Selected publications (.pdf)

"Education Change, Leadership and the Knowledge Society" 
Global e-Schools Initiative (GeSCI)  

Survey of ICT in education in the Caribbean
Volume 1: Regional trends & analysis
Volume 2: Country reports
infoDev 

Using technology to train teachers:
Appropriate uses of ICT for
teacher professional developmen
t
 
infoDev (Mary Burns, co-author)

Project evaluation:
Uganda rural school-based telecenters

World Bank Institute
(Sara Nadel, co-author)

The Educational Object Economy:
Alternatives in authoring &
aggregation of educational software 

Interactive Learning Environments
(Purchase or subscription req'd) 

Development of multimedia resources 
UNESCO (Cesar Nunes, co-author)

Real Access/Real Impact
Teresa Peters & bridges.org
(hosted for reference; RIP TMP) 

ON TOPIC:

Learning, technology & development

 

Wednesday
May012019

CIES, measurement and (teachers') creativity (part the first)

Following are a few thoughts about the recently completed CIES (Comparative and International Education Society) convention in San Francisco. The conference was held local to me, at the Hyatt Regency by the Embarcadero, which meant that I could bike 15 mins to BART in Oakland, then get off 15 mins later right at the hotel. The Hyatt Regency opened about 1971, with a fine fountain/sculpture that drew crowds to the hotel's vast indoor atrium. Never anything like it, at that point, in San Francisco.

I spent one night there, once, one, as the guest of our chum J. Garcia. On new year's eve, 1995, I think. It was super, actually. Even though at the time my (now) wife and I lived only 7 or so blocks away. The next day, New Year's Day in San Francisco, 1995, was surreal. We were home, we were not home, it was foggy I think. We walked home in the fog.

But the conference. I am I'm sure late as usual to see what's happening, but there's a split. Now,  CIES is the largest (or among the largest) annual conferences addressing education in non-OECD countries. 40-60 concurrent sessions 4x per day for 4 days. It's a lot. So  my understanding is based on my keyhole-Dormouse view of the whole. But...

There's a schism between measurement and a more apparently impassioned, post-modern, anti-imperlalist (I can't believe I just typed "anti-imperialist, what's next?) approach to education. Measurement, to be sure, links to high-stakes testing, which links to accountability, which links to "merit pay" for teachers and other ideas that are unworkable for reasons that emerge in practice, if they haven't been anticipated by theory. (How do you measure student progress in order to decide merit? How do you account for poverty, conflict, local weather and cropping, semi-relevant [at best] curriculum and non-mother-tongue literacy instruction as you go about determining merit, and pay? And if you do account for these things, how do you keep teachers from gaming this system in order to earn a fair wage or a living wage? And, unfortunately, merit pay and other accountability measures are generally and fervently opposed to teacher rights, teachers' unions and organizing, and other key elements (teacher education and professsional development) in the education system.  So, measurement -- which is supported by donors, by national governments -- plays a role in keeping teachers down.

And if you are a good socialist, or even a bad one, teachers are -- of course -- labor, at least within the terms of this system. And so they are easily exploited, leaving their capacities stunted and unrewarded and unused, and schools torn up by their alienation -- from a nonsensical curriculum, from inadequate leadership and lousy infrastructure and supplies, to very low pay and even lower levels of education, training and other support. When donors and country governments realign their efforts to focus on teacher accountability, the glaring questions are revealed: Why isn't the system held accountable for its own inadequacies? Hmm?

The answer, from some quarters, quarters represented at CIES but perhaps not as widely as reputed, is that the system is best held accountable by the introduction of competition, such that low-cost private schooling and even high-cost private schooling are available as alternatives to publicly provided (government) education. If children can emerge from a low-cost private school with abilities to read and do math and think, then more families will opt to send their kids to such schools, thus increasing pressure on the government system to improve.

See DeVos, Betsy.

The assumptions underlying this model _appear_ to be that the barriers to systemwide improvement stem from unwillingness—in the forms of corruption and self-interest and other conditions of agency. Rather than, let us say, endemic lack of resources, labor 'issues,' poor leadership and lousy infrastructure (none of this addresses the malign effects of gender discrimination or conflict, among other out-size factors). IF public schools systems suck because the people embodying them suck wilfully, then competition will save them. Or if it doesn't, the devil take the hindmost (whatever that means).

And of course, measurement and accountability become the devil's tools. The devil needs them to point out the lousiness of the government as an educator, in part, so the thinking goes, to hold open access to the private sector. (The total education sector in the US was valued in 2017 at a little more than 1.3 trillion. We are not discussing chump change.)

