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.
East Asia and Pacific
Over 100 education policymakers from 32 countries gathered last week in Seoul to share lessons, experiences and opinions in response to the following question:
How should an education system structure itself to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities related to the use of information and communication technologies, and what roles and responsibilities could/should a dedicated ICT/education agency or unit play?
This was the theme of the fourth global symposium on ICT and education, an annual event that the World Bank has co-sponsored with the Korean Education & Research and Information Service (KERIS) and the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) and other partners, including UNESCO Bangkok, Intel and the IDB. (Proceedings from previous symposia are available here, here, here and here.)
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.
Given their low costs and increasing ubiquity, even in very poor communities, much has been written about the potential for mobile phones to aid in the delivery of 'anytime, anywhere' education. But what might such educational practices look like in practice? The MILLEE project (Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies) has been examining this issue for the last six years, beginning with low-income communities in the urban slums and villages in India.
In a recent presentation at the World Bank, Matthew Kam, the founder of MILLEE, shared experiences from ten rounds of iterative small pilot field studies in developing and testing mobile phone gaming applications that enable children to acquire language literacy in immersive, game-like environments. One goal of this work is to investigate how to make localized English language learning resources more accessible to underprivileged children, at times and places that are more convenient than schools. (A short video profile of the project is available here; it is not embedded for direct viewing on this blog because it features a 15-second commercial at the beginning.)
The World Bank EduTech blog has just completed its first year of publication.
To celebrate our first birthday, we thought we'd look back at the top posts for 2009.
What will reading be like for children around the world in the digital age?
Ben Bederson thinks this is a question we should be asking children themselves.
Bederson, a professor at the University of Maryland (USA) and the co-founder (with Allison Druin) of the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL), was the keynote presenter at an event in Hangzhou, China earlier this week sponsored by UNESCO, the World Bank, the Korean Education & Research Information Service and a number of other partners. The ICDL (not to be confused with the International Computer Driving Licence, which shares the same acronym) is dedicated to building a collection of "outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children". The ICDL, which is part of the World Bank-funded READ project in Mongolia, currently features children's books in over 50 languages and receives over 100,000 visitors a month to its web site.
At the heart of Bederson's wide-ranging talk (and indeed at the heart of the ICDL itself) is a belief in the value and importance of child-centered design. Notably (and rather famously, in some quarters) the ICDL utilizes children as design partners in the development of the digital library, and how it is used. Adopting this approach sometimes yields approaches that, at least for many in the audience in Hangzhou, were rather surprising.
Amazon, the company behind the Kindle, perhaps the world's most famous e-reader, recently announced an international version of its digital book reading device that will allow users to connect via 3G to download content in over 100 countries. The early success of the Kindle, together with products like the Sony Reader, and the excitement over recently announced products like the Nook and Plastic Logic e-reading devices (Wikipedia has a nice list of these things), portends profound changes to the way we consume and distribute reading materials going forward. The excellent (and highly recommended) Mobile Libraries blog explores what all of this might mean for one of most venerable of all information gathering, curation and dissemination institutions: the library. While Mobile Libraries documents issues related to how e-books and the like may transform the roles of the library in the industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Asia, there is no clear equivalent information resource highlighting what such advances might mean for developing countries. But, in various ways, many people and projects are hard at work exploring such issues.
In the context of a discussion of ICT/education policies, GeSCI's Jyrki Pulkkinen takes a step back and asks, who really needs policy? While he doesn't provide answers to this question himself in his note (yet -- I suspect this is coming), he follows up with a set of high-level, practical guiding questions for people involved in these processes.
When thinking about the questions that Jyrki poses, I had a few questions of my own: What are best practices for the development of such policies and plans? Where can we turn to for examples of such policies and plans to help inform work in this area?
Recent posts to this blog about the use of mobile phones in education in developing countries have generated a *lot* of page views. News earlier this year that firms in the United States are beginning to make a pitch for greater use of mobile phones in the education sector highlights the increased attention that this topic is now receiving in OECD member countries as well.
Earlier this month, the World Bank and the Global Distance Learning Network (GDLN) helped to facilitate a "South-South" dialogue on the use of ICT as part of larger education reform initiatives. The video for the event is now available online. This dialogue, mediated by one of Indonesia's leading talk show hosts and watched live by groups in eight Asian countries, included exchanges between the ministers of education in both Indonesia and Jordan, as well as contributions from other leading figures involved in education and technology in those two countries. Dr. Thiam Seng Koh of the National Institute of Education in Singapore brought in perspectives from the experiences of Singapore, considered one of the world leaders in thinking -- and action -- in this field.