From Africa to China, from the use of mobile phones to a big evaluation report on the OLPC project -- with a short detour down Sesame Street and a bunch of stuff about digital textbooks thrown into the mix -- the World Bank EduTech blog covered a lot of ground in 2012. Begun in 2009 as one of the World Bank's first regular blogs, EduTech has tried to explore issues related to the use of information and communication technologies to benefit education in developing countries via a series of informal posts on a variety of topics, informed by lots and lots (and lots) of discussions with groups in countries around the world doing interesting things. Along the way, we have realized that, for better or worse, and at least with regards to ICT use in education, we are able to connect via the blog with many people in ways that our more traditional (often long, although hopefully not long-winded) formal World Bank publications and dialogues struggle to achieve. By 'thinking aloud in public', we have also tried (in an admittedly very modest way) to use the blog to open up conversations about various themes to wider audiences, and to share emerging thinking and discussions on topics that in the past were often (regrettably) shared only 'behind closed doors' within small circles of people and institutions.
2012 saw the fewest number of discrete posts on the World Bank EduTech blog, and yet the blog as a whole experienced its highest overall readership. While it is flattering that our stuff occasionally (and increasingly) finds good-sized audiences online, we don't put too much stock in individual readership metrics -- nor are we terribly interested in them, to be honest. While we are of course happy with the broad readership that the blog attracts some weeks inside our little niche topic area (while at the start we used to be happy if we could attract 1000 or so readers to a post, in 2012 we would sometimes get that within a few hours of the appearance of a new blog entry), most weeks our target audience is actually just a handful of key decision makers in one place whom we hope to make aware of something that is happening in another part of the world that might be of relevance to their work. So, while it is gratifying to find out that a post was read by 500 or 5000 (or 50,000!) people, in all honesty we are most pleased if it was seen by a target group of people who may actually number only five -- especially if and where it may influence their thinking in a positive and useful way.
We deliberately try not to focus our attention on any one topic for too long (a short attention span no doubt helps in this regard), but rather to highlight research, initiatives, questions and conversations with which we are engaged at a particular point in time, in the hope that doing so in public is useful to other people dealing with similar challenges in their work. As we have done in the past, we thought we'd begin the new year by counting down the list of top EduTech blog posts over the prior 12 months as a sort of quick review for a general audience. Criteria for inclusion are rather idiosyncratic, and include a combination of page views and RSS hits, re-postings in other fora, and related exchanges via email and in person have informed our entirely unscientific attempt to rank-order offerings from 2012.
If you are new to the EduTech blog: We hope you find something of interest and relevance to your work. If you do, you may also wish to check out our lists of top posts from 2009, 2010, or 2011, check out some general background information on what we are trying to achieve with the blog, and/or download one of the annual compendia of all of the posts from a given year:
2009: Perspectives on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries. Excerpts from the World Bank’s EduTech blog [pdf]
2010: Worst Practices in ICT Use in Education, Low-Cost Gadgets, e-Books in Africa and a Hole in the Wall: Learning from the use of educational technologies in developing countries. Excerpts from the World Bank's EduTech blog (Volume II) [pdf]
2011: Separating the Hope from the Hype: More perspectives on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries. Excerpts from the World Bank’s EduTech blog (Volume III) [pdf]
With all of that preliminary stuff out of the way, and without any further ado, here are the ...
Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2012
10. What Sesame Street Can Teach the World Bank
Long a touchstone for many of us who work in the educational technology field, Sesame Street (in its various incarnations) is probably the most studied educational technology initiative in history. This post attempts to draw five lessons from the Sesame Street experience of particular relevance to international development institutions like the World Bank.
9. Evaluating One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in Peru
While these days one perhaps hears more about the Khan Academy and MOOCs (and increasingly of initiatives like Raspberry Pi as well), the One Laptop Per Child project has for many people around the world been the most prominent example of the use of, and potential for, various low cost education technologies in developing countries. Much discussed and debated for the past decade, we are starting to see the emergence of some various interesting data and studies examining the impact and approach of OLPC in different places around the world. Most notable of these studies has probably been work by the Inter-american Development Bank, which this blog post discusses. Other posts in 2012 that looked at lessons from the 'low cost laptop' experience included Around the World with Portugal's eEscola Project and Magellan Initiative and Let them eat laptops?*
extra: Relatively speaking, the EduTech blog focused less often in 2012 on specific individual country experiences than in past years. ICT and rural education in China and Assessing education with computers in Georgia were two notable exceptions to this.
