IGF 2021 Day 0 Event #2 IFIP 60th Anniversary: Future of Information Processing

Monday, 6th December, 2021 (09:45 UTC) - Monday, 6th December, 2021 (10:45 UTC)
Conference Room 6

Elisabeth Schauermann, German Informatics Society, Civil Society, WEOG
Anthony Wong, IFIP, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific
Javier Osorio Acosta, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, WEOG


Cathy Lewin, Manchester Metropolitan University (UK)
Johannes Magenheim, Paderborn University (DE)
Mary Webb, King’s College London (UK)
Bernard Cornu, Université de Grenoble (FRA)
Margaret Leahy, Dublin City University (IRL)

Onsite Moderator

Don Passey, Lancaster University

Online Moderator

Raymond Morel


Elisabeth Schauermann


The event will be entirely online. As the 3-4 expert speakers deliver a short presentation, participants will have the ability to ask written questions. These questions will then be collected by the moderator and included in a guided discussion among the panelists. There will then be a Q&A to wrap up.

Duration (minutes)



The International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) provides policy-makers with an unbiased source of evidence-based knowledge and expertise in the field of information and communication technology (ICT). To celebrate IFIP's 60th anniversary, its members and affiliates will address the future of information processing with a focus on the intersection between information technology and society.

This session will publicise the main outcomes of a series of events addressing educational and social challenges to achieving “Sustainable Education in a Digital Age of Rapidly Emerging Technologies,” and how to overcome them. This session is under the umbrella of the IFIP TC3 Zanzibar Declaration, which began in March of 2021 and will continue until November of 2021.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Digital education in a rapidly evolving digital environment needs to be both sustainable and adaptive. Technologies change, but learners' and educators' needs are paramount and tend to be more stable.

Digital education concerns all levels of educations and all subjects, but a strong basis is ccomputer science and computational thinking is important.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Policy makers in educational fields need to realise access for all people to well-founded digital education.

Educators and researchers need to base their resources and activities on the needs of learners, instead of just following the pace of technological changes.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The webinar series on the outcomes of the Zanzibar Declaration brought together a group of experts from a diverse set of backgrounds and from various regions of the world. This particular panel featured four speakers from academia and two more academics as moderators. Gender representation on the panel was equal.

The Zanzibar Declaration webinars have sought to explore future challenges arising from rapidly emerging education technologies. They have considered a range of topics covering recent important digital technology developments, their societal impacts, and the resulting educational challenges. The Zanzibar Declaration has aimed to cover as many countries, local contexts, experiences, and perspectives as possible and in so doing has attempted to be dynamic in its development. The goal has been to identify future research areas and conferences topics as well as provide direction for curriculum development.


Benefits of digital educational systems

            Cathy Lewin of Manchester Metropolitan University spoke on the benefits of digital educational systems, explaining the benefits to students as well as those for teachers. Through online education, students can access learning at any time, allowing them to fit activities into their own schedules and preferences. Technologies like chatbots can provide instant responses to students, regardless of the time at which they engage with these resources. For some subjects, this works particularly well, such as software that can correct pronunciation if a student is learning a foreign language, for example. Online services can identify gaps in student understanding and tailor lessons to suit the learner’s needs.

            As for teachers, the benefits are also easy to see. Certain tasks can be automated, such as grading and even essay marking, reducing the teacher’s work load and allowing them to spend more time on other things. Such technology also allows for better monitoring of homework and other assignments as well as keeping track of student attendance. Digital systems can even identify which students cause the most disruptions and provide suggested seating arrangements in order to minimize disruptions. Predictive systems can also identify which students are likely to drop out, allowing teachers to intervene when possible.

            Margaret Leahy of Dublin City University added in her perspective as a former special needs teacher, pointing out the benefits that such systems would have had for her while she was in this profession. She recalled that it had taken a long time for her to build her expertise in learning how to deal with specific and complex needs (she worked in particular with dyslexic students). The technology available today would have helped her diagnose students, learn from others through a pool of digital resources, allowed her to better track progression and identify gaps in order to develop curriculum in more quickly and efficiently.


Issues arising from digital educational systems

            With so many benefits, there are, predictable, also downsides. While the panelists rejected the idea that such technologies remove the process of critical thinking, they expressed concerns over the ways in which data from students, teachers, and schools are used, emphasizing the need for transparency in how people are informed as to what will happen with the data they provide. Leahy spoke on how tools can create a overreliance on outcomes and predictions, which are not enough in themselves to guarantee effective education. Additionally, there are concerns about what is done with the data. As gate keepers of formal education, teachers need to exercise good judgment in determining how this data is used. Lewin chimed in to underline the importance of data transparency, as digital education systems are only as good as the data they are provided. Without unbiased, complete data, digital education systems will not function effectively.

Bernard Cornu of the University of Grenoble pointed out another issue in digital education systems: the lag time between rapid technological advancement and the acceptance and adoption of these technologies by the people they are intended for. He noted several timing disparities – not only between the advent of technology and its adoption, but also between the adoption by different sections of society, including between teachers and the students they are using the technology to teach. As advancements in technology are often driven by commercial factors, the societal end of the equation is often under-appreciated. Cornu called for education to be made sustainably. As a rejoinder, Lewin reflected on her own experience, saying that although sometimes it feels that technological progress is always moving quickly along, she has also seen schools – even progressive and innovative schools – fall behind for a variety of reasons. While sustainability is important, it should not be assumed that it is always in tension with rapid technological advancement. To close this topic, Leahy emphasized the need for urgency as schools adopt tools that will best allow them to prepare young people to succeed and thrive.

Mary Webb of King’s College London had the last word on the issue of the black box in AI systems. In certain AI systems, there is little insight into how conclusions and predictions are made. Some people do not want such black boxes to be in play in educational technology, as they can potentially lead to discrimination. However, some technologies with relatively little transparency could potentially be very helpful. Limits will need to be set as to what people do with these systems and how they are regulated.