Anka Mulder


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Posts in category ICT in Education

Every child should learn how to code

A few weeks ago one of our lecturers, Felienne Hermans, started a MOOC on programming for children age 8 and older. The MOOC is based on Scratch. It is TU Delft’s first MOOC in Dutch and also the first for this age group. 2.500 Dutch children have enrolled, even though it is the end of their school year and the start of their holidays!

Screenshot of one of the MOOC videos

Screenshot of a video of Felienne

Our MOOC is not not the only initiative to help children to learn how to code.  Apple, for example, offers Swift Playgrounds online, Google teaches children to programme with ‘Bloks’ and there any many other examples. That makes sense, because programming is an important skill for the future. “Jong geleerd, oud gedaan” (something learned at an early age will be easy when one is older), as the Dutch proverb goes.

President Barack Obama, Apple CEO Tim Cook and former European Commisioner Nellie Kroes all said that they believe children have to learn how to programme. Mitch Resnick agrees and in his Ted Talk in 2012 he explains why. Children nowadays are very experienced in interacting with, but less so in expressing themselves with new technologies. It is almost as if they can read, but not write with new technologies.

There are other reasons why knowing how to code is important. Programming is a perfect exercise in logical thinking and problem solving. It also enables you to stay in control of the digital world around you, for example of your privacy. And there are economic reasons. The OECD says that in 2020 digital skills are needed in almost every profession. The World Economic Forum stated that 10 years from now 90% of the world population will be connected to the internet. Our society is rapidly becoming more digitalised. We do our tax forms online, download music and movies, book a table in a restaurant online, learn new things via MOOCs, we chat and Skype. In short, already today digitisation and the Internet have a major impact on our daily lives and that impact will increase exponentially in the future with ‘the internet of things’. Just think of the effect the mobile phone and smart phone have had in the last 10 years. That means that there is a bright future for programmers or anyone who knows how to do it.


Interestingly, coding is not a standard part of the programme of our own students at TU Delft. So many of our TU Delft students may leave university without knowing how to programme. The same is true for students at many other universities, I am sure. I think we should change that and make programming part of the curriculum of every student, certainly at TU Delft. Just like mathematics and physics, programming is a common language for every engineer, a skill they should all have.

Who knows, 10 years from now all these 8+ year old MOOC kids Felienne taught will enter TU Delft. Wouldn’t it be great if our current students can match their programming skills?

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The Year of Education

[Photo credit CC-BY: ]

[Photo credit CC-BY: ]

At the opening of the academic year on August 31st I declared this academic year the year of education. That may seem odd: universities are about education anyway, aren’t they? But the point is that they are about research too and at research intensive universities it is hard to strike the right balance between education and research.

Research defines the career of  academic staff, not only at our university, but internationally. Global university rankings are dominated by research and hardly take education into account. At the same time, students worldwide aks for good education. That requires a better balance than we have a present. Additionally, many of our academic staff wonder how their contribution to education can be evaluated the same way as their research accomplishments.

This is not only a Dutch issue.  For example, it is also a discussion in the UK, where universities and government talk about the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework. The Guardian on 7 July states: “The proposed Tef (Teaching Excellence Framework) is often characterised as a Ref (Research Excellence Framework) for teaching. It’s a description that reminds us how much less attention university teaching has received than its showier sibling, university research.”

What will we do at TU Delft? This year we will make some significant investments -not only financial- in education:

  • We will invest an extra 6 million euro per year in education, most of that is meant to recruit more academic staff
  • We will start building our new education centre, PULSE
  • We intend to set up education fellowships and an Institute for Academic Development, where our teaching staff can share ideas. This will be a place for excellence and innovation in higher education, led by one of our TU Delft professors
  • We will introduce the TU Delft Education Day
  • And we will improve the balance between research and education in our career policies. For example, we are working on the creation of education fellowships and a special Anthony van Leeuwenhoek Professor position.