8. An update on the use of e-readers in Africa
While the EduTech blog had less of a focus on Africa in 2012 than in years past, a post on the work of the Worldreader NGO in Ghana and elsewhere attracted many readers, emblematic perhaps of the interest we have seen from many educational policymakers to explore how the use of the purpose built small tablet devices that we refer today as e-readers' may be relevant to their countries' particular interests and needs. Another Africa-related post in 2012 was Developing ICT Skills in African Teachers.
7. Reporting back from WISE, the World Innovation Summit for Education
While not explicitly interested in ICT use in education, the Doha-based World Innovation Summit on Education provides a way for lots of folks exploring the innovative uses of technologies to help address a wide variety of developmental and educational challenges to share thought and perspectives on what they are doing, what is working -- and what isn't.
6. Textbooks of the future: Will you be buying a product ... or a service?
We receive *lots* of unsolicited sales calls and emails from education publishers looking to find ways to sell their digital products and services to countries that are receiving support in various ways from the World Bank. (Our apologies to vendors that we don't return many of them -- there just aren't enough hours in the day to do so.) One can only imagine how many such calls and visits ministries of education around the world get, but we are often called in to help countries make sense of pitches they are receiving. Based on one's perspective, the topic of 'digital educational material' is an area where there are either too few satisfying answers about the way things might proceed going forward, or too many. Whatever the case, the end result is the same: lots of confusion about which way markets are heading, and how educational systems should be planning in the face of such uncertainty. Textbook policies in an increasingly digital age, while specifically meant to highlight some related issues that we face here at the World Bank, was written with a larger potential audience in mind, and Mapping Open Educational Resources Around The World highlights some additional work of relevance to the topic.
5. Re-thinking School Architecture in the Age of ICT
What will the school of the future look like, and to what extent will, or should, considerations around technology use influence the design of learning spaces going forward? This post attempts to explore related issues.
extra: As work completed under the World Bank's SABER-ICT project emerges over the course of 2013, readers can expect a lot of related information to appear first on the EduTech blog. Two posts from 2012 -- Developing a national educational technology policy and Analyzing ICT and education policies in developing countries -- anticipate some of these upcoming entries.
These two thematically linked posts (the first presented in two parts, due to its length, and whose popularity occasioned a full translation in Spanish) represent the one topic guaranteed to generate lots of readership: the use of mobile phones in education. Long-hyped, we are now starting to see examples beyond the handful of often-cited projects that are used as representatives examples of what is actually happening 'on-the-ground' on this emerging and fast-growing area of activity.
extra: Some of the EduTech blog posts from 2012 that generated the smallest readership received the strongest sustained feedback and comment, especially from the private sector. Educational technology and innovation at the edges, How (not) to develop ICT literacy in students? and Planning for an edtech RFP: Technical vs. functional specs are three examples of this phenomenon.
2. Ten things about computer use in schools that you don't want to hear (but I'll say them anyway)
Bloggers have long known that lists of various sorts have the virtue of being both relatively easy to write and easy to digest for readers. Lists of ten irregularly feature on the EduTech blog, and this one from April with a very Twitter-friendly title was the second-most popular post of 2012.
And, in a somewhat similar vein ...
1. Ten trends in technology use in education in developing countries that you may not have heard about
This post from June came in response to a question that we are asked so often as a sort of aside at the end of discussions about other topics that we decided to attempt to answer it 'in public', in case it might be of interest to other groups as well. "What trends are you are noticing that are a bit 'under the radar'?" Here is a short collection of a few of our responses to this query, deliberately omitting those that made an earlier appearance on the EduTech blog in a post on 10 Global Trends in ICT and Education. That post, which was published on the blog in 2010, was actually the most read post of 2012, demonstrating that, even though most blog posts are meant to be 'of the moment', certain individual entries seem to continue to find and connect with readers long after they first appeared (the one on 'worst practice in ICT use in education', also from 2010, is another good example of this).
OK, that's the list for 2012, the fourth year of publication for the World Bank's EduTech blog, a year in which we achieved an important geek milestone: our 128th post! (That's 25, or two to the fifth power, for those who don't automatically think in binary.) Will we make it to our fifth birthday? Please do check back in with us at http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech, subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter @WBedutech to find out. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with us, and ... Happy New Year!
Note: The image use at the top of this blog post of a Sri Lanka dance troop spinning plates during a performance in the ancient hill city of Kandy ("the World Bank EduTech blog: providing our own spin on things since 2009") is adapted from an image from Wikipedian Jerzy Strzelecki via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Most weeks, the EduTech blog consciously uses images from Wikimedia Commons and similar resources as a way to highlight the use of various Creative Commons licenses.