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 SMS (3)


More on twitter, txting & tablets in school

I missed the money quote in the post below. And that is:

"...the Kineo can only access websites that are pre-programmed by an administrator or teacher, and its messaging capabilities have been disabled to make sure students use it for learning, not texting."
Made by the writer of the article, Dennis Pierce, editor of sSchool News.

"learning, not texting"! So check out this bit, also sent by C L:

Use of Twitter is linked to higher grades, study finds
According to a new study published in The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Twitter can bolster student engagement and grade-point average.
The study followed 125 pre-health majors at a midsize public university. Those using Twitter, says Rey Junco of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, the lead author, had an average G.P.A. half a point higher than their counterparts in a non-tweeting control group. They also more frequently participated in class, sought out professors and discussed course material outside of class.
Twitter was used for discussions, questioning professors in and out of class, receiving feedback and reminders, and reviewing course concepts reduced to terse fundamentals, all via laptop or cellphone.
Students seemed to find the medium a less intimidating way to express themselves in large lecture halls. “Twitter was a useful, low-stress way to ask questions,” Mr. Junco said.
As one student wrote on Twitter: “One of my favorite parts of the day is when I’m sitting in Bio lecture and a tweet has been sent out through the class account and everybody looks at their phone.”




I used to think like that... I used to think like this... but now I dunno.

Over at First Monday, Siobhan Stephenson posts a long essay that "explores the increasingly important role a new corporate social responsibility movement is playing in international development." She focuses, however, on Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program -- which is basically an umbrella under which all somewhat-generous-things-Microsoft-that-don't-stem-from-BMGF are sheltered. Included in this beneficence is Partners in Learning, which combines lots of low-cost software licenses with training on Office products in one bundle that UP delivers to teachers, usually, in bunches of developing countries around the world. 

OK, I'm all over most of this--UP, PiL, and the integration of CSR and int'l development. The entrance of corporate dollars into development is a huge swing in the pendulum, one that most development-agency pros will acknowledge, with impetus coming from several facts: Multinational corporations have way more cash on hand these days than do, say, UNESCO or FAO; MNCs are also pretty highly motivated to move into emerging and developing markets by the "maturing" of OECD markets, and CSR is definitely part of that effort; and a lot of country governments find it way easier and more productive to work with MNCs than with donor agencies, for reasons both licit and not. 

But Stephenson's article is largely written from the POV of the Free (and Libre) and Open-source Software (FOSS or FLOSS) movement. There's some effort to argue that FOSS has benefits for developing-country economies and individuals, but the arguments given are 10 years old at this point, haven't borne fruit as far as I have seen, and are unsupported by evidence of any kind in the article in question. Plus, there are boatloads of questionable statements early on: 

.... FOSS' ability to function as an organizing vehicle for a global worker, particularly in less developed countries (LDCs), through its attempt to wrest control of software ownership away from the private sector...


... perhaps the biggest argument in favor of FOSS was its suitability for developing local and indigenous software industries by providing individuals not only with the free access to software code but also to a global community of programmers, mentors and potential customers.

Leaving aside the improbability of "the global worker" and "indigenous software industries," these statements just blow, in combination. Most LDCs (which are not "less-developed countries" but "_Least_ developed countries, in UN parlance, so as to distinguish them by their crappy social and economic conditions from other developing countries such as, say, Indonesia, where in fact most people actually have pots to piss in) are at best a decade (Rwanda) and at worst an eternity (Burma) from developing a  knowledge-work sector that has any significant role in the economy. Hell, half of them have fewer than 10 mobile phones per 1,000 (that's a guess, actually, but not a ridiculous one). So the idea -- which really sums up Stephenson's argument -- that Microsoft's CSR efforts are hegemonic, and destructive of workers' rights and opportunities in developing countries, is frankly built on a profound misunderstanding of poverty in LDCs and in other countries (including, possibly, OECD countries). 

I'll come back to this if I have time. I object, frankly, to PiL on pedagogic grounds, and to UP because it swings policy decisions in odd directions, makes politicians seem effective when they are anything but, and so on. But in my experience development barely happens at all, and it certainly doesn't happen unless every group with a stake in development is actually contributing. So I try not to diss the increasingly strong influence of Christian churches in social-development activities in Africa, nor the economic efforts made by Chinese government-owned businesses, nor the blind embrace of micro-finance in the US, nor the establishment of Cisco Networking Academies (now, there's hegemonic CSR for ya), nor UP and PiL, despite the fact that they ALL bug me. 

