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Education

Stuffing the Internet in a box and shipping it to schools in Africa

Michael Trucano's picture

there are multiple options for moving forwardOver the past decade or so, increasing numbers of groups have been working on answers to variations of the following question:

How can the wealth of educational resources on the Internet be brought to the majority of African schools that are today 'un-connected'?

While the Internet has not wrought the similar types of profound, broad societal changes in Africa that it has in other parts of the world, the connectivity landscape in Africa is in fact changing very quickly in many places (for the better!), with (for example) macro-level announcements about progress with new fibre optic cables coming on what seems like a weekly basis.

(For those who like such things, here's a great map to track technical progress in this area.  For acronym fans, here are links to announcements about some of the major backbone connectivity initiatives in Africa: Glo,  RCIPEASSyTEAMS, Seacom and LION2.) 

Earlier this year the total number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa (over 300 million) passed the total in North America and, while access to the Internet via mobile phones is still low across the continent, it is growing quickly.  In Nigeria, for example, published reports now have mobile phones as the primary access device to the Internet in Africa's most populous country.  There is even increasing talk (and some action) of connecting African educational institutions to the 'cloud' in various ways. 

That said, it also undeniable that improvements in connectivity are not coming fast enough, or at a high enough speed or quality, or cheaply enough, for all citizens and schools, especially outside major population centers -- and won't any time in the near future.

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.

EVOKE Reflections: Results from the World Bank's on-line educational game (part 2)

Robert Hawkins's picture

some reflections from EVOKE

On March 3, 2010, the World Bank Institute (WBI) and infoDev launched EVOKE, an online alternate reality game with the goal of supporting social innovation among young people around the world.

I’ve written previously about the EVOKE initiative here and here.  Following on a blog post from earlier this week, I wanted to provide some more data and reflections on the experience. 

EVOKE Reflections: Results from the World Bank's on-line educational game (part 1)

Robert Hawkins's picture

EVOKE heroes

On March 3, 2010, the World Bank Institute (WBI) and InfoDev launched EVOKE, an online alternate reality game with the goal of supporting social innovation among young people around the world.

I’ve written previously about the EVOKE initiative here and here -- and wanted to take this opportunity to share some data and reflections on the experience. 

By the time the EVOKE adventure ended 19,324 people from over 150 countries registered to play, far exceeding expectations.  Players submitted over 23,500 blog posts (about 335 each day), 4,700 photos and over 1,500 videos. The site received over 178,000 unique visitors and 2,345,000 page views with time per visit averaging over eight minutes.  For the month of March EVOKE generated just under 10% of what the World Bank’s entire external website generated with regard to page views (1.1 million versus 12.1 million).  Phenomenal numbers.    Below is our original pyramid of participation and our actual numbers for EVOKE.  Across the board EVOKE exceeded our expectations.

More on e-books in Africa

Michael Trucano's picture

not destined for the rubbish bin yet -- but you'd better make room on the shelf! | image attribution at bottomThe recent announcement that Amazon.com will be dropping the price of its latest Kindle e-reader to US$139 is only the latest news item from the exploding field of 'e-books', which is receiving increasing attention from education policymakers around the world.

Now, while some may argue that too much attention is paid to the retail prices of ICT-related hardware for use in education, there is no denying that, as prices continue to fall, discussions around the potential use of such devices in a variety of educational settings will only increase.

Back in December the EduTech blog asked, rather speculatively, Can eBooks replace printed books in Africa?  It turns out that this question is not only hypothetical.  A number of organizations are investigating answers to questions as this -- including the World Bank, where, in response to requests from a few countries, researchers are investigating possible opportunities and potential impacts of the introduction of a variety of digital technologies (including e-readers) into learning environments in sub-Saharan Africa.

Failing in public -- one way to talk openly about (and learn from) 'failed' projects

Michael Trucano's picture

failure is not (only) child's play | image attribution at bottom I had the good fortune to participate in the recent FAILfaire event in DC organized by the MobileActive NGO and the innovations team at the World Bank Institute. What's a FAILfaire, you ask?  In the words of the organizers:

"While we often focus on highlighting successes in our field, it’s no secret that many projects just don’t work – some don’t scale, some aren’t sustainable, some can’t get around bureaucratic hoops, and many fail due to completely unanticipated barriers. At FAILFaire we want to recognize the failures: the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise."

Here are the respective event wrap-ups from both WBI and MobileActive.

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