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 change (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.



A (semi)clear position on laptops vs mobile phones (!)

Jon Camfield offers a clear statement on the perceived choice of mobile phones vs laptops as the "engines of development":

First, there are clear cases where one technology is better suited to a task than another. I'd no more write long papers on a cell phone than I would carry around a laptop to use as a personal communications device. However there's a large chunk of tasks where either tool will suffice, and which "should" be used is more a factor of the local conditions than the features of any one technology.

Secondly -- and more importantly -- this discussion is tool-centric. We have a hammer (two, in this case) and are going around the development landscape searching for nails we can drive home, and it's a race between the two hammers to see who can hit the most nails. This is inherently the wrong way to apply ICT in development.

We shouldn't be arguing about mobiles vs computers, or even OLPC XOs vs Intel ClassMates, or Windows vs Linux, we should be arguing about specific problems in development, what tools could help, how, and for what costs (training time, implementation and infrastucture gotchas, as well as equipment costs).


You can't really argue with this position, but of course I'll try: Sure, we need to pick tools that are appropriate to our objectives. BUT objectives themselves need to be  appropriate to their contexts. And the critical contexts, the most critical contexts, share certain characteristics. I can probably run a pilot project that helps a few kids in a really poor country -- I'll go with Chad and "MDG education" for US $0.50 -- use laptops to write longish reports and build both skills and knowledge in the course of their writing. If I want to have impact across a wide swath of schools and students, however, I'll be better advised to focus on an objective that emerges out of Chad's educational context, perhaps increasing primary-school completion and lower-secondary enrolment, and that takes advantage of available infrastructure and of tools that are in use and supported. 

You can walk this context/objective/tool-choice discussion back any number of ways. (For example, you could say that my objective, to have impact on education outcomes in a poor country, determines my characterization of context.) But IF we stay within the context of the "bottom billion" and the countries in which they live, I'll wager that we find out that laptops are rarely if ever the appropriate tool to achieve scaled impact in schools.