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ICTs and Literacy (the old fashioned kind)

Michael Trucano's picture
lego ergo sum, or I read, therefore I am
lego ergo sum, or I read, therefore I am

The Library of Congress recently announced a set of literacy awards to recognize and honor pioneering efforts in the United States and around the world. That's all well and good, you might say, literacy is certainly a worthy cause, but what does this have to do with ICT use in education in developing countries, the topic explored on the EduTech blog? Potentially a lot.

Much is made these days of the need to foster the development of so-called '21st century skills'. Indeed, for the past few years I have sat through few presentations where this particular three word phrase has not been mentioned prominently at some point. Reasonable people may disagree about what these skills are, exactly (but there are lots of ideas), and/or about some of the groups promoting related discussions and initiatives. Whatever one's opinion on such things may be, however, there is no denying that ICTs -- and the ability to use ICTs (productively, effectively) -- are often prominently considered in many related conversations and advocacy efforts, which often also highlight the increasing importance of the acquisition of so-called 'new literacy' skills (variously defined, but often related to the use of ICTs in ways integral and tangential: computer literacy, media literacy, etc.) to ways of life that are increasingly impacted by the emergence of new information and communication technologies.

What it means to be 'literate' in 2013 may be different than it was in 1913 or 1963 (and it will perhaps be different still in 2063). That said, there is little argument that, whatever the year, and wherever you are, basic literacy skills are fundamental to one's education and ability to navigate successfully through life.

What do we know about the use of ICTs
to help promote and develop literacy?

(I am not talking about such things like 'computer literacy', mind you, but rather literacy of the old-fashioned sort: the ability to read and write.)

Mapping Open Educational Resources Around The World

Michael Trucano's picture

openness -- packaged and available for your use and consumptionIn the decade since the term 'open education resources'  was formally identified and adopted by UNESCO, related "teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution" have been slowly but surely creeping into mainstream use in many education systems around the world.  North America has recently seen prominent announcements about projects to provide free, online open textbooks in British Columbia and California, following similar sorts of headlines out of Poland earlier in the year. In June, the so-called 'Paris Declaration' [pdf] was released as part of a prominent international effort both to "increase government understanding of the significance of open education resources and to encourage more governments to support the principle that the products of publicly funded work should carry such licenses." In conversations with education ministries in many low and middle income countries over the past year, I have seen a marked increase in the interest in exploring the relevance of the 'OER movement' to national efforts to procure and develop digital learning resources.  Traditional educational publishers have been monitoring such efforts closely, identifying both potential threats to existing business models, and in some cases, ingredients for potentially new business models as well.

How might we be able to track related initiatives around the world?

Media and Information Literacy as a Composite Concept

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to the blog post 12 Recommendations for Building Media and Information Literate Knowledge Societies. 

"I read your post with much interest. UNESCO promotes Media and Information Literacy(MIL) as a composite concept, a combined set of interrelated competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) necessary for the media and 
technology mediated world of today.

I encourage you and other readers to visit this link to see UNESCO's official description of MIL, 
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/media-development/media-literacy/

MIL empowers citizens with competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) related to media, information, ICT and other aspects of literacy which are needed for 21st century. These competencies include the ability to: find, evaluate, use the information they need in ethical and effective ways,  understand the role and functions of media and other information providers such as libraries, Internet, museums and archives, in democratic societies; understand the conditions under which media and information providers can  fulfil their functions; critically evaluate information and media content; engage with media and information providers for self-expression, life-long learning, and democratic participation; and updated skills (including ICTs skills)needed to produce content, including user-generated.

12 Recommendations for Building Media and Information Literate Knowledge Societies

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Last week, the international literacy day was celebrated around the world.  The theme this year, Literacy and Peace, was based on the premise that “literacy contributes to peace as it brings people closer to attaining individual freedoms and better understanding the world, as well as preventing or resolving conflict.”  Today, basic reading and writing skills are not sufficient to effectively succeed in a knowledge-based society. The fast speed and wide spread of information have generated an array of new literacies. The following literacies are referred to as crucial to surviving in the 21st century: basic literacy skills, computer literacy, media literacy, distance education and e-learning, cultural literacy, and information literacy.

Developing ICT Skills in African Teachers

Michael Trucano's picture

is this the dawn of a new era?What guidance is there for countries across Africa that are 'computerizing' their schools (or planning to do so) to help ensure that teachers know how to use ICTs productively?

To help provide some answers to this and related questions, the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) recently released its ICT-enhanced teacher standards for Africa (ICTeTSA), the result of a multi-study and consultation process with 29 countries across the continent. By releasing this document, UNESCO-IICBA doesn't meant to advocate that developing ICT-related competencies and skills be the highest priority for African teachers -- there are certainly many other more pressing and immediate concerns with the teacher corps in many African countries. It does, however, note that a teacher education and development program will not be complete if it does not address the use of ICTs by teachers, now and in the future.  Across Africa, teachers are core to the educational process, and ICTs are become more and more relevant in many educational contexts.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Freedom House

Nations in Transit 2012

"Nations in Transit is Freedom House’s comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia.

