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Top World Bank EduTech blog posts of 2011

Michael Trucano's picture
lots of people celebrating another happy birthday
lots of people celebrating
another happy birthday

We have just completed three years of publishing the World Bank's EduTech blog.  As we did at the end of 2010 and 2009, we have put together a consolidated list of 'top posts' from the last year.  The EduTech blog is meant to provide an informal way to share information about some of the things (projects, challenges, technologies, approaches) that we think might be of interest to a wider audience, especially in so-called "developing countries", hopefully serving in some modest way to promote greater transparency related to some of the sorts of information, conversations and discussions that previously were accessible only to limited groups of stakeholders and partners with whom the World Bank is in regular dialogue.

There is no shortage of blogs that focus on educational technology issues.  The vast majority of the ones available in English are written by and for people working in schools and education systems in the United States, Canada, the UK and other places in Europe, Australia, etc.  While we are certainly happy when *anyone* reads our short weekly posts, this is decidedly *not* our target audience. (People interested in that sort of thing are directed to the lists of excellent educational technology blogs available here.) On the EduTech blog, our goal each week is to "explore issues related to the use of information and communication technologies to benefit education in developing countries", and it is through this prism that we always try to view things. Most posts are actually extensions of, or complements to, on-going conversations that we are having with various groups about particular projects and, truth be told, we often write a post with an explicit target audience of just a handful of people in mind.  That said, we are quite happy that we seem to have found a pretty wide and dedicated weekly readership.
 
International development institutions are often seen as notoriously traditional and hidebound institutions, especially in their embrace of new technologies, and by publishing (nearly) every week, we hope to demonstrate to various partners within the UN and international development community, as well as our partners in government around the world, that it is possible to share information quickly and cheaply with interested groups in ways that are a bit more idiosyncratic, and possibly more interesting, than via a press release touting the achievement of some milestone or a dense paper that goes through a lengthy review process before finding a wider audience.  Both of those mechanisms obviously have their place.  That said, based on personal experience with this blog, I find that the immediacy and wide readership of some blog posts prove useful to advance dialogue on some topics in ways that other 'traditional' publishing mechanisms is less suited to do. (Yes, this may be old news to many readers -- this paragraph isn't directed at you.) Whereas press releases and more formal academic papers often signal the end of a process of some sort, this blog is often used to spark conversation about starting something new, in places where some of the topics or ideas or approaches are not widely known.

So: That's enough preface.  Below is a collection of top posts from 2010.  There were fewer posts to pick from this year, given that we suspended publication for three months due to other commitments (and from sheer exhaustion -- maintaining the blog remains a largely 'extracurricular' activity), but we hope that you found something of interest and relevance to your work.

Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2011

10. Reporting back from eLearning Africa 2011 & Education & Technology in Africa: Creating Takers ... or Makers? & eLearning, Africa, and ... China?
Collectively, these three posts about the use of ICT in education in Africa -- all occasioned by 2011's eLearning Africa event in Tanzania -- were widely re-circulated.

9. Crowdsourcing, collaborative learning or cheating?
The introduction of computers often challenges educators, parents, communities and educational systems in ways that are poorly anticipated.  This post looked at how the ability to communicate instantaneously, and to cut and paste, highlights some of the issues at the core of what it means to 'educate' someone in the 21st century.

8. Using ICTs in schools with no electricity
In many places in the world, the 'digital divide' is as much about access to electricity as it is about access to the Internet and computing resources in general.

extra: Latin America
When people ask about where educational technologies are being widely used in 'developing countries', many instinctively look to Asia for answers.  The fast pace of changes and initiatives in Latin America -- like in Uruguay's Plan Ceibal -- is attracting greater interest around the world, and was the subject of many blog posts in 2011, including What's next for Plan Ceibal in Uruguay?, One-to-one computing in Latin America & the Caribbean, Educational Technology Use in the Caribbean and Surveying ICT use in education in Brazil.

7. The Aakash, India's $35 (?) Tablet for Education
Interest in a cheap computing device for students shows no sign of abating.  The latest gadget to grab headlines is India's Aakash -- this post described a visit to the World Bank by the head of the company that makes it.

6. Running your own FAILfaire
No one gets promoted for failing. So why talk about it?  And even if you do want to talk about it: How can you do it without getting fired?  This post draws on lessons from a number of FAILfaire events that have been held at the World Bank to help share lessons about what hasn't worked in the past, in the hope that this might provide some useful guidance and perspective for people contemplating similar things in the future.

5. When students are in charge of maintaining the computers in schools
Few education systems provide sufficient budgets to ensure that computers in schools remain in working order. This post looked at an interesting initiative that enlists the help of students to keep everything running.

extra What Are the Costs of Not Investing in ICTs in Education?
Whether one agrees with such a question, it is commonly asked (if not rigorously considered) as an important part of considerations of large-scale investments in ICTs in the education sector in many countries.

4. What happens when all textbooks are (only) digital? Ask the Koreans! & e-Learning in Korea in 2011 and beyond
The bold decision by educational leaders in South Korea to introduce digital textbooks in all subjects at all levels by the middle of the decade is being closely watched around the world.  This is a topic that we will continue to revisit over time, especially given the close partnership between the World Bank and Korea exploring how best to support the effective and relevant use of ICTs in education in developing countries.

3. SMS education in Pakistan & More on SMS use in education in Pakistan
There is much hype about potential uses of mobile phones in education.  A lot of this excitement is related to the potential for applications running on high-end smartphones.  What about the types of low-end phones most people in the world actually use?  These two posts looked briefly at one World Bank-sponsored initiative in Pakistan.

extra Education & Technology in 2025: A Thought Experiment
This short blog post tried to turn a common discussion held at ministries of education about the use of educational technologies on its head, asking If costs weren't an issue, what would you be seeking to do with technology to support learning? Would this change your perspective on the role of ICTs from what it is now?

2. School computer labs: A bad idea?
Sometimes it is useful to take a step back and ask: Do we need to change some of our fundamental approaches to how and where we consider the use of educational technologies? The concept -- and reality -- of a computer lab is central to the use of new technologies in most schools in developing countries. Should it be? This short post ignited a lot of discussion in a number of places.

1. Mobile learning in developing countries in 2011: What's new, what's next?
As in past years, the topic of mobile phone use in education continued to draw lots of readers to the EduTech blog.  Will 2012 finally be the year where this topic breaks into the mainstream in some new places?


While blog posts are often meant by their very nature to be rather ephemeral, a number of EduTech posts from earlier years enjoyed strong readership in 2011, including Worst practice in ICT use in education, 10 Global Trends in ICT and Education, and pretty much anything about mobile phones.  The lists of top posts from 2009 and 2010 may also be of interest. An easy way to be informed of new posts on the EduTech blog is to follow us on Twitter @WBedutech and/or to subscribe to our RSS feed (we put the complete text in the feed, to make it easy to read off-line and/or to re-publish on other sites).

Finally, an end-of-year "shout-out" to our sister site, the Educational Technology Debate, which continues to spark interesting discussion through regular contributions from a wide variety of people from different backgrounds; the main World Bank education sector blog (where EduTech items are occasionally cross-posted) and IC4D blog (not sure where the "T" got lost); and a general thank you to a number of international development-themed blogs, from one-man-shows to collective endeavors of various sorts, from which I continue to draw inspiration, and which regularly provoke me to think about things I often don't think about it -- or which challenge me to about things I do think about but in different ways. Happy New Year!

Note: The image used at the top of this blog post of the celebration of the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin ("lots of people celebrating another happy birthday") comes from the German Federal Archive via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0704-015 / Schindler, Karl-Heinz / CC-BY-SA)