Our university wants to excel at both research and education. So we realise that for now that requires taking additional steps to improve the position of education, not as the sad sibling of research, but as its equal.

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D66 wil vaart achter digitalisering Onderwijs

De afgelopen week heb ik deelgenomen aan de SURF bestuursreis van een aantal bestuurders van Nederlandse Hogescholen en universiteiten naar de VS. Naast het Amerikaanse ministerie van Onderwijs bezochten we universiteiten als Harvard, Columbia, New York State, Tufts en MIT. Het Amerikaanse hoger onderwijs investeert enorm in online onderwijs en ontwikkelingen gaan razend snel. Een paar feiten:

  • Harvard investeerde $30 miljoen in edX, daarnaast in haar eigen online onderwijs en heeft een ondersteunend bureau van 150 mensen
  • Coursera heeft nu 5,25 miljoen studenten die een MOOC volgen
  • edX heeft een contract gesloten met de Wereldbank en met Google. Met Google hoopt ze haar onderwijs nog beter toegankelijk te maken.

Het is daarom goed om te zien dat D66 afgelopen maandag de notitie “ICT in het Onderwijs” heeft gepresenteerd en dat de politieke aandacht voor deze veranderingen in het hoger onderwijs groeit.

De D66 notitie
Volgens hun notitie biedt ICT vele nieuwe kansen. De verwachtingen zijn soms te hooggespannen, maar je kunt deze nieuwe ontwikkelingen echter niet meer negeren als instelling: het internet zal het onderwijs gaan veranderen, net zoals dat in andere sectoren is gebeurd.

D66 heeft ook aandacht voor MOOCs en kiest hierbij specifiek voor een dieptestrategie. Een select aantal universiteiten of vakgebieden zouden vanuit de overheid gesteund moeten worden om online onderwijs in Nederland te versterken en ons land meer op de kaart te zetten. Hier moet vooral niet te lang mee worden gewacht.

Een belangrijke rol voor de overheid is om instellingen ruimte te geven om hun onderwijs te innoveren. Er moet daarbij vooral worden gekeken naar het wegnemen van belemmeringen.  Een voorbeeld is dat op een papieren boek 6% en op een ebook 21% BTW zit. D66 stelt nu voor om het BTW-tarief op digitaal onderwijs tijdelijk te verlagen naar 0%.

Ik heb vaak gezegd dat Nederland in een uitstekende positie is om een grote rol te spelen op dit terrein. De realiteit is echter dat we dat nu niet waar maken. Internationaal zijn we weinig zichtbaar. Daarnaast zijn we te voorzichtig waar het gaat om online mogelijkheden en het verbeteren van ons reguliere campus onderwijs. Het uitkomen van dit rapport vind ik daarom een belangrijke stap. Binnenkort komt minister Bussemaker met een notitie over MOOCs en online onderwijs en ik ben benieuwd of de minister dezelfde richting inslaat.

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RoboCup junior 2013

On Saturday 20th of April  I was asked to hand out the Dutch National Robocup Junior Competition 2013 awards. This competion was organised in the Sports & Culture Centre of Delft University of Technology. 50 teams competed in the categories robot dance, save and rescue, and soccer.

It was great to see how kids between 9 and 19 years are able to build and program the robots themselves and deal with computers in a way that even experienced robot builders astonish. And that is the goal: let pupils experience how inspiring it can be to design and build things themselves and achieve these goals in a team. The younger kids get involved in technology,  the bigger the chance that they will be interested in it later in their school career.

Interesting to see that quite a number of participants were from Haarlem. Perhaps it is because one of the Haarlem School Care organisation (naschoolse opvang) has a special programme for robotica. That definitely works.

The organisation has created a nice video that gives a good impression of the day on their website.

Winnars of Robocup Junior 2013

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Search for new Executive Director Open Course Ware Consortium

The OCWC is looking for a new executive director. If you are interested in the job or if you know somebody who may be, have a look at the job description below.

