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

 

Friday
Feb062009

Real learning, real motivation (sans tech, or nearly so)

The NY Times has an article about schools making project-based learning and Advanced Placement classes available to all, or almost all, students:

At the middle school, the entire seventh grade is taking part in the science of sports project to fulfill the new research requirement. The students are creating a database of their individual running times, first in sneakers and then in alternate footwear, and evaluating how variables like height, gender, birth date and shoe type affect speed. They will present their findings in a research paper or PowerPoint presentation.

“I learned that I move faster without my shoes,” said Jermaine Brown, 13. “This is really fun, and it’s better than sitting in class.”

OK, the kids will use PowerPoint and possibly a word processor, and probably a spreadsheet app. But technology is simply part of the educational environment in these schools, so it's barely mentioned in the article. (Textbooks aren't mentioned at all, of course.)

What's striking is that underlying the article is the sense of motivation--of students, of teachers, of parents--that results from the sheer joy of learning and from the particular joys of discovering or guiding the discovery of ideas and information. Sure, technology can be a motivator, especially in circumstances where computers are still unusual or at least not ubiquitous. But it's the activities themselves that are--and that need to be--the centerpieces of student learning.

The project that I'm looking at in Yemen has faced a lot of challenges, some of which revolve around Internet connectivity. Students and teachers report that they are experimenting with collaborative learning--which is one of the project's objectives. They are also reporting strong increases in student motivation and even students' attendance. (And this, we can assume, is a dataset that teachers report reliably.) But they are not reporting much collaboration with students in other schools and other countries.

Is this a problem?
Thursday
Feb052009

Libraries, Google books, the enlightenment

"Robt Darnton in the New York Review of Books says:

Google also digitized an ever-increasing number of library books that were protected by copyright in order to provide search services that displayed small snippets of the text. In September and October 2005, a group of authors and publishers brought a class action suit against Google, alleging violation of copyright.... . Google will sell access to a gigantic data bank composed primarily of copyrighted, out-of-print books digitized from the research libraries. Colleges, universities, and other organizations will be able to subscribe by paying for an "institutional license" providing access to the data bank. A "public access license" will make this material available to public libraries, where Google will provide free viewing of the digitized books on one computer terminal. And individuals also will be able to access and print out digitized versions of the books by purchasing a "consumer license" from Google, which will cooperate with the registry for the distribution of all the revenue to copyright holders. Google will retain 37 percent, and the registry will distribute 63 percent among the rightsholders.

One of Mr. Darnton's points is that we're oh-so-close to achieving an ideal library that is one of the logical outcomes of the Enlightenment--the Age of Reason; another, however, is that such an ideal library, and management of the copyright of its books, should be handled by some central, publicly accountable entity. To trust in Google, given that it is privately held, is to trust in a kind of free-market system of information management.

What, Darnton asks,  if Google seeks to maximize profits by raising prices once users have been "hooked"?

Google has already scanned 7 million books, of which 5 million are copyrighted but out-of-print, 1 million are copyrighted by in print, and 1 million are public domain. The money lies, as you can guess based on these numbers, in the 5 million that have been scanned but are otherwise available. To print one of these, you need to pay. You need to pay Google and the author (or the rightsholder).

Darnton pines pretty much throughout his slightly turgid and decidedly romantic essay for a centralized and idealized service to ensure that the fruits of reason are available to all. Of course, the Age of Reason was so called because they--Descartes, Hume, Locke, Kant--turned reason into a hallucinogen. They used reason to explore the human mind and the nature of reality. The minor thinkers Jefferson, Franklin and Madison, whom Darnton cites, used reason to lay the groundwork for a voracious, powerful, but only fitfully rational state. (The United States that they created is more Rabelaisian than rational.)

So what of Google Books? I say, the government had its chance, scanners have been around for 15 years. Governments in non-English-speaking countries still have chances. But Google has found a motive, or several, they've created partnerships with authors, they've actually scanned 7 million books. Which is way more than the Library of Congress has scanned. And they're going to put a computer terminal in every library to promote access to the books that they've scanned. (Don't these libraries already have computers? Uh-huh. Can't all computers access the books? Uh-huh.) Darnton's problem, perhaps, is that he sees compares the actuality of Google Books to his idealized online library of alexandria. Which isn't happening. If it were, we could talk about it. Darnton's second problem, perhaps, is that he thinks in terms of English-language books, and of their copyright within the US. Do we really want access to all literature and publications that have ever been written in Mandarin to fall under control of today's Chinese government? Would we have wanted control over access to, say, Huck Finn to have fallen under control of the Bush administration?
"
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