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India

Bollywood Karaoke and Same Language Subtitling to Promote Literacy

Michael Trucano's picture

I'd like to teach the world to read, in perfect harmony ...While I have not seen any research evidence to support this particular contention, I have been in a number of presentations over the years about the 'Finnish success in education' in which the fact that Finnish children watch cartoons with subtitles is mentioned as a contributing factor to their literacy development. Even if there are no peer-reviewed journal articles about the impact of this practice in Finland (if anyone knows of any, please do feel free to send them along!) or many other places (subtitling on television has of course been a common practice in many countries of the world for quite some time), there is some pretty compelling evidence from a little initiative in India that has been reaching big audiences for over a decade that this sort of thing can make a small but meaningful difference in the lives of many illiterate and low literate people. Sometimes innovation is the result of doing something 'old' in a 'new' place (often with a slight twist).

Back in November, PlanetRead was awarded the first-ever 'International Prize' as part of the new U.S. Library of Congress Literacy Awards [disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board for these awards] in recognition of its pioneering work in the practice of Same Language Subtitling (SLS), "the idea of subtitling the lyrics of existing film songs (or music videos) on TV, in the ‘same’ language that they are sung in. Call it Karaoke on Bollywood for mass reading!  A deceptively simple innovation, SLS is already delivering regular and inescapable reading practice to 150 million weak-readers in India."

One notable characteristic of each of the three inaugural winners of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards is that they largely work outside of traditional 'educational' institutions as part of their efforts to promote reading. In the case of Reach Out and Read, this means connecting with parents and young children in pediatric exam rooms. 826 National supports store front writing and tutoring centers in local communities. PlanetRead focuses its outreach on a place where, like or not, many people spend a lot of their free time: watching television. Brij Kothari, the founder of PlanetRead, joked during the awards ceremonies at the Library of Congress, some people might say that TV is the enemy of reading, to which we reply: embrace the enemy!

Big educational laptop and tablet projects -- Ten countries to learn from

Michael Trucano's picture

tablets loom increasingly large on the horizon in many places[also available in Thai]

Recent headlines from places as diverse as Kenya ("6,000 primary schools picked for free laptop project") and California ("Los Angeles plans to give 640,000 students free iPads") are just two announcements  among many which highlight the increasing speed and scale by which portable computing devices (laptops, tablets) are being rolled out in school systems all over the world. Based on costs alone -- and the costs can be very large! -- such headlines suggest that discussions of technology use in schools are starting to become much more central to educational policies and planning processes in scores of countries, rich and poor, across all continents.

Are these sorts of projects good ideas? It depends. The devil is often in the details (and the cost-benefit analysis), I find. Whether or not they are good ideas, there is no denying that they are occurring, for better and/or for worse, in greater frequency, and in greater amounts. More practically, then:

What do we know about what works,
and what doesn't (and how?, and why?)
when planning for and implementing such projects,
what the related costs and benefits might be,
and where might we look as we try to find answers to such questions?

The Aakash, India's $35 (?) Tablet for Education

Michael Trucano's picture

the tablet: resistance is futileOn 5 October 2011, the Indian Ministry for Human Resource Development announced the launch of a new low cost educational tablet: the Aakash. Developed by the London-based company DataWind with the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, the Aakash has been described by some as potentially heralding a new 'Internet revolution' within India education, doing for educational computing what the mobile phone has done for personal communications over the past decade.  The launch of this product has been accompanied by a great deal of press attention, some laudatory, some less so.  Following on a visit by Indian HRD Minister Sibal in October, DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli stopped by the World Bank yesterday to talk about the Aakash, and more broadly, about sustainable business models to drive the broad adoption of computing and Internet devices in the developing world.

Some critics have noted that this is not the first time such a device has been promised for India, recalling the general hoopla that greeted earlier devices like the Simputer and the $100 laptop (OLPC) project.  What is different this time around, they ask, and why is the government subsidizing the purchase price of this particular gadget?

Crowdsourcing, collaborative learning or cheating?

Michael Trucano's picture

Challenges for educators in the Internet age

Wherever there are rules, there are almost inevitably people looking to break them, especially where a compelling incentive exists for those willing to risk getting caught. When I was a classroom teacher in Czechoslovakia and the United States, I often found that some of the most 'innovative' practices I witnessed over the course of a school year fell under the heading of what I (and the school) considered 'cheating'.

