I have recently been involved in discussions with three countries that are considering *huge* new investments to introduce lots of new technologies in their primary and secondary education systems. Such discussions typically focus quite a bit on what technologies will be purchased; what additional products, services and support will need to be provided if the technology is to be used effectively; and how to pay for everything. Increasingly (and encouragingly), there is also talk of how to measure the impact of these sorts of investments. To measure 'impact' (however you choose to define it), you of course need to know what has actually happened (or not happened). When you are putting computers in all schools, or rolling out lots of new digital learning content, or training lots of teachers, how do you know that these sorts of things are actually taking place?
The World Bank recently hosted two events showcasing innovative tools and practices that can be used to help build bridges between schools and their local communities, helping to promote and support greater transparency, good governance and citizen engagement along the way.
The CheckMySchool (CMS) initiative in the Philippines (“promoting social accountability one school at a time”) is one of those projects that people intuitively ‘get’. Why not use tools like the web, Facebook, and mobile phones to help inform communities about the types of resources that their schools are supposed to have – and offer a way for them to report back when something is not as it should be?
There was a good reason for the recent Global Symposium on Building national ICT/education agencies to have taken place in Seoul. South Korea has demonstrated that making a single specialized agency responsible for integrating ICTs in the education sector to implement the ambitious goals of government can bring high rate of return. Since its inception in 1999, KERIS (the Korean Education Research & Information Service) has made a significant contribution into helping build a knowledge and information-based society in Korea, helping to enhance the nation's education system and research competitiveness through its work at the secondary and primary education levels. Increasingly looking to share lessons from its experience with other, KERIS has established many partnerships in other East Asia and Pacific countries, and is developing partnerships with countries in other regions as well. Numerous countries invited to the Seoul Global Symposium were explicitly interested in how they 'might set up their own KERIS', and saw the forum as an opportunity to learn firsthand from the Korean experience. For four days, over 120 representatives from 32 countries discussed a variety of issues related to organizational structures, staffing, funding schemes, institutional evolution, and other challenges along the way when building and developing ICT in education agencies.
Last 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.
A recent event at the World Bank focused on "Mobile Innovations for Social and Economic Transformation: From Pilots to Scaled-up Implementation" included an interesting session on the use of mobile phones in development. Following on an opening talk by Dr. Mohamed Ally of Canada's Athabasca University (you can download a free copy of his book on mobile learning), Kate Place of the International Youth Foundation provided an update on activities and emerging lessons learned from the BridgeIT project in Tanzania (“Elimu kwa Teknolojia” in Kiswahili), which provides access to digital video content in classrooms ‘on demand’ via mobile phone technology.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools in India has just announced a mobile phone ban, echoing similar calls in many other places (from Sri Lanka to South Korea, from the UK to the Philippines to France) to restrict student access to what are often seen as 'devices of distraction'.
Why then will the World Bank will be kicking off a study next month looking at "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries"?