If 2007 was the apex of OLPC hype, 2008 brought us mobile phones as the solution for everything, and 2009 ushered in the dominance of the netbook, what do you see as the next new thing for 2010? Will there be a continued focus on flashy but educationally suspect hardware? Could this the year Linux, lead by Ubuntu, breaks out? Can Windows 7 bring back the luster to Microsoft? Or will multi-platform Android make both moot? Enough about technology – where is the educational breakthroughs? Will Constructionism flourish in 1:1 computer deployments? Can Open Content gain traction in curriculum development? Might teacher training actually get more than lip-service? Finally, will we really stop wasting children on ICT4E assessments?
We have a list of future topics - are they still relevant? What are other ICT trends or topics that captivate? Tell us the education questions you ask that do not have a good answer, the challenges faced by schools and educators in the developing world, and the thought leaders you think may have answers
There is ongoing innovation in terms of technology and its cost. This has included, for instance, the introduction of lower cost computers (e.g. netbooks and OLPC), the explosion in access to mobile phones and the emergence of devices such as iPads and e-readers. There are also a growing number of projects which seek to use some of these mobile devices to support learning and collaboration. However, many of the existing projects are pilots and implemented on a small scale which raises issues in terms of scalability and sustainability.
Back when One Laptop Per Child started, they made an interesting point around evaluations of computer usage in schools. Their core belief was that all evaluations were flawed because we don’t have the right tools to assess the impact of ICT in education, and therefore talking about testing the efficacy of 1:1 computing was wasted effort. I’ve heard this refrain repeated often since then, and not just by those promoting technology in schools. Its a equal thought from those that feel geek lust is clouding our judgment and we should focus on teachers, not technology. Its also promoted by those that point out changes to educational methodologies have often happened by force of will, not empirical results. While we may have differencing opinions on OLPC or its benefits, the basic questioning of ICT4E evaluations is compelling. Starting with the simple question of “Do we need assessments?” we can branch into related questions that examine the basic assumptions we hold dear
Blind? Deaf? Impaired? Then in most of the developing world, this means you're also dumb. You're excluded from formal educational opportunities at an early age and possibly even shunned by your family and community. But this doesn't have to be the fate of physically or mentally challenged children anywhere. Assistive information and communication technologies can allow those with disabilities to learn and grow, indistinguishable from any other child. But we have to ask questions about them in our context. Especially since you could even argue that educational systems are often impaired themselves - lacking budget, expertise, and will power to recognize that assistive technologies exist and should be employed for the betterment of all.
Let us suppose that an educational system in the developing world has decided to install computers in schools. You might think that the educational technology debate has ended - yet it has just begun. From desktop to laptop, computer lab to classroom use, the types of computers and their physical configuration play an amazing role in determining the teaching style and learning outcomes possible with technology.
While there is much effort & focus on deploying educational hardware in the developing world, much less hype and attention is focusing on the content students will use once these systems are in the hands of hungry young minds. How can educational systems, and the stakeholders that support them, adapt existing and new content onto these devices? Will this adaptation be able to challenge the existing income streams and vested interests of current content production & dissemination models? And should this content focus on ebooks and other electronic media the replicates existing content, or is this an opportunity to change the way in which content is created, teacher’s educate, and students learn?
As African governments start incorporating more information and communication technologies (ICT) into their educational systems, they will need to expand their digital learning resources to take full advantage of their ICT investments. Yet, there are at least three questions that need to be asked with regards to digital learning resources:
The greatest single predictor of student achievement is access to a high-quality teacher. Yet many teachers across the globe lack the content, pedagogical and assessment knowledge to be considered "high quality." Many countries are attempting to address this issue through distance learning for teachers. For a variety of reasons, distance education (TV, IRI but especially, online learning) is seen as the ideal mechanism for pre- and in-service teacher training because the information dissemination abilities of information and communication technologies (ICT) can multiply the reach and impact of high quality teacher professional development resources.
Information and communications technology has been transforming education at different levels. One level where the ICT has been playing a key role for over the last three decades is in the management and allocation of educational resources and providing data on students and teachers often referred to as Education Management Information System (EMIS).
