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Two very cool edtech jobs

Michael Trucano's picture
we're looking for ewe
So: We're hiring!

The World Bank is seeking to hire two people to work on research, advisory and operational activities with governments around the world, exploring the effective and appropriate use of information and communication technologies (“ICTs”) to meet a variety of objectives related to teaching and learning. These are full time positions (i.e. not consultancies), based in Washington, DC: We are especially interested in people with strong, demonstrable operational experience in the planning, management and/or implementation of large scale educational technology projects. Experience working in educational settings in low and middle-income countries and with public institutions would be ideal, especially across multiple regions of the world. These people will work as part of a small, dynamic, fast-paced ‘edtech’ team led by me and a colleague, in support of a geographically disbursed set of 22 regional World Bank staff (the 'edtech fellows') who are leading and advising on large scale education projects with ministries of education and other key stakeholder groups in middle and low income countries around the world.

If you're not familiar with the World Bank (or even if you are), here's some quick background information related to:
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Personalized learning. Laptops. Artificial intelligence. Digital textbooks. Learning to code. Having access to the best teachers and educational materials, anytime, anywhere, no matter where you are. The potential and promise of technology use in education ('edtech') is clear, even if it is often oversold.

When implemented well, educational software applications can help students to learn at their own pace. The use of devices like tablets can help children develop important digital skills and computer know-how that they’ll need to succeed in our knowledge-based economy -- and in life. Separating the hope from the hype, however, and figuring out how to put into practice what seems som compelling in theory (or in a slick presentation from a vendor touting its latest and greatest 'edtech solution') -- that's not so easy. Many potential related challenges, such as high costs, increased burdens on teachers, and many (many!) implementation difficulties, are well known and documented. Far too many high-profile technology-related education initiatives have had little measurable impact on student reading or math ability — sometimes predictably, despite the best of intentions. Technology, as the historian Melvin Kranzberg famously remarked, is neither positive nor negative -- nor is it neutral. While it is very possible that the introduction of new technologies in education can help certain groups leap ahead in ways not previously possible, if care is not taken, it is quite probable that other groups will be left (further) behind.

For better or for worse -- perhaps it's more accurate to say, for better and for worse, given this checkered track record -- countries, communities, families and learners are investing more and more in educational technology tools of all sorts. In most places around the world, the question is no longer, should we use technology in education, but rather, how can we use technology, affordably and effectively, to help prepare our children to lead healthy, happy productive lives?

More evidence is needed to better understand the impact of technology use on teaching and learning and the ways in which a variety of hardware and software tools -- as well as faster, more widespread and reliable Internet access -- can accelerate learning across the so-called 'developing world', helping children develop the foundational skills they need for success. Yet it's clear that, in too many communities around the world, 'business as usual' is not working, or not working fast enough. The world is changing, in large part due to technological advances. As a result, new approaches ('business unusual', if you will) are being considered and rolled out, and most of these involve the use of new technologies in some way. How can we ensure that we are doing this 'right', and how will we know?

These two jobs are about all of this stuff -- and more. For more specific information, please do see the full official job descriptions, which contain directions on how to apply. The closing date to apply is 28 October 2018. That's right: This Sunday! (Depending on your time zone, the exact deadline will fall on different parts of the day, so do check the job announcements to make sure you submit your information in time.)

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Why might you want to work for an institution like the World Bank?

Let's be clear about a few things up front:

  • We are indeed a bank (although not in a traditional sense: our shareholders are countries) but we lots do lots of things that can make us seem like we are a research institute, or a consulting firm.
  • We are big: Over 10,000 people, with offices in over 120 countries around the world, doing work in over 170 countries all told.
  • And yes, we are a big bureaucracy, which is probably not surprising, given that we are part of the UN system, and, for better or worse (depending on your perspective), we employ more PhD economists than almost any other institution in the world. 
All that is true. And that might turn you off. (If so: Fair enough! If I'm honest, reading those three bullet points does turn me off a bit. I'm neither a banker, nor an economist, nor, I hope, a bureaucrat. If my situation is any guide, though, it is possible for people with non-traditional backgrounds to find a place within such an institution, even if the fit is admittedly rather awkward at times.)

That said ...

If you know someone with relevant experience looking to work on some of the world’s toughest educational challenges in some of the most challenging contexts around the world: This could be her, or his, dream job.

The situations and challenges we deal with every day, and over time, are complex and diverse. Sometimes things move very sloooowly -- and sometimes disorientingly fast. The work can be messy, and at times controversial. The twin goals of the World Bank -- to eliminate poverty and promote shared prosperity -- are admittedly lofty, and idealistic. We work in lots of difficult places, sometimes with difficult people and institutions. Usually there are no easy answers (in most cases, if there was an easy answer, someone would have found it already). Sometimes things fail.  

Still -- and I am obviously not an unbiased observer here -- I can imagine few opportunities where you can have access to some of the world's most interesting thinkers and do-ers, to be involved in fascinating discussions and negotiations planning about topics and activities that can at times be pretty important, and to work with people from communities all over the world who can be awesomely inspiring in their commitment and drive to help bring about positive change. Yes, the work can be frustrating, and difficult, and sometimes it can feel like disaster is just around the corner. With so much information (and politics) coming at you as you try to wade through (sometimes profound) differences of opinion, with tradeoffs stark and uncertainty a constant, the job is rarely easy. But sometimes you do have a chance to make a small but consequential contribution to some pretty important stuff, in ways that can be tremendously satisfying.

While the World Bank's EduTech blog is not meant to come off hiatus for another few weeks, I thought I'd post this here anyway, in case the ideal candidate might not have come across these job postings yet through some other means; hopefully some kind soul sees this information here, knows a perfect candidate, and forwards it on to her (or him). Please do note that there is no specified salary in the job announcements; salaries will be determined competitively, based on relevant skills and experience. Please also note that, given the variety of contexts in which we work, we are especially keen to have a very diverse group of qualified applicants. We have been doing concerted outreach to make sure that we get applications from people with backgrounds, characteristics, and experiences often underrepresented in recruitments of this sort conducted by institutions headquartered in North America and Europe, especially for jobs (like these) that have a strong focus on technology-related topics.
 
Thanks!

 
Note: The image at the top of this blog post of a more senior and a more junior sheep ("we're looking for ewe") comes via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. It is adapted from an image from Steven Walling that originally appeared on Flickr.
 

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