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 innovation (6)


Mobile repair cultures in Oakland

About 2005 Jan Chipcase--who has worked it out so that he gets to think and explore his thoughts for a living--noticed that mobile-phone repair was a service available in developing countries (India, China) but not in developed countries. Phone providers in developed countries worked with a replacement model, rather than a repair model. In developed countries, the phones are valuable enough to warrant repair, and to elicit the emergence of repair supply chains and micro-enterprises.

I was somewhat happy to experience this difference in Syria, where I briefly considered having my t-mobile smart phone repaired in the coastal city of Lattakia. 


I didn't do it, because I was only in Lattakia for 2 days and the repair would take 3 (sourcing parts, primaily).Instead I bought a Nokia basic phone (with Arabic characters) for US $15; that phone has worked in 10 or 20 countries since that time (with new SIM cards) and continues to work.  

And now, 10 years more or less after Chipcase's observation, I can see that mobile-phone repair has come to my city of Oakland: 

At 40th St and Telegraph Ave there is a real, house (not street-based) mobile-phone repair business. 

What are we to make of this? 

One possibility is that the cost of mobile phones has increased relative to incomes, so that repair becomes an appealing option -- instead of the junk/replace approach or the dispose-of-responsibly/replace approach. But is that true? I don't know, but given sales information for iPhones (Apple reports record sales of 74.5 million units for the first quarter of 2015) I doubt that this is reason.

Instead, I'm going to suggest that slow growth in wages, lack of employment opportunities for youth, and resulting demand for jobs that entail apprenticeships and on-the-job-training all play roles. 

In addition, there's something (warning, "something"  = "I'm guessing") of a "reverse technology transfer," as 1st-generation and immigrant Americans adopt business models that have worked in other countries. Plus (plus, always plus, ONE of these reasons have to be correct!), supply-chain issues are involved, as even Apple has made it possible for their stores and 3rd-party vendors to get parts for repairs (OK, at least of broken screens). Finally (at last!), demand for smart phones, as they have become essential tools even for the homeless, has risen among the 99% to the extent that there's a market for used, repaired and affordable units.

Which means, if you'll bear with me, that the cost of phones hasn't risen, but that the market for phones has expanded to include people for whom cost is a bigger issue. 


"Could an app have saved Trayvon Martin?"

Do not miss this interview with Kalimah Priforce by Davey D on KPFA about Oakland hackathons and building a generation of african american innovators.

(Oakland rising.) 

AND: Note that the very-smart Mr Priforce mentions STEM and STEAM!


"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.)  


IBM to open research lab in Nairobi: Focus on services (water? sanitation?)!

From Reuters, news of IBM's Nairobi Research Center is a little unclear. Will the center focus on e-governance-kinds-of-things? Or on the housing, sanitation, water, electricity (SCHOOLS) that so many Kenyans need?

U.S. computer services company IBM and Kenya have opened a research lab they hope will save the country billions of dollars by developing technology to improve delivery of public services.


Ndemo said while it was hard to quantify the savings from the resulting research, automating various government services would save billions of dollars. "There are several registries, which if we completely automated, our estimate is that we can plough back to the Exchequer up to $10 billion by simply creating efficiency through higher productivity," Ndemo said.

IBM, which has a presence in more than 20 countries on the continent, said the single biggest challenge facing African cities was improving services such as water and transportation.

NY Times reports that this move is a signal that IBM leadership believes Africa will be a growth region over the next few years. On the other hand, the move could be seen (perhaps more accurately) as a hedge.


Democratizing Innovation ("book report")

There's a lot of focus on innovation--the development of new ideas that improve products and production--is the current best candidate to drive global change in education. A few reasons....

  • Globalization has increased competition among manufacturers and other companies in different companies. 
  • Governments are recognizing that innovation is: 
    • Definable and measurable
    • The product of specific enabling conditions
    • A key factor in corporate competitiveness and so a factor in economic growth

What's more, governments are also coming around to the position that they have the capacity--through incentives, regulation, allocation of resources and other activities--to influence innovation across their economies. 

