What might a new global edtech readiness index look like?

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the pieces may be different shapes and sizes, and there still may be holes when they are fit together, but perhaps they can be combined to support something useful?
the pieces may be different shapes and sizes,
and there still may be holes when they
are fit together, but perhaps they can be
combined to support something useful?

Recent EduTech blog posts have explored the case for a new global edtech readiness index and, by proposing some potential related principles and objectives, have attempted to help kick start a related conversation.

What might a new global edtech readiness index look like?

Here is a crude, draft, high-level outline of what such an index *could* comprise.

Presenting this here is meant to be a further provocation to the edtech community and to related ongoing discussions. It is decidedly *not* a finished product. This does not represent the official views of the World Bank on any of this stuff. The point here is to help spark related discussion, and, by signaling that related conversations are underway, to help bring various groups talking about this stuff into the same room. This is 'thinking aloud in public', in the hope that doing so might be useful to other people smarter and more informed than I am about related topics and issues. Consider what follows as the scribblings on a whiteboard as part of the brainstorming process around a 'pre-alpha' imagining of a global edtech readiness index.

With those caveats out of the way, here are three general comments:

The four main categories or themes presented here deliberately recall the World Bank's SABER-ICT framework, which was developed as a result of a review of hundreds of educational technology policy documents from around the world. As such, these four themes are consistent with themes explored by educational policymakers thinking about and planning for large scale government investments in the use of educational technologies in schools. (Are they thinking about and planning for the most important stuff? Even if/where they are not, it can be a useful, practical approach to meet them where they are now, and accompany them along their journey.)

The index should be relevant to countries just now considering, or in the relatively early stages implementing, the use of educational technologies at scale. Yes, it might be true that all countries in the world, including the most developed ones, are struggling in various ways to realize the potential of the use of new technologies at scale to benefit all learners in their education systems. That said, few would argue that many of the prerequisites for doing so are not already largely in place in many of the world’s most advanced industrial economies, which should score quite highly on a readiness index as a result. Such places are, broadly speaking, already ‘ready’, in ways that places like Bangladesh and Burundi are not. Of course, conceptions of ‘readiness’ when it comes to technology use in education are likely to evolve over time as new technologies emerge. Countries ‘ready’ today may not be ready in the future if they do not evolve as well. That said, the edtech readiness index outlined here is meant to speak to the needs of policymakers in countries that today aspire to, are on the cusp of, or only recently have reached such a state of ‘readiness’.

Why four? No good reason, really. If pressed to provide one: The foundation of a building typically has four corners, and so these could be seen as representing four of the key building blocks of any approach to quickly gain high-level insight into what is happening in a country when it comes to 'edtech readiness' at a national scale. The purpose of any structure is not realized by only laying the foundation, of course, and a foundation consists more than just four corners. Having a solid foundation helps support everything that is subsequently built -- and which happens as a result. As such, by its very nature it is necessary, but not sufficient. (And for what it’s worth: From a visual perspective, four offers useful opportunity for symmetry of presentation. This may admittedly be a rather silly reason. But sometimes such ‘silly’ superficial things can help spur attention and adoption.)

With that said, at a high level, here is ...

A (very) rough outline of a new global edtech readiness index
(to provoke and promote discussion)

the pieces may be different shapes and sizes, and there still may be holes when they are fit together, but perhaps they can be combined to support something useful?

a. Infrastructure (digital infrastructure for education)

  • devices 
  • connectivity

some quick related comments and questions:

  • What constitutes a 'digital device' when it comes to learning?
  • How much connectivity is necessary or sufficient -- and how might this change in the future?
  • Should we measure the availability of such components of the infrastructure in schools -- or their use? 