At CIES, there were some strikingly well-conceived arguments against the forces of measurement, seen as proxies for teacher accountability and privatization. Among them: Marcelo Parreiera do Amaral's panel--"The (de)contruction of national education systems: Transforming education for economic growth and post-national identity?"

I'm a sucker for deconstruction of a national system, AND for titles that end in question marks. The panel was energizing,with participation by Amaral, Sigrid Hartong, Sieglinde Jornitz (who rocks!), Susanne Tiomm, Wivian Weller and Paul Fossum (offering "A (post-)national response to the teacher shortage in the US." It was an engaging bunch, engaged with the most part for considerations of the detrimental effects of privatization on public education (resource stealing), and with the increasing complicity of national governments in that privitization.

I was so taken with the panel that I
snapped a photo of Prof. Amaral's nametag

(We _might_ find that privatization leads to several outcomes of value: 1) Students in affordable private schools learn more than kids in govt schools; 2) increased competition leads to improvement of the national school system. We might. However...

The very-smart and open-minded Martin Carnoy, with Patrick McEwan, looked at 20 years of vouchers and competition in the Chilean school system, and determined:

Our estimates using extensive data on test scores in the 1980s and 1990s show that, on average, this type of privately-run school is marginally less effective than municipal schools in producing Spanish and mathematics achievement in the fourth grade (or, at best, similarly effective). Further results suggest that non-religious private voucher schools are even less effective than municipal schools when they enroll lower-SES pupils or are located outside of the capital. Some evidence suggested that the gap is explained by different resources in private schools, such as a greater percentage of teachers with short-term contracts (McEwan and Carnoy, 1999a).

So, not so great. (That excerpt, btw, is from "Does privatization improve education? The case of Chile's national voucher plan.")

There is other evidence of the ineffectiveness of the system—and Carnoy's and McEwan's article contains other, similar findings. (Notably, they also find that religiously affiliated private schools do deliver improved learning, largely by spending more per pupil than public schools do. [So why don't we try that?])

And at CIES, underlying the push to privatization, for those decrying it, is the "Global Education Industry" (more on this elsewhere, I think). Let's say that very large transnational technology companies are part of the GEI (think Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, among others) along with Pearson Education, the largest education publisher in the world, donor/development agencies such as the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education. These very-large players are promoting a range of models, including GEMS Education, the largest operator of private schools in the world (but with 70 schools in 12 countries, about, so how big is it _really_?), and the tablet-driven Bridge International Academy (operating in five countries, but with investment support from Gates and Zuckerberg).

The representatives of these forces, at least at CIES,

The proponents of this perspective are in agreement on the need for increased equity, the empowerment of teachers, and better preparation for a world in which:

  • Globalization and inequality minimize national boundaries;
  • AI diminishes the chance for work, and;
  • Climate change increases poverty.
Well, if that's how it is--no work, a hyper-dynamic context, catastrophic levels of poverty--what's the proper role of education? Right now, school systems around the world are struggling to help kids build job-ready skills. These skills range from the usual literacy and numeracy skills, across 21st-century skills such as creativity and problem-solving, to higher-tech skills such as coding and 'making,' as in doing the thing that appears at a Maker Faire. But if the world of work fades down to that last pinpoint of blue-white light on the B&W TV screen, what do we want schools to do?
(More on this in a bit.)
Thursday
Oct182018

Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark

Ok, so I'm as usual late to the party. The other day I was talking about Yuval Noah Harari's book, Sapiens, from about 2013, with a science teacher who thoroughly dissed it. She said that H found that pre-historic sapiens committed genocide, wiping out both the neanderthals _and_ the denisovians. Harari's quick leap to causation called all his scientific observations into question.

"No!," said I, and I think rightly, "Harari finds correlation but he doesn't move on from that to find causation." As he says, we know the sapiens showed up, the other guys dwindled and then they vanished. Causation is possible, perhaps plausible, it might be genocide, it might be out-competing, but the author doesn't go there."

To be honest, I find Harari's treatment of capital a bit more underinformed. He elaborates a situation in which a $1 million investment is transformed into $3 million, without any growth in the supply of currency. As an explanation of growth--which his text is intended to be--I find H much less compelling than Bernard Lietaer, who traces the impulse for growth solely to interest and credit. (Infidel!) 

