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


Entries in 1:1 (2)


Conectar igualdad: A principal in Argentina makes the _standard_ case for tech

From the blog the young and the digital comes a short statement from the principal of a Buenos Aires secondary school on the impact that the Argentinian 1:1 initiative, Conectar igualdadwill have on her students:

When I asked the Director how she hoped Conectar Igualdad would impact her school she did not hesitate.  Speaking through a translator she explained that the availability of the netbooks and the chance to gain a least some basic computer literacy—the use of spreadsheets, word processing—would convince some students to continue their education.  In fact, many of the students persuaded their parents to attend this school precisely because the netbooks would be available.  Conectar Igualdad has promised to give each student who finishes school a netbook.  The opportunity to connect learning to young people’s digital lives is often regarded as a source of motivation to further develop a learner identity. Like many other parts of the world some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in Argentina view technology as essential to getting a quality education.

Unless I'm missing the boat (always likely), the upshot is that technology in schools supports a motivational play: Kids will be more enthusiastic about learning if they use technology; enthusiastic and tech-enabled kids will, furthermore, stay in schools because there's a netbook in their future if they complete secondary education. 

Terrif. (I'm not arguing with the truth of tech's motivational impact. Or about the need for motivation.) 

As a long-term strategy, using technology to increase motivation is, well, not very long-term.

As the cost of tools comes down—as it has, sufficiently to enable the MOE of Argentina to dangle netbooks as bait—the scarcity-based value of those tools to the students will diminish in lock-step. (Try dangling a mobile phone in front of those kids. They can already see phones in their futures, so you won't get much of a bump.) 

OK, maybe a short-term strategy is what's called for.* But at the end of the day—or the end of the program—you're still likely to have massive educational inequality, with students in poor areas attending schools with under-performing teachers, irrelevant curricula, lousy instruction and little learning. And the "enthusiasm gap" will have widened again while you've spent what you can spend on a short-term fix.


*I'm aware that Conectar Igualdad also offers free online courses to students, PD to teachers and a few other supports (learner management software, anyone?). But there's nothing (so far as I've seen) to suggest that CI plans anything other than to increase the appeal and efficiency of schooling that's currently failing kids. Real change is hard, but real change is essential.



The origin of 1:1 computing!

 The state of Maine was the first in the United States to leap into one-to-one computing. The Maine Learning Technology Initiative describes the impetus behind the decision to provide every student and every teacher with a laptop:

Immediately, everyone recognized that education represented the most crucial area for this major change and Gov. King recalled a conversation he had had with Seymour Papert a year or two previous where the idea of how to transform education was discussed. During their conversation, Papert convinced King that a major transformation would happen only when student and teachers worked with technology on a 1 to 1 basis and that any other ratio would not produce the transformation everyone sought.

I'm curious about many things, but foremost are my questions as to what "the transformation everyone sought" is. It's possible, even probable, that we've spent so much time describing truly empowered learners that everyone, or at least everyone who has an opinion within a certain closed context, does understand and seek the the same transformation of the traditional. 

But if that's so, it's also likely that the understanding and seeking have been at least partially emptied of specifics. 

While the stakes for Maine--it's a small state in the largest national economy on earth--are significant but not epochal. If 1:1 computing fails there, well, at least _something_ positive will probably happen, even if it's only an increase in the number of computer technicians. 

But 1:1 computing has rapidly--really rapidly, considering that Maine launched its program only in 2002--been adopted by developing countries. Driven partly by one of Papert's proteges, Nicolas Negroponte, 1:1 computing has made appearances in the education systems of Uruguay, Rwanda, Brazil, Ethiopia and elsewhere. The stakes in these countries, and the consequences of anything other than success, are much, much higher. 

(At one point in 2004 I was hanging out with a bunch of kids in a village in Rwanda. I asked them if they wanted some soda, you know, Fanta or something. Most schools I've been to in Africa, soda lubricates interviews. These kids, though, would have none of it. "Could we have some meat,  please?" School fees and uniforms and lost wages were all barriers to the participation in school of these kids. And yet education, literally mastering English if nothing else, held so much for them in terms of opportunity.)

Does "everyone" (who counts) in those countries understand and seek the same transformation? And if so, is it the same transformation as that sought by "everyone" (who counts) in Maine?