The recent New York Times article Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality brings into question the benefits of computer and Internet usage at home to improve education. The article cites two studies that indicate that when computers and Internet access are provided to students for household usage - either subsidized or not - home-based ICT does not have any measurable educational benefit, even reducing test scores in math and English in low-income students. For this month's Educational Technology Debate, we'll question these studies, and similar ones, to try and explain these results and what they might mean to educators in the developing world.
What is your vision for an African learning environment that transcends the formal educational system to offer multiple learning opportunities to youth via multiple facilitators? And how can the full breadth of information and communication technologies - from the humble radio or newspaper to advanced computers and the Internet - be utilized in that vision in a cost-effective and practical manner?
So improving access to education is one of the best investments that donor agencies and governments can make. Now what if it were possible to nearly double the number of secondary and university seats in a developing country overnight and with relatively little investment from the public sector? eLearning - the provision of educational opportunities via information and communication technologies - could have that kind of scale with recent advances in electronic content creation and the proliferation of technology devices.
Whether violent affairs like the much-villified Grand Theft Auto series or more complex games such as the best-selling World of Warcraft, video games can seem bewildering to the unacquainted. Levels? Cheat codes? Orcs? Certainly there cannot be much within the flashing and beeping to excite educators, right? But in the past few years, the tides have started to turn from dismissing, or even rejecting, video games, to exploring and embracing how they can be used to educate students around the globe.
Look at any ICT-enabled school classroom, and there is often a greater excitement for the technology with boys than girls, which by middle or secondary school, can translate into ICT tools being an exclusive domain of boys, excluding half the learning population from their benefit. How can technologists and educators design more gender neutral, or pro-female ICT-enabled learning experiences? And from these experiences, can we hope to also change the gender balance in the ICT industry? Or will ICT, as an industry, always be mainly male”?
Given the limited resources available in educational systems in the developing world, and the lack of any great will to change the situation, is it better to invest in known teacher aids like textbooks, chalkboards, or basic school supplies or do new technology options, like ebooks, smart boards, computers really offer a paradigm shift in educational efficiencies?
From the time of Plato, educators have struggled with the acquisition of knowledge, seeking it to be understood by the learner versus just assimilated as dogma. And since Plato’s time, educational technology – from the written word to the printed book to the chalkboard – has been hailed as the solution to this challenge. Each successive technology had impact, though often not the type or scale that the introducer hoped. Now we come to the digital age, where electronic information and communication technologies (ICT) are the newest promise to empower learners to understand and interact with society. Radio, TV, and now computers and the Internet are profoundly changing civilization, as we know it. Can they have the same impact on education?
Educators often get overlooked, with a rush to put gadgets in children’s hands. But teachers can leverage small ICT investments into big impacts. What technology tools available in South Asia can help advance their teaching skills and classroom effectiveness? If you know of a tool that’s both appropriate for teachers in South Asia and available in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka please let us know.
When planning ICT deployments in schools, there is much talk around making the effort sustainable. But what does “sustainability” really mean in this context? If we tweak and paraphrase the Wikipedia definition of “sustainability”, we could say that: “Sustainability is the ability of an educational ecosystem to maintain scholastic processes, functions, diversity and productivity into the future.” Yet that’s a pretty broad and vague statement. Bringing it down to a practical level, how might we introduce information and communication technologies into existing educational ecosystems where they can absorb it and own the change? Starting with cost, where most do, is “sustainability” covering local costs through local fees or taxes? Should national governments be the funder? Or is sustainability actually greater than merely its monetary price, but actually creating community ownership to the point of local customization in implementation, and self-propagating growth and expansion
Go to most ICT-enabled schools and you see computer labs set up for student use, which often indicates that "Computers" are taught like a subject (ie. math), or a skill (carpentry). Parents and business leaders look to this model as preparing students with 21st Century skills. But could there be a better way to distribute computing resources? A 1:1 computer-to-student saturation that encourages private ownership of technology and individual exploration and learning, rather than a limited shared-use of educational tools. Or is a one computer per student model an administrative and financial challenge with limited additional benefit? And could there be a mixed model where shared and private use can co-exist?
