no more effective then just giving random books to students and expecting results.

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