infoDev and UNESCO have teamed up to sponsor a series of monthly on-line discussions on low-cost ICT initiatives for educational systems in developing countries. The debate for June is titled Mobile Phones: Better Learning Tools than Computers?
The German scholar Max Müller famously remarked that "If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India."
No doubt there are many other countries also deserving of similar sorts of accolades, but the challenges that India currently faces related to providing universal access to a relevant and quality education for everyone -- and the solutions it deploys to meet such challenges -- are of increasing interest and relevance to people around the world. This is especially true as it relates to the use of ICTs to meet a variety of educational and developmental objectives.
At the end of last week's blog post I mentioned the new Educational Technology Debate web site sponsored by infoDev and UNESCO. Every month, this site will offer up a topic for consideration, and two discussants will stake out positions on (roughly) opposite sides to kick off what is meant to be a lively on-line 'back-and-forth' in the subsequent weeks. The first question for debate asks,
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.
It's been four years since the The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (known then as the '$100 laptop) was announced. According to recent unconfirmed news reports from India, one quarter million of the little green and white OLPC XO laptops are now on order for use in 1500 hundred schools on the subcontinent. Four years on, what have we learned about the impact of various OLPC pilots that might be of relevance to a deployment in India? Thankfully, preliminary results are starting to circulate among researchers. While nothing yet has approached what many consider to be the gold standard of evaluation work in this area, some of this research is beginning to see the light of day (or at least the Internet) -- and more is planned.
For some people in other parts of the world, it was the picture of two top Mexican futbol teams playing earlier this week in an empty Estadio Azteca (one of the world's largest capacity stadiums) that made clear the severity of the current swine flu outbreak. While the sporting passions of the 100,000 missing spectators could presumably satisfied by watching the game on TV, it was less clear how to immediately satisfy the learning needs of over seven million students who were sent home after their schools were ordered closed.
Many educational reformers have long held out hope that computers and other information and computer technologies (ICTs) can play crucial and integral roles in bringing about long-needed changes to education systems. Indeed, many see the introduction of ICTs in schools as a sort of Trojan horse, out of which educational reform and innovation can spring once inside the walls of the traditional (conservative) education establishment. While not denying the potentially transformational impact of ICT use to help meet a wide variety of educational objectives, history has shown that bringing about positive disruptive change isn't achieved by simply flooding schools with computers and related ICTs.
As a result of swine flu, many Mexican schools are experiencing quick, disruptive change of a different sort right now. How might technology be relevant in cases like this? Given the status quo, the use of technology in schools isn't enough to bring about systemic change. But: How might ICTs be useful, even transformational, when this status quo is severely disrupted by some other exogenous factor ... like a pandemic disease outbreak?
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.
With the buzz from this year's influential TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference (9-13 February) now starting to fade, I thought it might be interesting to re-visit some of the highlights from past conferences on topics related to ICT and education. While presentations at the conference cover a wide variety of topics, some 'TEDtalks' provide quite illuminating, and sometimes quite provocative, glimpses and insights into how technology *might* be used in various innovative ways to enhance education in the future. I am regularly amazed at the number of times that people in ministries of education all around the world ask me about something they first learned about through TED. While we were, yet again, not in attendance this year, the conference organizers have done the wonderful (and laudable!) job of making available the 'TEDtalks' through the TED web site for free.