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September 2010

School computers not working? There's an app for that!

Michael Trucano's picture

open things up, and you never know what unexpected paths may lie ahead | img attribution at bottomLast week I attended a brainstorming meeting as part of the World Bank's 'Apps for Development' initiative, in preparation for a competition that will be announced in October to bring software developers and development practitioners together to develop useful software tools and data visualizations that use World Bank data. This is (hopefully!) just the first stage in a broader initiative over time exploring how approaches to  'open data' (and not just those generated or warehoused by the World Bank) can help contribute to creation of useful software tools to help with a variety of development challenges.

In addition to an engaging Q&A with various luminaries (including Tim O'Reilly), most of the time was spent in small groups where software developers, data folks and subject experts in various fields came together to brainstorm about how various development challenges might be approached in new ways, and how to harness developer communities of various sorts around the world to help out.

Cataloguing low cost ICT devices used in education

Michael Trucano's picture

increasingly countries are looking to buy on cheap street | img attribution at bottomWhen discussing plans for various uses of ICTs in education, one of the questions that we are regularly asked at the World Bank by Ministries of Education is (for better or for worse),

"What are the new low-cost educational technologies?"

Some observers argue that this emphasis on the retail prices of individual educational technology products diverts our attention from more important and fundamental issues.  Let's acknowledge such concerns ... but put them aside for the moment in an attempt to help respond to such a popular question.

Learning the Queen's English ... on your mobile phone?

Michael Trucano's picture

the infrastructure is increasingly there ... how can we take advantage of it? | img attribution at bottomMuch lip service is paid in various quarters to the potential use of mobile phones in education in developing countries.  That said, concrete examples of such use -- especially projects that have gone beyond small initial pilot stages -- remain few and far between. This is beginning to change.  One interesting project can be found in Bangladesh, where the BBC World Service Trust and BBC Learning English are implementing the Janala project, an initiative that is providing English language lessons to citizens via their mobile phones as part of the wider English in Action program in Bangladesh, funded by the UK's Department for International Development (UKaid).

Some of people involved with the Janala project recently shared some information about what they have been doing -- and learning -- as part of a discussion series at USAID around 'mobile education' topics (the other project presented in the latest session was the MILLEE project, which has been profiled on this blog before).  I was fortunate enough to be be able to sit in on the presentation, at the kind invitation of USAID educational technology team, and thought I'd share some brief highlights:

One Mouse Per Child

Michael Trucano's picture

red mouse green mouse orange mouse blue; the one you choose is up to youMuch popular attention has been paid to the so-called "$100 laptop" initiative and other programs to provide "1-to-1 educational computing" to students in developing countries. Even at $100 dollars per device, however, such solutions are still much too expensive for most communities around the world. Indeed, the typical scenario for computer use in schools in developing countries, and especially in rural areas, is for multiple children to crowd around one computer while one child controls the mouse, leaving the other children as onlookers.