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Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2013

Michael Trucano's picture
will it ever end? five years of the World Bank's EduTech blog
will it ever end? five years of the World Bank's EduTech blog

2013 marked the fifth year of the World Bank's EduTech blog, which has been dedicated to "exploring issues related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries". The posts in 2013 spanned a rather eclectic set of topics and issues, from MOOCs to mobile phones to Matthew Effects (and those are just the 'M's!). Viewed collectively, it is hoped that these posts provide a little insight into the variety of discussions and activities in which the World Bank has been engaged over the past year, assisting policymakers and practitioners in middle and low income countries as they investigate how new technologies can help education systems tackle long-standing challenges in new (and sometimes not-so-new) ways.

As in past years, in 2013 the EduTech blog served various purposes, but has remained at its core driven by a belief that by 'thinking aloud in public', we can try (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. There were fewer (27) posts over the course of the year, but many of them were much longer (some may argue that many of them were in fact too long, and indeed a number of them served as first drafts of sorts for upcoming papers and book chapters).

Before presenting this year's 'top ten' list, some quick boilerplate reminders: Posts on the EduTech blog are not meant to be exhaustive in their consideration of a given topic, but rather to point to interesting developments and pose some related questions. They should not be mistaken for peer-reviewed research or World Bank policy papers. The views expressed on the EduTech blog are those of the author(s) alone, and not those of the World Bank.

For those interested in such things:
 - More background and context on the World Bank's EduTech blog 
 - Top EduTech blog posts: 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009
 - Annual EduTech blog compilations (in pdf): 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009
 - A list of the top EduTech blog posts of all time can be found on this page

OK, now on to the ...

Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2013

10. A new wave of educational efforts across Africa exploring the use of ICTs + Citizens’ Monitoring of the Education Sector in the Philippines
There are a *lot* of innovative usage models and approaches emerging as a result of the application of information and communication technologies in places and circumstances for which they (until recently, perhaps) have not really been explicitly designed. These two posts provide quick peaks into some of these sorts of models and approaches being developed in response to local needs and contexts in places like the Philippines and the West African nation of Burkina Faso. These are perhaps not traditionally thought of as the sorts of places where one should look to see the cutting edge of technology use. Might/should such 'traditions' be changing?

9. Calculating the costs of digital textbook initiatives in Africa, A few myths and misconceptions about digital teaching and learning materials in Africa & Investing in digital teaching and learning resources: Ten recommendations for policymakers
This set of related posts looks at the promise and possibility of providing things like 'digital textbooks' to learners in Africa who have been inadequately served by traditional textbook procurement activities.

8. ICTs and Literacy (the old fashioned kind)
Much is made of the importance of developing various sorts of 'digital literacies' necessary for success in an increasingly technology-rich world. But how might these information and communication technologies help promote the acquisition of skills and competencies related to the 'old fashioned' and most fundamental sort of literacy: the ability to read?

7. Surveying ICT use in education in ____
2014 witnessed the publication of a number of surveys of ICT use in education around the world. Viewed individually, they provide tangible data documenting what is happening in specific countries. Taken collectively, they help sketch out a rough, updated picture of the extent that technology is (and is not) appearing in schools around the world:
 - Surveying ICT use in education in Central and West Asia
 - Surveying ICT use in education in Europe
 - Surveying ICT use in education in Latin America & the Caribbean
 - Surveying ICT use in education in five Arab States

extra: A regular theme explored in posts on the EduTech blog is the importance of teachers -- and how technology can be used to support their work. Two related posts from 2013 include Teachers, Teaching & ICTs and Using video to improve teaching -- and support teachers.

6. Who owns the laptops and tablets used by students and teachers, and how does this affect their use? + Who owns the content and data produced in schools?
Belatedly, many education systems are realizing that issues of 'ownership' (of equipment, of data, of educational content) may need to be re-thought as a result of the increasingly widespread and strategic uses of new technologies. These two posts pose two thematically related questions -- and try to make a case for why we might care about the answers.

5. The Matthew Effect in Educational Technology
Much of the rhetoric and anticipation surrounding the use of things like laptops and the Internet in schools in developing countries around the world is related to their potential to provide previously disadvantaged groups with access to the sorts of learning tools that other, richer, more privileged groups have. But what if the widespread diffusion of these technologies increase, rather than decrease, the divides between learners, teachers, and schools, with the end result that 'the rich (measured in various ways, not all of which have to do with money) get richer'?

4. A different approach to scaling up educational technology initiatives
Much is made of the necessity to 'scale up' in international development circles. Why is it so difficult, for example, to move from a successful and promising small pilot initiative to do something that impacts many more students, teachers, schools and communities? This post helped promote the idea that, when attempting to do so, you may be more successful if you "Start 'down and out', and then move 'up and in'".

extra: Videogames and Learning provided a quick roundup of what is known about the topic, while Broadband for schools? explored the different definitions assigned to various levels of connectivity around the world (and why these differences mght be important).

3. Missing Perspectives on MOOCs: Views from developing countries & More about MOOCs and developing countries
The phenomenon of MOOCs -- massive open online courses which can attract thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of students -- occasioned much hope and hype in 2013. A series of posts explored efforts in this area to help readers stay up to speed on issues and developments and debates and controversies in this fast-moving area. Other related posts included: MOOCs in Africa; Making Sense of MOOCs: A Reading List; and Debating MOOCs.

2. 10 principles to consider when introducing ICTs into remote, low-income educational  environments
For better and for worse (and mostly for worse, in my opinion), much of the planning processes for the introduction and use of ICTs in poor and/or remote communities in developing countries around the world have, at their core, a set of assumptions formed as a result of the use of such technologies in places that are neither poor nor remote. This post, probably (and hopefully) the most influential one to appear on the EduTech blog this year, attempts to consolidate what we know about working with ICTs in such places, based on the past decade or so of activity and experimentation, and proposes an alternative set of assumptions or principles that might more usefully inform the plans and activities of policymakers and practitioners working in, or for the benefit of, such communities.

1. Big educational laptop and tablet projects: Ten countries to learn from
The most read and circulated post of 2013 provides pointers to many of the interesting large scale educational technology projects that are taking place around the world. Until recently, such projects were almost exclusively to be found in 'highly developed' countries. This is no longer the case. Many poor countries around the world have in the past looked to inspiration and models for educational technology use to countries like the United States and the United Kingdom for the simple reason that a lot has been happening in such places. More relevant models may be found in the massive deployments in many middle income countries such as Turkey and Uruguay (and many others).


OK, that officially wraps up the EduTech blog for 2013. 2014 should feature shorter, more frequent posts on a wider variety of topics and projects. As always you are welcome to visit the blog (we try to publish on Fridays) at, subscribe to our RSS feed and/or follow us on Twitter @WBedutech to find out. You are also most welcome to share and re-publish the items (on your site, via newsletters, in your publications) to the extent that doing so may be useful to you (all we ask for in return is that you credit and link back to the original post). Thanks so much for all of the people and oprganizations who did this over the past months and helped to provide some more exposure to the themes, ideas, challenges, people, research and organizations featured on the EduTech blog in 2013.

Thanks for your kind attention and interest. Happy New Year!


Note: The image at the top of this blog post of one man prattling on while his audience is consumed by either anguish or slumber ("will it ever end? five years of the World Bank's EduTech blog") comes via Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

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