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Bali: TALE 2013

TALE, the IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering, is one of three key conferences of the IEEE Education Society. This year, TALE was held at the Bali Dynasty Resort, a resort on the shores of Kuta Beach, Bali , 26-29 August 2013. Indonesia was recommended to host the TALE Conference by Prof. Michael Lightner (ex IEEE Education Society President), who had observed the way the IEEE Indonesia Section organised IEEE CYBERNETICSCOM 2012, where he was present as a keynote speaker. Despite the obtained recommendations, the Indonesian team should still needed to bid on TALE 2012 at Hong Kong.

The technical aspects of the conference were organised by the IEEE Education Society. The IEEE Indonesia Section needed only to organise the event. The operation was led by Dr. Ford Lumban Gaol as the General Chair. He is also the vice chair of the IEEE Indonesia Section. Some universities provided some supports, especially Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta. TALE was carried out in serial with the APCC.

I arrived in Bali on Monday afternoon, August 26. Ngurah Rai Airport was still in the process of intensive renovation. From the airport, we needed only 10 minuted to reach the Dynasty Resort. The first day of TALE was occupied by tutorials and workshop activities. I attended some workshop sessions, then I spent the afternoon biking along Kuta Beach, until the sunset. At night , there was a Welcome Party, with some introductions to the VIP and committees. Presented at the event were Prof. Manuel Castro (IEEE Education Society, President), Dr Alain Chesnais (ACM, Past President), Prof. Sorel Reisman (ex IEEE Computer Society President), etc. I spent a lot of time discussing with colleagues from Bangalore .


 (TALE photo session after the Opening Ceremony 2013 : All in Batik)

The opening ceremony was held on August 27 morning. Opening speeches are presented by  Dr. Ford Lumban Gaol as General Chair; Prof. Gerardus Polla (ex Rector of Binus University) who represented Binus as co-organiser; then IEEE Indonesia Section representation — yours truly. I started with the paradox that although almost all technological advances has been initiated or supported by the education, but the ICT has not been widely revolutionised the education field (compared to — for example — the field of communications , transportation, industry , etc.). ICT infrastructure for this purpose could be considered quite ready. But just to convert the education content and interaction into digital forms would be far from sufficient to achieve the expectations of creating a new way to educate more people, anyone, of any age, anywhere, in ways that remain humane and not by separating people with their natural environment. A new paradigm is required for a lifetime process of human education, with the support of pervasive ICT infrastructure. It was actually just the opening for the discussion :). Then the conference was opened by Prof. Gerard Polla with Balinese gong. Booom – booom – booom .

The keynote speeches were delivered by Prof. Manuel Castro of the IEEE Education Society, Prof. Ken Kawan Soetanto, and Prof. Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro from Binus Advisory Board. The education field is indeed interesting, encouraging, with a broad impact. Discussions on the keynote sessions were pretty hot, resembling various visions. We easily observed many pros and cons on every aspect of e-learning  digital education, and others. But those battles of the titans had made this kind of a conference so much more interesting than just reading the paper stacks 🙂 .


 (Prof. Reisman discussed with Prof. Castro and M Chesnais)

The conference continued with parallel presentation sessions. The discussions about education were still as hot as the discussion at the keynote sessions. At night, we had a Gala Dinner session to display the culture of the region: from Balinese Dance to Asia Pacific songs and music.


(Koen with Prof. Castro and Prof. Ken Soetanto)

The last day, August 29th (the same day as the opening of the APCC), Bali was still consistent with its fresh but hot weather. We closed the conference with the awarding session by Alain Chesnais. I presented the closing remarks, and then closed the conference. This time there was no gong. So I closed this extremely important international conference with a bread knife tapped on a white cup . Tinq – tinq – tinq, and TALE 2013 was closed .


(Special photo with Alain Chesnais and Alain Chesnais)

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Digital Education

Digital education, in both meaning :).

We might be easily mention the name of the most important innovation in transportation over the last 200 years. We might mention something like the combustion engine, air travel, Ford’s T-model, and others. But we might not that easily mention the single biggest innovation in education. We can read that puzzling question at MIT Technology Review. The question is a gambit used by Anant Agarwal, the computer scientist named this year to head edX, which is the MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the web, free, to anyone who wants one.

It is indeed rare to see major technological advances in how people learn. Internet, the web, and the power of data-crunching technologies should have changed dramatically the education methods. Remote classes have been arranged with video streaming with sophisticated interactive elements. Data and information on students could be processed individually or in group to make them learn more effectively. Online education is not new. In 2010, 31.3% of the US college students enrolled in at least one online course, while 700.000 students study in full-time distance learning.

Still, education is called inefficient and static with respect to technology. It is often cited as the next industry ripe for a major disruption. This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, an HBS prrofessor who coined the term disruptive technology. Disruptive innovations, he said, find success initially in market where the alternative is nothing.

In Indonesia, where education in technology is still a limited priviledge, digital learning may find its way. Besides many limitation on the technology and the experiences, we may improve the efficiency of lecturing. As Agarwal said, the same 3 person team of a professor plus assistants that teaches analog circuit design to 400 MIT students now handles ten thousand students online, and could take 1 million. That is one of the result of the massive open online course, or MOOC. One of other expected results is how the top quality education, could change the world, or at least the nation. Why not? Currently about two thirds of the people signing up for the free online college course carried our in the US, comes from overseas. Means that for good universities, the methods, the curriculum, the materials are expected to spread easily, crossing the nation borders.

But, as implied, MOOC will also be profoundly threatening to weak institutions. Sebastian Thrun, a Google researcher, predicted that within 50 years, there might be only 10 universities still “delivering” higher education. The keyword he chose, somehow implicates another concern: the commodification of education. Or, as Jason Lane and Kevin Kinser warned in Chronicle of Higher Education, McDonaldisation of college classes: the exact same stuff served everywhere.

By working harder, we may change the direction, though. When Prof Gordon Day, then elected president of the IEEE, visited Yogyakarta in 2011, he mentioned the necessity for the engineering profession to expand the activities, by synergyzing engineers from academic world and industrial worlds, and supporting more roles from professionals in developing countries. That is the point that we will do these years. By synergyzing the academic and industrial world in the region, we will support Indonesian education institutions to grow and strengthen the education methods through digital technologies, to leverage the reputation of Indonesian education institutions globally, and to intensify the research and innovation to develop a breakthrough in education technology.


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