As devices proliferate among teachers and students, might access to the 'the cloud', and the content, applications and services that reside there, increasingly separate the 'haves' from the 'have nots' when it comes to the availability of digital learning tools and experiences? (All the hype about 'AI in education'? Who knows what this will mean in practice, but it is hard to imagine that AI and machine learning tools and services will exist locally, offline: you'll need to be connected to the Internet to benefit from them.)

b. Content (digital teaching and learning resources)

  • digital learning materials
  • online assessment

some quick related comments and questions:

  • If you believe that, when it comes to technology use in education, it's 'about the content, and not the container', then considerations of digital teaching and learning materials potentially makes sense within an edtech readiness index.
  • Countries are spending a lot on buying (subscribing to, building) digital teaching and learning resources of all sorts (digital textbooks, e-books, educational games, digital simulations), and so this is something that policymakers are already keen to measure in some way.
  • The inclusion of an indicator related to online assessment is deliberately provocative. It is meant to recognize two things: That much current rhetoric related to technology use in education highlights the potential for more 'personalized learning', something that is intrinsically about 'assessment', and that, in order for online assessment to take place within an education systems, *lots* or other pieces need to be in place, and functioning, flawlessly, at scale, for everyone and everywhere. As such, it could be seen as a proxy of a sort for the capacity of an education system to deploy, utilize, and support technology use in schools overall. (When countries move to online exams at scale, that's when things get serious -- and a point beyond which technology use moves beyond 'nice to have' to become critical.)

c. Policy & institutions

  • edtech policy
  • institutional capacity

some quick related comments and questions:

  • Unlike the measures proposed related to infrastructure and content, these policy-related measures are more qualitative in nature. The first would measure policy intent; the second would measure existing institutional capacities within an education system, and a larger 'enabling ecosystem' to implement such policy.
  • This could draw on the SABER-ICT policy framework, related work examining national edtech agencies, and an initiative led by the Omidyar Network around Scaling Access & Impact: Realizing the Power of EdTech.

d. Skills (digital skills, competencies and literacies)

  • digital literacy for teachers
  • pedagogical use of technology by teachers

some quick related comments and questions:

  • About a decade ago, an influential report from the OECD noted that "the digital divide in education goes beyond the issue of access to technology. A second digital divide separates those with the competencies and skills to benefit from computer use from those without." Most efforts to assess the readiness of an education system to utilize educational technologies focus on physical infrastructure, neglecting the related human infrastructure that needs to be put in place, and sustained and cultivated over time, in order to utilize this physical infrastructure.
  • If you believe that teachers are the focal point for learning in the classroom, including measures related to the capacity of teachers to use technologies would seem relevant within an edtech readiness index.
  • Efforts underway at UNESCO/UIS exploring digital literacy, efforts on skills, a variety of efforts that attempt to define and measure digital skills and competencies for teachers by UNESCO, the EU, and ISTE, as well as work that supports international assessments like the ICILS and PISA, would (to name just a few prominent institutional efforts) presumably be quite relevant here.

What's missing from this discussion? A lot. The half-formed ideas presented here may raise more questions than they provide answers or direction. Indeed:

  • Is this symmetric, 4x2 model (four themes, each comprised of two indicators) too ambitious -- or not ambitious enough?
  • Are these really the eight most relevant readiness indicators?
  • How might related data be collected? (Indeed: Can they be collected? Is this practical?)
  • How might the constituent indicators be scored and weighted?
  • More importantly: Will collecting and comparing such data in this way be useful to people and groups making key related decisions? What is the likelihood that its use might instead obscure more than it illuminates, and/or implicitly point decisionmakers along a path that is counter-productive?

And: These questions certainly might not be the right or most important ones to ask! Whether they are or aren't – the devil is in the details.

Hopefully, by 'thinking out loud in public' in this way, other people can help to formulate better questions (and propose a few answers as well), and, by doing so, help advance and inform related discussions and activities that are in their initial stages.

Numerous countries around the world are preparing to significantly increase their investments in the use of educational technologies. How might they measure what they are doing -- and what value might there be in being able to compare what they measure to what is happening in other countries? These are decidedly open questions. By exploring the potential utility of a new global edtech readiness index, this connected series of short blog posts aims to contribute to ongoing conversations taking place within many institutions.

Blog posts in this series:

You may also be interested in the following EduTech blog posts:

Note: The image used at the top of this blog post ("the pieces may be different shapes and sizes, and there still may be holes when they are fit together, but perhaps they can be combined to support something useful?") is from Arto Alanenpää via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The very crude diagram of "a new global edtech readiness index?" used in this blog post is (c) World Bank 2019 and is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO license (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO).


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

Cristóbal Cobo

Senior Education Specialist

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