"Creative, responsible and self-reliant entrepreneurs can create a better world"

Dr. Sandra Schön discusses the transformative role of open educational resources, questioning techniques, and makerspaces in shaping future education to cultivate creative, responsible entrepreneurs.

What formats and resources are crucial for future learning? And how do we answer to the growing need for world-changing innovation? Dr. Sandra Schön M.A. is a researcher and trainer at Salzburg Research in the fields of open education and learning innovation. We talked to her about the future of education and why she would love to see a “school of makers”.

Sandra, thank you very much for sharing your insights with us! What 3 words, do you think, are crucial to future learning?

To deal with digitization in school and training, I see a big demand for “open educational resources”. And they are so much more than 3 words!

Open educational resources, in short OER, are the only way to cope with copyright restrictions in daily teaching. They are fundamental to sharing, adapting and updating learning materials. OER further have the potential to support open educational practices and to re-invent pedagogical settings – for example, when pupils or students revise their textbooks. But of course, I might also mention the 3 words “online learning competencies” at this point.

Sandra Schön studied educational science, psychology and computer science in Munich. She worked as a private trainer and researcher before joining Salzburg Research in 2006. Sandra’s research interest lies in learning with new technologies, new co-operative learning settings, open educational resources and innovative approaches to didactics.

The significance of asking questions

You are working in innovation management and you’re a researcher and trainer in the field of education. When it comes to learning success, what experiences did you make with Question & Answer processes?

Questions are important incentives both for learning and innovation development. Questions can activate prior knowledge and force you to try something that was only explained to you before. Of course, I can repeat “2 plus 2 is 4”. But if I want to activate the learner, I should ask: “What is 2 plus 2?”

Questions can also trigger reflection. Successful innovation development builds upon questions. Say, we ask: “Can we do that the other way around as well?” or “Who should buy that?” I see a next step in learning success once learners are able to formulate questions upon the materials themselves.

Playfulness and problem-solving are closely intertwined – something future education might build upon more strongly.

In one of your projects, you worked out implementations for the language learning platform busuu.com. How could cooperative learning and student motivation continue to be improved in your opinion?

Peer learning at platforms (such as busuu) builds upon the concept that everybody is experienced in at least one (native) language and can support others. And because there are millions of users, a peer tutor is always online and available for a chat.

These platforms really transform language learning and organization, though on a basic level. I love this innovative concept of peer learning, but it is not cooperative learning.

I see. How would you define cooperative learning?

Real cooperative learning is learning together and working on a shared topic. Cooperative learning needs collaborative tasks (and not, for example, a sum of tasks divided among group members). A way to improve cooperative learning these days are collaborative tools – for example Google Drive.

Makerspaces: the innovation labs of the future

Are there any new formats you’re anticipating or hoping for that will support learning success in the future?

As you have already mentioned, I work in the fields of innovation development as well as learning with technologies. One trend in particular gets a lot of attention at the moment – in both branches: Innovation spaces with digital tool support, so-called makerspaces or fablabs (fabrication laboratories). These spaces and rooms for digital do-it-yourself tend to be a trending buzz. But I also see them as a promising development for learning and innovation. Creativity and innovation need space, tools and time. And by offering just that, fablabs and maker education have the potential to re-invent learning, too.

Maker-spaces: room for exploration and innovation in all forms.

Where do you see schools and educational institutions in the future?

Schools as well as educational systems are not known as innovative institutions. Nevertheless, I try my best to push some changes!

What I would love to see is a broader implementation of maker education in schools. I’m thinking more room for project work and more openness to digital learning. A school of makers! I would love to co-develop such a concept.

And to be clear: Well-educated digital experts are just a side-effect of education changing. In my opinion, what we should strive for are creative, responsible and self-effaceable entrepreneurs, who can create a better world.

Sandra, thank you so much for your time and thoughts!