The World Bank EduTech blog recently had its second birthday. As we did last year, we thought we'd gather together an idiosyncratic collection of 'top posts' and themes from the past year exploring issues related to the use of information and communication technologies to benefit education in developing countries.
Every week, the blog informally attempts to highlight particular initiatives, studies and emerging trends that we think -- based on regular interactions with government officials, NGOs, researchers and companies active in this area in developing and developed countries around the world -- might be of interest to a wider audience. It is also one small part of a larger movement at the World Bank -- symbolized perhaps most potently by the institution's Open Data initiative -- to provide greater transparency to some of the sorts of information, conversations and discussions that previously were accessible only to limited groups of stakeholders and partners. At least in the case of the World Bank's work related to ICT use in education, blogging has proven to be a useful mechanism to share perspectives and 'think aloud in public' along with our partners, expert practitioners and our critics, as well as with people who are simply interested in a particular topic.
Without further ado ...
10. Mobile phones
While not as popular a topic on the blog in 2010 as it was the previous year, the theme of using mobile phones as a learning tool continued to be popular with readers, as evidenced by posts like Mobile Phones and Literacy in Rural Communities and Learning the Queen's English ... on your mobile phone?
A number of posts looked at issues related to the use of educational technology in India, including Educational Technology in India: Boon or Bust?, PPPs, ICTs & Education: Lessons from India and Surveying ICT Use in Education in India and South Asia, which announced the publication of infoDev's latest regional survey. (India was also the setting of item #5 below.)
[extra] EduTech Debates
Our companion web site featuring monthly EduTech Debates continued -- and grew! -- in 2010, and some of the discussions were excerpted in blog posts on this site. Instead of linking to these posts, we suggest you head over to the EduTech Debate site itself.
8. ICT/education strategies
While meant for a pretty narrow audience, two posts on the World Bank's search for new new education sector strategy -- and the proper role of ICT within such a strategy -- generated large numbers of page views in 2009: A new education sector strategy -- what role for ICT? and Is there a role for ICTs in international donor aid strategies for the education sector?. Thanks to all of the people who provided useful feedback as a result of these posts. Sometimes speaking publicly about a topic helps to provoke action within an organization -- in this regard, these two posts were pretty successful.
While more blog posts were written about India than any other country (see item #9 above), ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch -- and Learn From was reproduced in a number of widely-read newsletters and was a popular post for re-tweeting.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the World Bank's technocratic bent, there were a number of posts related to monitoring and evaluation in 2009, including How would you design an ICT/education program for impact?, Technology Use and Educational Performance in PISA, Does having a computer at home improve results at school? and the rather complicatively titled Evaluating the evaluating of the Millennium Villages Project.
[extra] National ICT/education agencies
Much like a post on e-books in Africa in 2009 helped give birth to a related study in 2010, the strong response to a 2010 post on Building National ICT/education Agencies led to action as well. A global symposium in Seoul was one result -- as featured in follow-up posts on Learning from national ICT/education agencies and Sharing experiences on building national ICT/education agencies.
5. Innovative approaches: One Mouse Per Child & Hole in the Wall
The Twitter-friendly (and rather cheeky) title of the One Mouse Per Child post, which looked at an alternative approach to low cost technologies, helped drive a lot of traffic to the EduTech blog and inspired a great deal of follow-up inquiries. A free afternoon in Delhi led to a widely-read post on Searching for India's Hole in the Wall, which looked at a long-running experiment in providing access to computers in an urban slum in India. While increasingly short attention spans, and an unquenchable thirst for novelty, may lead us to continually search for the newest 'new thing', re-visiting innovative initiatives like Hole in the Wall that once were media favorites, but which have fallen off the radar screen for many people, will be something that we will try to explore more often in the coming year. (For those of you who regularly and passionately write to us advocating that more attention be paid to the well-known One Laptop Per Child project -- never fear, this will no doubt provide fodder for many posts in 2011.)