Findings in Nations in Transit 2012 suggest that the countries that have achieved the greatest democratic success since the Cold War’s end are now displaying serious vulnerabilities in their young democratic systems. Over the past five years, stagnation and backsliding is evident in key governance indicators across the new EU member states and countries of the Balkans. Hungary, a powerful example of this trend, continued on a negative trajectory that was propelled by the current government’s drive to concentrate power. Ukraine’s scores similarly continued to worsen, with declines in five of the seven Nations in Transit categories, as authorities undertook a broad assault on institutional accountability and transparency. Difficult economic conditions and harsh austerity measures posed challenges to democratic development in the region. In the Balkans, critical reforms stalled in nearly all countries in 2011." READ MORE

The Fragile State of Media Freedom in Latin America

"The current state of media freedom in Latin America was driven home in early May, when three journalists were murdered in Mexico within a week of World Press Freedom Day. This dramatic example underscores a larger trend identified by Freedom House in the recently released Freedom of the Press 2012 report, which noted that a range of negative developments over the past decade have left media freedom on the defensive in much of Central and South America." READ MORE

Surveying Mobile Learning Around the World (part one)

Michael Trucano's picture

what constitutes a 'mobile device' can sometimes be in the eye of the (be)holderAbout four years ago, the World Bank's infoDev program secured funding to do a 'global survey of the use of mobile phones in education in developing countries', based on the belief that the increasing availability of the small, connected computing devices more commonly known as 'mobile phones' was going to have increasing relevance to school systems around the world.  For a variety of reasons -- including regrettable internal bureaucratic delays and, more fundamentally, the fact that, when we looked around at what was actually happening on the ground in most of the world, not much was actually going on (yet), and so we concluded that a global survey of expert thought of the potential future relevance of the use of mobile phone in education wouldn't yet be terribly useful -- we ended up scrapping this research project, hoping that others would pursue similar work when the time was ripe. (The funds were re-programmed to support EVOKE, the World Bank's online 'serious game', the second version of which is scheduled to launch in September in Portuguese and English, on both PCs and mobile phones, with a special focus on Brazil.) A few of the organizations involved in the mEducation Alliance, an international collaborative effort in which the World Bank participates that is working to explore cutting edge intersections between mobiles, education and development and to promote collective knowledge sharing, have just published some short papers that have accomplished much of what we had hoped to do with this sort of survey.  We'll look at two of these efforts this week on the EduTech blog: the first led by UNESCO, the second (in a follow up post this Friday) by the Mastercard Foundation, working with the GSMA.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

USAID
Two Guides You Must Read Before Using Mobile Technology for Behavior Change

“As the desire to utilize mobile phones in international health projects has increased in the last few years, organizations continually ask a similar question, “We want to use mobile phones. Now what?” But the decision to introduce or start a mhealth project needs to come after answering many questions before “now what?” especially when dealing with behavior change communication projects. Enter Abt Associates, FrontlineSMS, and Text to Change. Two guides have recently been released to help organizations assess whether or not mobiles are the right tool, and if they are, the process moving forward. One is from Abt Associates and is entitled mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs. The other one was created in collaboration between FrontlineSMS and Text to Change and is entitled Communications for change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One
The Promising Game-Changers in Global Development: Social Innovators

“Turning on a light, warming a house, and using an appliance are activities that most of us take for granted. But in many parts of the developing world, access to electricity is scarce. Enter “sOccket,” a soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy of play to generate electricity. When kicked, it creates energy that can be stored and then used later to charge a battery, sterilize water or light a room.

SOccket has received a lot of attention recently – from the likes of Aneesh Chopra, the first White House chief technology officer, to former President Bill Clinton, who called sOccket “quite extraordinary.” The attention isn’t surprising – the invention is clever, it’s creative, it’s relatively cheap, and it takes on one of the biggest challenges in the developing world.”  READ MORE

Mobile learning in developing countries in 2012: What's Happening?

Michael Trucano's picture

might mobility enable new approaches?In recent chats with officials from [an un-named country], I learned of the desire of educational policymakers there to leap frog e-learning through m-learning.  This made an impression on me -- and not only because it succinctly was able to encapsulate four educational technology buzzwords within a five-word "vision statement". In many ways, this encounter helped confirm my belief that a long-anticipated new era of hype is now upon us, taking firm root in the place where the educational technology and international donor communities meet, with "m-" replacing "e-" at the start of discussions of the use of educational technologies.


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