Hell, didn't the FOSS movement lose the battle for the desktop, pretty much--partly as a result of UP and Window' ubiquity, I'll give you that, but also partly as a result of cloud computing, and just the fact that generally who gives a damn about their OS anyway? And didn't FOSS win a few battles too, based on Apache, MySQL, Ubuntu, Drupal and other tools not for end users? (See Microsoft on how happy they are to be fighting Droid with Windows Mobile 70000, and MySQL with SQLServer...) And hasn't there been a bunch written about WHY these kinds of software initiatives, essentially hitting where the tech industry is, rather than where its customers are, are better suited for FOSS development than end-user tools are?

In any case, in my opinion, the FOSS efforts that are really paying off today in developing countries are smaller-bore but higher impact than anything OS-related or productivity related: Frontline SMS is FOSS, and enables basically anyone to set up low-cost narrowcast text messaging; Ushahidi supports crowd-sourcing of information from crisis areas (using any format, basically); and OER Africa is doing what can be done to get free learning resources into African schools. (Note that OER Africa is partially funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Hmmm. Should we be worrie?) All of these groups have targeted real needs in real places and have developed stuff that they're giving away. (Note, however, that the first two are exogenous, their tools have been developed by groups outside of the countries where the tools will be used.)

It's _possible_ that having more free, customizable PC OS software would be of value. But there's so much going on already (including Open Office, which I'm not using just now, nor, I suspect, are you. And in my case, it's certainly NOT because Microsoft is limiting my choices!) And, frankly, when I see the dangers of overlooking the FOSS/Microsoft desktop wars couched in terms such as "failure to interrogate* the meaning of these benefits within the context of historic class struggle over the ownership....," as per Stephenson's article, I just  feel, well, as though there are other failures more worthy of our contemplation. 

*Also, I gotta say that I don't find any great distance between post-structuralists who "interrogate" meanings and San Francisco Giants baseball fans who say of their team's season, "Giants baseball, it's torture!" Casual uses of both terms should be swiftly retired out of respect for people who are actually interrogated and tortured.



mHealth, SMS, and African schools

I stopped in at Wayan Vota's TechSalon on mHealth at inveneo on Tuesday morning. (mHeatlh = "mobile health," essentially the use of phones, handheld computers and other portable devices to meet healthcare needs and improve healthcare systems.)

Karen Coppock, VP of VitalWave Consulting, presented information about their new-ish report culling trends and examples from over 50 mHealth projects. (A project that I worked on in 2003, Teledoc, was among the group they looked at.) 

The VitalWave report shows mHealth used for: 

  • Remote monitoring (6 projects) 
  • Remote data collection (14 projects)
  • Communication and training for healthcare workers (5 projects) 
  • Disease and epidemic outbreak training (7 projects)
  • Diagnostic and treatment support (9 projects -- including the now-defunct but lamented Teledoc!)
  • Education and awareness (6 projects)

Much, much attention was focused on SMS, used for one-to-one communication and used as a broadcast / narrowcast medium to reach mobile-phone users. SMS--because it's cheap, it's nearly ubiquitous (for those who can read), and connects directly to incentives in the form of airtime--is becoming the killer app for health, agriculture and community development in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

But not in education. Sure there are a few initiatives. And teachers have relatively high levels of mobile-phone ownership, (OK, I'm guessing here, prove me wrong). But the primary constituents--kids--don't own phones. And the few mLearning initiatives that target educators and schools, a couple in  Tanzania and South Africa, haven't really taken off. 


Here's an example

Vodacom and Nokia were collaborating to offer mobile based educational content to remote schools. The Project 'BrigeIT' uses a Nokia N95 and a TV set on the client side. A teacher is able to send an SMS to request material and a file is downloaded to the phone on such a request. This multi media file can be played back on the TV set. There are still some issues on energy that the project is grappling with.

Television -- even without broadcast content -- is NOT the killer app for schools in the region. Electricity, toxicity (what happens with those CRTs?) and the high cost of usable content are all barriers. Not to mention the fact that the data-download over Vodacom's GPRS network is going to cost _somebody_, even if that somebody is Vodacom for the purposes of the field test. 

Finally, why not just load ALL the damn content on a DVD and send the thing to the school so the teacher can browse without peering through the tiny aperture of her mobile phone screen at whatever index of, say, social studies content is sent in reply to her SMS? (Sure, portable DVD players cost somewhat more than CRT-based TVs, but they use way more power and release way more toxics at the end of their lifecycles. [Well, not way more, perhaps. But lots of lead...])

Where's the SMS-based teacher-development project that drives teachers to upgrade their subject knowledge and try new approaches in the classroom? Or OUT of the classroom?

(More on SMS and schools, and on the relationship of mHealth & eHealth, soon.)