The Educational Technology Debate is one year old this month and to celebrate, we had a Live Debate: Are Most Investments in Technology for Schools Wasted? at the World Bank offices in New Delhi, India. With six great speakers, we focused on the issues around technology implementation in educational systems of the developing world to answer the question: Are most investments in technology for schools wasted?
Nick Carr has made the controversial assertion that Google is making us stupid in his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Nearly all of the debate around Mr. Carr’s provocative and thoughtful book is focused on areas that are traditionally well-saturated with media, both physical and, increasingly, digital. What, though, of the developing world where printed material is traditionally not as widely disseminated and where basic literacy is sometimes lower? As low-cost digital devices proliferate throughout poor regions, is it a reason to worry or a cause for celebration? Simply put, is a mobile phone in the hands of an impoverished student better or worse than no book at all?
Building on last month’s Educational Technology Debate on the theme of What ICT can improve reading skills of learners in primary schools?, for this month, we will focus on why there are so few ICT tools available that promote and facilitate reading and literacy skills at the primary school level in educational systems of the developing world.
From single-purpose educational aids like the Teachermate to commercial netbooks that can be re-purposed for the classroom, information and communication technology is dropping in cost while increasing in functionality and robustness. Soon, these ICT devices will be like slates in the 1800′s – ubiquitous. In 2008, infoDev at the World Bank complied a Quick guide to low-cost computing devices and initiatives for the developing world to try and record the most prominent or promising of these devices. For June, the Educational Technology Debate will attempt to update and organize this list through two efforts:
Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and many more top name universities are launching Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to hundreds, and hundred of thousands of students. Often prompted by entrepreneurial professors and private companies, the race is on to open up higher education to the online masses.
One powerful smartphone per teacher, or a combination of voice/SMS phones and smartphones for teachers and students, have the potential to actually achieve the unfulfilled technology saturation promise of One Laptop Per Child. But before we get lost in the possibilities of mobile phone usage in the classroom, lets look at the practicalities - programs that are already using existing mobile phone technology to reach educational objectives inside and out of the traditional classroom.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) can contribute to achieving the pillars of Education for All (EFA), which are universal access to education, equity in education and the delivery of quality education. Given the unprecedented uptake of mobile devices in the world – there are now almost 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions – these ICT present a new and exciting possibility for supporting EFA.UNESCO is committed to fully exploring how mobile learning, using mobile devices alone or in combination with other ICT, can improve education. While mobile learning is certainly not new, only in very recent years is it receiving widespread attention and building serious momentum. The evidence base for how mobiles can improve grades, increase learner motivation, deliver content to hard-to-reach communities, support district and school administration, and enable adult education in areas such as literacy, is mounting.
Numerous initiatives, most prominently the One Laptop Per Child program, seek to introduce computers to students around the globe. Yet, are computers the right technology for ICT in education? Perhaps mobile phones, of which the ITU estimates there are 4.1 billion subscriptions, would provide a better technology for students? For teachers and policy-makers seeking to increase educational outcomes with inexpensive digital devices, do computers or mobile phones offer a better ICT investment?
Research and Education Networks (RENs), at both the national and regional level, have been in existence for a long time in most parts of the world. They are normally driven by universities and research institutions, providing dedicated high speed networks that enable access to online resources for students and researchers; support content-level collaboration in research and education; facilitate advanced applications like grid-computing; and also enable research in advanced network techniques. RENs are indeed recognised as a key factor in development.
The proponents of Open Educational Resources are right to point out the need for digital content. There are few if any locally relevant resources for educators in the developing world - local language being a major issue. So is access - to the hardware required to view content and often the Internet access to reach it. In addition to content, and the access to reach it, teachers need the skills and training to convert good content into great lessons. But let us say that all these prerequisites exist - content, access, training: Does that mean teachers will actually use it?And who will they use it with? Students already advantaged with socio-economic resources or the underprivileged learners that are the ostensible focus of many educational technology interventions?Most importantly, regardless of the benefits for the privileged, how can we create better OER benefits for the poor?.
