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Conference visit inspires new education model

Researcher at itslearning conference: ‘We live in a post-industrialized society with different standards. Standardized education is no longer a norm, either.’

What happens when you invite a mad professor to your conference? First of all, if he likes using social media, which education researcher Gokhan Yucel does, the conference’s Twitter hashtag lights up with responses. Which is good, even though Oxford-educated Yucel, one of Turkey´s leading education thinkers, writes in Turkish and conference attendees are mostly Norwegian. But, more importantly, his visit results in a theory with the power to change the way education is delivered around the world. This is exactly what happened when Yucel attended itslearning's Norwegian User Conference in April - a visit that produced what he calls 'the Bergen Model'.


Gokhan Yucel: 'The Bergen Model is what we lack in Turkey, and it is something we must adopt.' 

Yucel did not attend all sessions for obvious reasons. His Norwegian was limited to the basic takk (thank you) and ha det (goodbye). But in three days, he toured two Bergen schools, met a handful of teachers and students and learned the itslearning philosophy of pedagogy before technology.

When he returned to Istanbul, his head full of impressions and ideas, he penned a column for Turkey´s flagship daily, Hürriyet, introducing the Bergen Model to a Turkish audience. Though in its infancy stage, Yucel 's Bergen Model has wide-reaching implications for the delivery of education in Turkey, a country with more than 20,000,000 K12 students, over 750,000 teachers and 65,000 schools. Yucel discusses the Bergen Model within the context of education, innovation and entrepreneurship (something itslearning, an IT start-up that rose to prominence by meeting the demand for an innovative education technology solution, knows a thing or two about). "The Bergen Model is one of the best scenarios where education, entrepreneurship and innovation merge into one pot and work together," Yucel explains. "The Bergen Model is based on a Learning Management System (LMS) creating the conditions for good communication and assessment in a Web 2.0 setting. itslearning is the nucleus of the Bergen Model, and the Norwegian school system is at its heart."

Yucel wears many hats. While he completes a PhD at Oxford, he teaches entrepreneurship to high school students as a 'hobby'. He lectures at universities about the interplay between innovation, education and entrepreneurship. From 2009-2010 he served as advisor to Turkey's Minister of National Education. During his time at the ministry, he spearheaded the Fatih Project, which saw the government spend $US 10 million on technology purchases for schools, including 15 million tablet computers. It was a well-meaning initiative but it received criticism because schools lacked an LMS to fully utilize the tools, Yucel says.

"That´s the gap we need to overcome in order to make the Turkish education system more efficient," he explains. "The Bergen Model is a clear strategy that results in a well-functioning school system. It entails schools having the necessary tools, such as an LMS where students, parents and teachers can communicate and interact. But it's not just about an LMS. The Bergen Model is a mentality, a philosophy. It´s not just about itslearning, but perhaps itslearning is the most important aspect. We live in a post-industrialized society with different standards. Standardized education is no longer a norm, either. The Bergen Model calls for employing the flipped classroom, for example."

But Yucel is not certain the Bergen Model could be applied in Turkey. He points to the itslearning philosophy, which encourages students to work independently as illustrated by the flipped classroom, where students complete schoolwork at home and homework at school. In this model, students can, to some extent, choose what to read and study, Yucel explains. This contradicts the learning process in Turkey where teacher control over the learning process is emphasized. Yucel who toured Akademiet, a private high school in Bergen, saw other challenges. The Bergen Model is based on the Norwegian system where private schools receive 80 percent of their funding from the government. As private schools receive no government funding in Turkey, implementing the Bergen Model would be challenging as many schools hesitate to purchase costly LMSs. "That's the prism through which I read itslearning. That's what attracts my attention. In Turkey, there is a lot of talk about 21st century skills and blended learning etc. But these concepts are just talked about, they are rarely implemented. The Bergen Model is what we lack in Turkey, and it is something we must adopt."

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