In his 2005 book, "Democratizing Innovation," Eric Von Hippel, a pioneer in the field, suggests that businesses in certain sectors (outdoor sports and sporting goods  being one of them) should look at their customers. Malcolm Gladwell, in "Outliers," demonstrates that world-class innovators in business and other fields tend to arise out of a confluence of conditions--economic, cultural, intellectual--that are if not common throughout society at least common to specific cohorts within it. 

Education, its quality, its ubiquity and its characteristics, is routinely cited as a factor in the emergence of an effective culture of innovation, but the link between education and innovation has not been analyzed in much detail, especially once you drop down below higher ed. However...


Can Governments Till the Fields of Innovation?
... governments are increasingly wading into the innovation game, declaring innovation agendas and appointing senior innovation officials. The impetus comes from two fronts: daunting challenges in fields like energy, the environment and health care that require collaboration between the public and private sectors; and shortcomings of traditional economic development and industrial policies. The rising worldwide interest in innovation policy represents the search to answer an important question: What is the appropriate government role in creating industries and jobs in today’s high-technology, global economy?


That central issue animated much of the discussion at an unusual gathering earlier this month at a lodge north of San Francisco. This invitation-only affair was organized and moderated by John Kao, a former professor at Harvard Business School and founder of the Large Scale Innovation. A few speakers covered big-think issues like climate-altering geoengineering and water-management technologies. But the main participants were innovation-policy practitioners from nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Britain, Chile, Colombia, Finland, India, Norway and Singapore....

In Britain, a national innovation agenda is beginning to take shape with policy documents and the creation of a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Finland has long taken a comprehensive approach to innovation policy, investing in areas as varied as an outstanding national education system and high-speed Internet connections for its residents. It has also produced a power in the cellphone industry, Nokia.

Other governments are also focusing on targets of potential advantage. In Australia, the government is looking to nurture industries that arise from its harsh climate and a scattered population. So research centers are working to improve strains of drought-resistant wheat and cotton for export as adaptive technologies to cope with climate change, said Terry Cutler, who recently headed a government-appointed expert panel on innovation in Australia. And Boeing last year selected Australia as the location for a Phantom Works lab for developing unmanned aircraft, he said.

“Test flights don’t bump into things,” he said. “Sparsity can be a global competitive advantage.”

In India, the government and industry have financed research into products and services that reverse the traditional pattern of innovation flowing gradually from wealthy nations to the rest of the world, said R. A. Mashelkar, chairman of the country’s National Innovation Foundation. Early evidence of the trend, he said, includes the $2,000 Nano automobile, and low-cost drugs for tuberculosis and psoriasis. 

What's interesting in this? First, of course, Finland, the UK and Australia are all pushing changes in education that emphasize the development of comprehensive cognitive skills. But as important, look at the examples that are being cited here: Australians capitalizing on sparseness, Indians on their vast population of poor people (altho it's arguable whether the Nano represents an innovation or simply the expansion of an unsustainable activity 10x), and Finland is re-framing the demand for support and services within its graying population as an opportunity that coincides with an anticipated societal need. 
Is it me, or do all these examples all seem like real-world / large-scale versions of project-based-learning activities? Middle-school students challenged to find Australia's underused resources and dream up uses for them... High-school students in Finland terrorized by their teachers painting pictures of a wealth-sucking population of the elderly... (Primary students in India imagining that their parents could buy cars. "I've got an idea! Let's build cheap ones!")

On the one hand, there are probably a raft of short-term actions that governments can take to increase the likelihood of innovation in industry, which will have payoffs much more swiftly than changes made in schools. However the bulk of potential government support for innovation happens through the construction of incentives and disincentives, or through other indirect actions. Schools and education systems, on the other hand, are--you might recall--themselves government programs. While politicians like short-term results, in cases where measurement of those results is difficult or the potential outcomes are of dubious real value, those politicians will accept short-term outputs, such as the introduction of innovation-specific programs for students.