This month's Educational Technology Debate will build on a Technology Salon that took a deep dive into OLPC in Peru with the Inter-American Development Bank. The IDB is conducting a multi-year randomized evaluation of the impact of the OLPC project in Peru - the first rigorous attempt to examine the impact of the largest "1-to-1 computing" initiative in a developing country. Building on their initial report in 2010, we will be discussing their second report, that examines the academic achievement and impacts on cognitive skills that XO laptops facilitated in a 15-month randomized control trial with 21,000 students in 319 schools.
With more than 800,000 XO laptops having been distributed on the continent so far, South America represent the largest concentration of active OLPC projects in the world. Uruguay is the first major country to achieve full 1-to-1 saturation after having finished the distribution of approximately 400,000 XO laptops to every primary school pupil and teacher
By the end of 2009 OLPC should pass a stunning milestone – 1 million XO laptops deployed in over 40 countries around the world, almost all in 1:1 computer to child ratios. Next, the humble XO laptop which was once ridiculed by the titans of technology, spawned the netbook. And the netbook is eating the computer market at a stunning growth rate. But OLPC has impact deeper and farther than just XO’s passed out or netbooks snapped up. Its changing education, technology, even culture in ways beyond any one person’s understanding. What do YOU think we’re learning from Negroponte’s wild idea of Constructionism via XO laptops?
It is virtually impossible to build the number of traditional post-secondary institutions to keep up with the increase in demand. Traditional universities represent a tremendous ongoing financial commitment when physical campuses classrooms need to be built, maintained, heated, cooled and secured. In distance learning, these costs (and their environmental footprint) are significantly less. This translates to more resources being spent on course design, development and student support services. This in turn leads to better student outcomes linked to the higher quality of instruction. Distance learning is also uniquely flexible, allowing for studies to be combined with working and family life and to be taken at the correct pace for the student (and in tune with what they can afford). Distance learning has also proven itself able to react quickly to specific economic and societal needs.
This month on the Educational Technology Debate we are opening up the discussion to our readership. We are actively seeking quality posts on topics of interest to you. You can write on a future topic or topics we haven’t thought of yet. We will publish the best six over the course of the month for your commentary.
For October, the Educational Technology Debate will be focusing on ICT that can improve reading skills of learners in primary schools. Our topic is influenced by the USAID Global Education Strategy, which has as it's Goal One the improved reading skills for 100 million children in primary grades by 2015, via improved reading instruction, improved reading delivery systems, and greater engagement, accountability, and transparency by communities and the public.
With the rise of the iPad, Kindle, and similar eReaders and touchscreen devices, tablet-shaped form factor computing power has become much more portable and yet sizable. This holds great promise for educators on par with the introduction of slates, which swept across classrooms at the turn of the century before last. Back then, the personal transcription device of chalk and stone slate tablets was seen as revolutionary. Yes, the iPad is intuitive, the Kindle and Nook are cheap, and Android is Open Source, yet is the tablet form factor really all that? There is the immediate e-reader usage model, but what other roles can tablets play? And are those roles most cost-effective with digital devices vs. analog or even paper technologies?
Researchers and practitioners working in the area of educational technology have established that successful implementation of educational technology to a large extent depends on teachers’ ability to integrate the technologies effectively into their teaching, and facilitate learner use of these technologies. The UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers makes it clear that all teacher preparation should focus broadly on preparing teachers to use technology and to understand how best technology can support student learning, as these have become integral skills for teachers. To this end, internationally and regionally within Africa, there are several initiatives on teacher development for ICT integration aimed at supporting roll out of technology infrastructure in education.
We all know that the current state of ICT usage in education is sub-par. We’ve just had a month’s worth of debate on ICT use in schools with much of it centered on one reoccurring theme: most ICT investments in education are wasted. Yet if teachers are the key to getting better educational outcomes from our ICT investments, the first and most obvious way to support them is better teacher training on the use of ICT in the classroom. But is that really the answer? Do teachers really need more training? And if so, how should that training differ from existing training to get a better result?