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

Using technology to train teachers:
Appropriate uses of ICT for
teacher professional developmen
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 &
(hosted for reference; RIP TMP) 


Learning, technology & development



War is over, but what about that new challenge...?

Mr Paul Krugman posts the encore of a perf by Lucius of the John Lennon / Yoko Ono tune "Happy Xmas: The War is Over." 


How cool of everyone. Of Mr Krugman, for going to a Lucius show. Of Lucius, for the homage to peace and JohnYoko. Of the crowd, for singing along. 

I'm struck by the fact that the War -- The war of the United States against North Vietnam is referenced -- was a singular, and unifying, force in 1971. Today, everyone in the crowd can sing the chorus,

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over now 

... but no one can say what is the war that will be over if we all want it enough. Now. There is war. There are wars, in Syria, in Central African Republic. But there are invisible wars, wars that rely on drones, on PACs, on governments that are bought, paid for, and in the pocket.

The struggle -- and it IS a struggle -- is now chimerical, multi-faceted in the extreme. We see that it is chimerical, and we realize that we were fooled before. The valor of singleminded resistance against an unjust war has evanesced. We are besieged.


"Growing rapidly, transforming slowly" in sub-Saharan Africa

The Princeton University economist Dani Rodrik discusses the reasons that high rates of economic growth among sub-Saharan African countries will not be sustained. 

The underlying problem is the weakness of these economies’ structural transformation. East Asian countries grew rapidly by replicating, in a much shorter time frame, what today’s advanced countries did following the Industrial Revolution. They turned their farmers into manufacturing workers, diversified their economies, and exported a range of increasingly sophisticated goods.

Little of this process is taking place in Africa. As researchers at the African Center for Economic Transformation in Accra, Ghana, put it, the continent is “growing rapidly, transforming slowly.”

Two speculative points:

Education might not be the answer (or at least, not public education, and not any longer)
In the case of the industrializing US and later among the Asian tigers, national, regional and local governments successfully engaged in educating their urbanizing populations to prepare them for manufacturing, clerical and other jobs. (See the magisterial, if sketchily written, work of Gilpin and Katz, with my review here, for the link between industrial technologies and public education in the US.) 

At present, however, the abilities of those organizations to transform public education, or even—in the case of the US—to provide public education, is increasingly in doubt. Massive shifts in spending from public schools to the private sector, both as private schools per se and as corporate support for public schools. (I believe that the education software market in the US is running about $8 billion per year, with projected increases in response to the common core standards likely to double that by 2018 [something like that, Stanford VLAB event in October bandied these figures about and they stuck in my head]. Equally, the introduction of technology-mediated learning is causing and will increasingly cause transformation of "school-mediated" learning. And this transformation will happen in Africa, despite lagging infrastructure, and might be most profound, because African public schools perform poorly so often, and the effect of mobile technologies will be most profound in non-formal learning.

(Don't believe? 67% of African adults have mobile phone subscriptions [ITU facts and figures 2013].) 

Entrepreneurship will be at a premium
In part as a result of shrinking returns to education, and shrinking opportunities in general (after 10 years of growth), entrepreneurship will increase in value, first to individuals and then to governments.(Support for this idea comes from research conducted during the "great recession" in the US.

To recapture its lost relevance, education will increasingly, and with increasing effectiveness, aim to build entrepreneurship skills. (For those of you who care, think of this shift as simply contextualizing the learning process. The context is... survival via business innovation.)  


VSAT? VSAT? Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch... 


The big news in coming from Afghanistan is that there will be a satellite provider online soon. From the redoubtable / indefatigable Mike Dawson of Paiwastoon: 

Here at Paiwastoon, we anticipate that the availability of fast and affordable satellite broadband is will be an IT game-changer for Afghanistan, where many remote areas are still without Internet coverage. Though fiber optic cables are currently being built, progress is slow and coverage is still spotty.

Because YahClick is satellite rather than terrestrial-based, it is a relatively swift solution to get more Afghans on the Internet now. Satellite broadband Internet is also a good thing for government and businesses, as it limits the expenses associated with traditional Internet infrastructure like fibre and copper lines. Instead, anyone can connect to YahClick’s satellites with a small dish and modem.

OK. I work more or less in this sector. I've visited a _number_ of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past several years. All of them are transitioning from VSAT to mobile broadband. Some of this results from fatter backbone -- the Africa Coast Europe (ACE) cable -- while a lot of it results from demand, potential profits, and better regulatory environments. (Three cheers, cheers with gusto, for better telecoms regulations!). 

It's sobering to reflect that in Afghanistan, mobile broadband isn't the deal. VSAT is the deal. No cheer. While Mike D can give love to VSAT, for reasons that are valid in context, VSAT is an early-stage transitional technnology, and one that 90% of countries, maybe 95% of countries, are moving past as fast as they can. It's broadband of first resort. (All VSAT comms must transit ~36,000 km up and 36,000 km down before they even reach an earth station [don't ask me how I know this]; most VSAT customers rent one or maybe two channels; comms are inherently bounded by the distance the signal travels, but as demand grows even these tired channels become chokepoints.)

(Visit western Indonesia. Take your tablet. But send a postcard.) 


RIP Doug Engelbart

Among his MANY talents, Doug was -- according to Todd Kersh, who was a neighbor years and years ago -- able to ride a bike while sitting on the handlebars facing backwards. A super soul. 

(For those not checked out on Mr Engelbart, he was instrumental in the way you see things on your computing device and the way you make your choices about what they should do. [mouse, GUI, etc.]) And hypertext! And... more...! 

Go, Doug.


Testing, testing, 1 - 2 - 3: Change is coming (to the Bac in France)

And while the US empowers test-makers to shape classroom teaching, change is coming. However, right now, it's coming somewhere else.

National high-stakes exams (funnel exams) are the strongest barriers to transformation that we have created in our education systems. But we will one day be free of  these notorious, spirit-crushing exercises in memorization, calculation and re-presentation. We will build systems that respond—however slowly—to our pressing need to build and assess skills needed for the 21st-century. 

It's happening.

In France, not close to the leading edge of education, the end-of-high-school Bac is wheezing and showing its age

...for all the reverence, nostalgia or stress that it still inspires, its utility is growing ever less clear, according to French officials, students, parents, teachers and employers — most everyone, really.

“Each year more ridiculous, the comedy of the bac has returned,” Luc Ferry, the philosopher who once served as education minister and oversaw the test, wrote this month in the newspaper Le Figaro.

France once liked to think of its educational system as a model for the world, but studies show academic performance here to be unexceptional and on the decline, and officials have in recent years begun to fret. Increasingly, the bac is viewed as the flagship of a flawed system, a symbol not so much of French excellence but of what is wrong with education here.

Check it out. The NY Times article is chock-full of casual Bac-dissing:

"It’s more a rite of passage than an exam,” said Ms. Ripoll, 18, dragging lightly on a morning cigarette. "That’s why it would be a shame to get rid of it. Everybody’s been through it. It’s traumatized everybody."

As the article (finally, finally) states, the purpose of such exams (and they're everywhere!) is in part to allocate scarce resources (university placement). But these exams do a lousy job of it. If you believe that university placement (it's scarce, OK?) should be based on potential contribution, well, testing as conducted is a terrible predictor, and one that completely fails to account for economic inequality and cultural difference.

I've heard, elsewhere (São Paulo) that funnel exams are necessary to ensure equity. But we don't provide the preconditions for equitable assessment in our societies or our schools. AND as France, the US and Korea (!) have shown, the exams can be gamed, they elicit cheating.