4. Low cost devices for education
While increasingly people think of the mobile phones (item #10 above) as perhaps the most relevant 'low cost educational technology' device going forward, innovative uses of other low-cost gadgets and products remained a popular topic with readers in 2010. In addition to device-specific posts on the The $10 computer for education?, Stuffing the Internet in a box and shipping it to schools in Africa and the One Mouse Per Child project (#5 above), two posts took a more general view of the topic: Cataloguing low cost ICT devices used in education and Laptops for education: $10, $35, $100 and points in between (but not above!).
[extra] New voices in 2010
The EduTech blog welcomed a number of new voices in 2010. In addition to Bob Hawkins (see items #3 and #2 below), Galina Voytsehovska (on crowdsourcing), Michael Kelly (on NRENs), Harsha Aturupane (on evaluating OLPC in Sri Lanka) and Sheila Jagannathan (on Online Educa Berlin) contributed posts on a variety of topics. We hope to feature additional World Bank contributors in 2011.
3. Urgent Evoke: A Crash Course in Changing The World
A series of posts on the educational on-line 'on-line social entrepreneurship game' sponsored by the World Bank, Urgent Evoke, created much buzz in circles that do not normally consider the World Bank to be a source of technological innovation or ambition (when the Bank is considered by such groups at all!). Reports from the early days of the 'game' (perhaps more accurately seen as a time-limited, purpose-driven social network), as well as two wrap-up posts generated much enthusiasm among readers. Let's hope that we can continue to forge productive partnerships with visionary figures like Jane McGonigal and support pockets of young social entrepreneurs around the world by finding funding for a follow-up initiative in 2011!
Perhaps the most Twitter-friendly post of 2010, 10 Global Trends in ICT and Education marked the debut of Bob Hawkins on the EduTech blog, generating over 20,000 unique readers in short order. New horizons in educational technology explored similar themes.
1. Worst practice
Sometimes you learn the most not from success ... but rather from what isn't so successful. That was the premise behind 2010's most popular post, Worst practice in ICT use in education, which listed a set of the preeminent 'worst practices' related to the large scale use of ICTs in education in developing countries, based on first hand observation over the past dozen or so years.... The criterion used for selection was simple: The given worst practice was easily observable in multiple prominent initiatives, with (one fears) a high likelihood of re-occurrence, in the same or other places. For whatever reason, this topic really struck a chord with many readers, and it was reproduced on many other widely read blogs and heavily re-tweeted. (We even got a nice mention from the New York Times!) This topic was featured in the World Bank's first FAILfaire, as documented in Failing in public -- one way to talk openly about (and learn from) 'failed' projects. While we should perhaps know better, we hope that none of these 'worst practices' will be re-visited in posts on the EduTech blog in 2011.
OK, that's all for 2010.
Going forward, we're unsure of the direction that the EduTech blog will take in 2011 -- or even if it will survive in its current form. (We may, for example, be incorporated into the World Bank's general, and increasingly excellent, Education for Global Development blog.) The fact that a number of World Bank blogs begun as modest 'experiments in utilizing social media' -- including this one -- seem to have garnered loyal readerships and lots of page views has certainly caught the attention of management, and there may be some changes as a result. We estimate, for example, that the top EduTech blog post for 2010 on 'worst practice' (item #1 above) has been read over 75,000 times. While efforts to estimate readership, and reach, of on-line publications can be notoriously difficult, numbers like this are leading some in the World Bank education sector to re-think some of our approaches to sharing information and engaging with diverse sets of stakeholders in ways that may have broader reach and be more transparent.
Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules in 2010 to listen what we've had to say on the EduTech blog and who've sent in feedback. Thank you also to everyone who sent in (unsolicited) books and manuscripts in 2010. We're sorry that we were not able to devote individual blog posts to most of them (there simply wasn't enough time), but we do hope to feature more commentary on publications in 2011.
Happy New Year!
A reminder: You can follow us on Twitter @WBedutech. Please feel free to take our RSS feed and re-publish our posts -- we include the full text of each post in the feed in order to make it easy to do so (just please remember to credit where you got the material and link back to us!).