OCWC LogoThe OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC) invites applications and nominations for the role of Executive Director.  

The Consortium is a collaboration of more than 250 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model.  The organization’s mission is to advance formal and informal learning through the worldwide sharing and use of free, open, high-quality educational materials organized as courses.  

Reporting to the Consortium’s Board of Directors, the Executive Director is responsible for growing the Consortium membership, delivering clear and compelling value to its members, representing the OCWC community, and directing communication about the organization’s goals and achievements.  The Executive Director will oversee a small staff as well as contractors working on behalf of the Consortium, coordinate the work of all committees, and direct all strategic and business planning processes.  S/he will manage all aspects of Consortium administration and finances including generating adequate funding, administering the organization’s budget, developing the Consortium’s infrastructure, and ensuring the maturation of the organization into a smoothly functioning independent entity.

Successful candidates will have strong hands-on management skills, analytic skills, and attention to detail as well as multi-cultural competency and experience working internationally.  A collaborative working style and strong communication skills are necessary, as is the demonstrated ability to form and maintain strategic partnerships, a belief in the value of open educational resources, and respect for collaboration, inclusiveness, transparency, and innovation.  Fundraising experience and skills are required, as is a master’s degree or higher.

As most of the work of the OpenCourseWare Consortium is done via electronic tools, the Executive Director is not required to live and work in any particular country.  Frequent travel is necessary and so proximity to an airport is required, as is comfort with an international Board of Directors and employees, and an ability to fully utilize technology to foster communication with Consortium members around the globe.

Applications, nominations, and questions should be directed to Katie Dean, Principal, Opus Search Partners via email at .  Application review begins immediately and will continue until the position is filled; applications received by March 10, 2009 will be guaranteed consideration.  The salary range is $80,000 to $110,000 commensurate with experience.

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Update OCW conference, Utah, US, September

This week, the 10th Open Education Conference takes place. Location: Logan, Utah, US. Many presentations about new technical possibilities and a series of new pilot projects.

Some statistics on Open Course Ware. Over 200 institutions are involved in the OCW network, some 100+ OCW sites are live now, and more than 6.000 courses have been published.

After a successful start of their OCW project, many institutions are now thinking about how to make their OCW model sustainable. To date, most OCW and other open education projects rely on sponsor funding and institions are asking themselves what to do when this type of funding stops. I.e. how to develop a model that is self supporting.

Related to this is the question which motives institutions have for setting up and continuing their open education programme. Motives vary from pr, exposure and student recruitment, to the improvement of educational materials. Many insitutions also have more idealistic motives, i.e. to provide free educational materials worldwide.

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More TUD OpenCourseWare

TUD will extend its OpenCourseWare programme.

In 2008, TUD will publish information for secondary schools students on TUD Open Educational Resources (OpenER). TUD will also start a pilot on "Community Content Management". This project will be carried out by the Faculty of Industrial Design. This is what the TUD OpenER Steering Group decided today.

As a member of the Steering Group, I am very happy about the progress Delft's OCW programme has made. Starting with only a few courses, TUD now has a wide range of courses published. Our OCW team is in place and a first evaluation shows that companies appreciate Delft OpenER for the quality of its content and lay out. In 2008 we will produce content for a larger audience. Also, we will explore new functionalities e.g. how to make our OpenER more interactive.

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OpenCourseWare Conference September 08

Autumn 2008 OCWC Conference

Since MIT started OpenCourseWare in 2001, many of the world's top universities have joined. Some of these universities started the OCW Consortium, which has the goal to extend the impact of OCW and invite more universities to publish and use OCW materials. For that purpose the consortium organises a series of activities.

On 22-25 September, the OCW Consortium organises its next conference. Interested to find out if OCW is something for your university? Have a look at the website:

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Delft University for Technology started its Open Course Ware programme: OpenER. A number of courses have been published. Have a look.

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Delft University for Technlogy offers support to lecturers on how to use ICT in education. Click on this site.

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© 2011 TU Delft