Surveying ICT Use in Education in India and South Asia

Michael Trucano's picture

Survey of ICT and Education in India and South AsiaThe World Bank's infoDev program recently released the latest volume in its periodic surveys of the use of information and communication technology in the education sector around the world. 

Following on earlier efforts that examined the Caribbean and Africa (and UNESCO-Bangkok's much earlier examination of the Asia-Pacific region), ICT for Education in India and South Asia catalogues what is happening related to the use of educational technologies in this important part of the world.

[Disclaimer: I helped initiate this series when I was at infoDev, and was a reviewer for this latest work, and so am not a neutral disinterested observer here!]

The series of reports include:

Laptops for education: $10, $35, $100 and points in between (but not above!)

Michael Trucano's picture

what price is right for you? | image attribution at bottom

When I started working full time exploring issues related to the use of educational technologies in developing countries about a dozen years ago, many ministries of education would express their desires for introducing computers in schools by saying things like 'We want something that can enable students and teachers to do x and y and z'. 

More recently, this conversation has switched in many places, as increasing numbers of ministries (and especially their most senior officials) have initiated their related planning processes by saying that 'we need a computer that costs $___'.

The implications of this shift on planning practices in many places have actually been pretty profound.

Now, it is true that, in the 'early days', the initial rationales behind putting computers in schools were expressed in rather vague terms (e.g. 'we want children to access the world of information on the Internet').  That said, such formulations often presented a  useful starting point for discussions of what the educational goals of a particular ICT program for schools might be.  For the past half-dozen years or so, however, it appears to me that there has been a much greater focus in many quarters on *only* the retail prices of various devices, with discussions of what specific learning goals these devices are meant to help meet -- and how -- shunted to the side.

Mobile Phones and Literacy in Rural Communities

Michael Trucano's picture

mobile learning while sittingGiven their low costs and increasing ubiquity, even in very poor communities, much has been written about the potential for mobile phones to aid in the delivery of 'anytime, anywhere' education. But what might such educational practices look like in practice? The MILLEE project  (Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies) has been examining this issue for the last six years, beginning with low-income communities in the urban slums and villages in India.

In a recent presentation at the World Bank, Matthew Kam, the founder of MILLEE, shared experiences from ten rounds of iterative small pilot field studies in developing and testing mobile phone gaming applications that enable children to acquire language literacy in immersive, game-like environments. One goal of this work is to investigate how to make localized English language learning resources more accessible to underprivileged children, at times and places that are more convenient than schools. (A short video profile of the project is available here; it is not embedded for direct viewing on this blog because it features a 15-second commercial at the beginning.)

Educational Technology in India: Boon or Bust?

Michael Trucano's picture

cross-posted on the infoDev web site

On 21 April 2010 infoDev will launch the first draft of its Survey of Information and Communication Technology for Education in India & South Asia.

The launch, to take place at the World Bank office at Lodi Estate in New Delhi, India, will be accompanied by a lively Oxford-style debate on the motion:

"Most investment in technology
in schools is wasted.
Discuss." 

The event is open to the public and will be webcast (visit the event web page to register to attend the event and/or to receive webcast details via email).

PPPs, ICTs & Education: Lessons from India

Michael Trucano's picture

a public view of one particularly successful Indian partnership | image attribution at bottomNext week the World Bank is holding a forum on public-private sector partnerhips (PPPs) in the education sector as part of its ongoing initiative investigating this increasingly important topic.

Consideration of the formation and use of  PPPs is especially relevant in many countries when the use of ICTs at scale in the education sector is considered.  There a variety of reasons for this, but two of the most common reasons that governments give in support of the use of PPPs in this area are related to (1) cost and financing issues ("this stuff is expensive, so we need to find creative ways to share costs"); and (2) the perception that competence and experience in new, 'innovative' areas like the use of ICTs is best found in the private sector, and not government ("the IT people are more advanced than we are in government, so partnering with them is a way for us to 'catch up'").  While developing countries as diverse as Kenya and the Philippines are exploring this in a variety of ways, some of the most interesting and varied cases of PPPs to support the use of ICTs in education can be found in India.

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