My thanks to my lovely wife, Sandra Woodall, for getting me at last to read Harari. And to my colleague and chum, Claudia L'Amoreaux, for getting me to a meeting today about EdTech and equity, about building the new citizens of our societies, and about STEAM education that aims at more than jobs. =

Tuesday
Jun052018

The worm is spinning in his grave like a top! Microsoft buys Github

Some years ago I was asked to present to MOE Kazakhstan about open-source software. (Why me? Because I was there, I think.) At the time, Microsoft was in a pitched battle with the FLOSS community, nascent at the time. I can't, looking back, figure out what was the battlefield. Servers? Mainframes? Desktops? And, judging from the news, Microsoft can't quite remember either. 

Microsoft Buys GitHub for $7.5 Billion, Moving to Grow in Coding’s New Era

 

 

At the time (and for a long period thereafter) Windows XP was the OS du jour in developing countries. Microsoft was selling a licensed version for a couple hundred USD, with that version performing marginally better and resisting malware marginally better than an unlicensed version. (Plus... Updates!)

Asked basically to defend software licensing, I launched into my preso. Early on, I was interrupted by a guy who wanted me to understand that we were dealing with concepts that were already well-known in Almaty: 

"But sir, SIR!" he said, possibly raising his hand, "We know all about open-source software, and we love it. In the government we buy one copy of Microsoft Windows, and we make hundreds of copies!

"We use it in our offices. We use it in our schools."

This practice was not something Microsoft wanted to hear about. I soldiered on, but the battle—which I had zero interest in fighting—was already lost. 

Image result for wikimedia child coders

NextGen coders, totally unconcerned about who owns the code

(image is from Wikimedia Commons, students are from Providence Middle School)

Sunday
Nov052017

Pay to play? It can't happen here... (ICT4E in developing and developed countries 1)

The NY Times on 4 Nov published a long account of the inroads that technology has made into schooling. Early on, the article drops "Rwanda" as a name, but the article is focused on the influence that vendors wield over schools and school districts. Who among us has not encountered pay to play?

In the US, the lack of compensation of teachers combined with a lack of support / respect opens superintendents and principals to the blandishments -- engagement in conferences, exposure to innnovation -- that are in one sense the only ways that school systems (and their representatives) can learn. 

(In another sense, the privation of teachers and the locus of innovation in the private sector is the result of [another] massive shift of funds from the public sector, in the form of public schools, to the private sector. Which are now in the best cases funded to buy products and services from the private sector. I believe that it's at least a $15 billion sector.)

I'm most interested in the ways in which this article, focused on 1:1 projects in the Greater Baltimore area, points out the ways in which ICT4E projects in developed"countries (the USA these days calls the concept of development into question) differ from those in developing countries. I recently proposed an evaluation of a project, "Rwandan Girls Education Advancement Programme," which among other interventions would provide: Support for basic literacy & numeracy among girls;support for improved attendance; support for reduced teenage pregnancy. Etc. It's not that these objectives are unwise, or that they aren't also appropriate for schools in the US; it's that they are priorities that are not well addressed through the quality-focused provisions of a 1:1 initiative.

 

Tuesday
Aug012017

big data, artificial intelligence, smart nigel shadbolt rocks

"It's not enough to not do evil. What does it mean to do good?"

I don't totally know what to say about this conversation between Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Mr. Quentin Hardy, head of editorial at Google Cloud. (Mr Hardy does a pretty good job of identifying the hot spots. Sometimes he tries a bit too hard to seem like he is able to comment on them. But hey...) But it's very cool. Sir Nigel is just way, way smarter and way more focused on this stuff than I could ever be.

A couple of points of interest: At about 24:00 Sir Shadbolt discusses open data and says that "the world just got better." He suggests that it's not about opening everything, it's about opening data that enables decision-making and innovation. Right after that, at 25:50, Sir Nigel talks about empowering citizen data warriors (my term); as the goal: citizens who not only allow some of their data to be used, but who use open data to solve problems and answer questions. And a bit later on (@ 48:40), they talk about the potential for intensifying the north-south divide in relation to data and data use and innovation. 

(It's hard to imagine that citizen data warriors would ever be able to access the databases AND the computing power necessary to creat the inflated, titillating, strippy-tease information that would enable people to get close to their potential oppressors.)

it's important to note that that divide, such as it is, emerges not from the openness of data per se, but the opennness of government and more broadly attitudes about privacy, accountability and knowledge -- and knowledge is itself the point where value is harvested -- 

Pay attention, if you will, to the overall attention to profit. The interlocutors discuss the potential hegemony of the transnational corporate sector and essentially suggest that someone should do something about this. But at least they mention it. 

Very, very many points later in the discussion about the affective/meta/cognitive differences between humans and their machines.