Tuesday, 5 October 2010

ICT - why an intermediate step?

Digital learning environments are demanding: 
 • material and digital content infrastructures need to be in place
• teachers know to use these purposefully

Find our reports on ICT in education informative? Then find the most relevant list in the second part of this post. These reports concentrate on opportunities in the use of ICT to improve education. Experiences with digital teaching technologies in rich countries are taken at heart when looking for realistic ways to foster progress in developing economies.

One thing becomes clear - indisputable. There is a link missing for in the classroom:
an intermediate step using lo-tech ICT.

So, first let us introduce the Nationwide Visualisation Project in all its simplicity and beauty. It is the most innovative ICT technology currently available: this is achievable now. It can be safely implemented nationwide on highschools in a sustainable manner. Within five months. It is time-proven and it delivers reliably, even in harsh conditions (click 'Testimonials' above).

Visualisation and interactivity are the key modernisations here. It provides excellent working conditions for teachers in 'chalk and talk' situations to prepare themselves and their students for digital teaching strategies.
This approach needs a one-off investment and only electricity is required.

Teachers in developing economies need robust and reliable tools in their classrooms. The
Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces simple to use teaching aids for highschools.

One of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off"
Just ask: "What tries this visual to explain?"

"Erosion and sedimentation"

The modernisation: from 'chalk and talk' (repetitive learning) to visualisation 
and interactivity for efficiency in learning and to train thinking skills.

This system is effective. It gives full control to teachers used to 'chalk and talk'.
Teachers will train themselves each lesson in visualisation, to set clear goals 
and to involve pupils: basic teaching skills to work with digital tools - when ready.

The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids
for five key-subjects: Geography, History, Physics, Chemistry and Biology

  learning through thinking - strong visual clues as memory anchors
better results guaranteed

A systematic innovation - seven viewpoints:  from modernisation of teaching, implementation, institutionalisation and training of teachers to cost-efficiency and more   

On each high school in 15 classrooms: powerful teaching tools for each lesson

Visualisation and interactivity in the classroom are the key-modernisations here.
Top pedagogy for efficiency in education now and for capacity building of teachers.
Allow your highschool teachers to work with up-to-date resources.
All it needs is electricity and a one-off investment at low cost.


 but   ........  

But why not computer projectors and using the internet? 
Look at the future!

On ICT in education:
recent news from near and far - below, in six selected and updated reports 

Summary  Over-viewing the big picture makes clear that at this stage in emerging economies the first priority should be investing in computer labs in schools (for computer-literacy and as digital libraries) and systematically preparing the infrastructure needed for digital education. 
In the mean time, UNESCO and other ICT-promoting donor agencies - very cleverly - invest in testing and customizing new promising yet unproven technologies in a few (small) countries as testing grounds. Until this new technology is made sustainable, really improves learning and is marketed at affordable prices, developing economies are paying over the odds. Experience in rich countries teaches that improving standards using ICT will take a while. 
As an intermediate step for the classroom is lo-tech ICT - already achievable through school radio, TV and the most practical teachers' assistant, the overhead projector.

This summary sounds logical? 
What about the vision and today's reality in a typical low-income country: 

Telling news from Nigeria, as numbers of pupils grow and quality of education declines: 'Lagos State Trains Teachers on Cost-Effective Teaching Aids'
Quote:  "Some teachers in Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) drawn from three education districts in Lagos State were recently empowered to produce and use cost-effective instructional materials to stimulate teaching and learning among their students. The participants demonstrated their skills with the use of cardboard and paper to produce learning aids, depending on their subjects of specialization with enthusiasm at the five-day training programme ...
Aina, who has been teaching since 1987, added that the training would, aside from minimising the stress of teachers, also help students to learn more. "Though I have been using some of these methods before as a Visual Arts teacher, I have learnt new ones."

In 'This Day - Education' Sept 1, 2010.
Imagine the real progress with five days of training in using transparencies and a sturdy overhead-projector instead of paper and cardboard - see the Nationwide Visualisation Project.

FRIDAY, 28 MAY 2010  Nigeria
1   E-learning is not the point here!
For decades in Nigeria the numbers of pupils are increasing but the quality of education is deteriorating because of lack of money for the most elementary things. Last May the government decided to base education on digital ICT  to turn the tide. But locals are convinced this policy is unrealistic. Reasons from the front line - why education in most African countries is not ready for the digital revolution. Read more 

Five more reports with news to consider:

THURSDAY, 26 AUGUST 2010  -                   as in Australia

2   Why to save $46 billion (US$41 billion) on ICT
An update with recent publications on experiences in rich countries. Billions of dollars are spent every year without good success. As digital learning environments tend to lower learning results nationwide, governments now concentrate on better teachers. Digital pedagogy needs a leap forward first before it will live up to expectations. With conclusions for lower income countries. Read more

3   Worlds of opportunities to improve education - a leap in digital pedagogy
Overview of purchasing power in high, middle and low-income countries and their investments in computer-based education. Also in Hong Kong it is concluded that a leap forward is needed in digital pedagogy to make their US$ 8 billion investment productive. On what innovations should each of the groups of countries concentrate now to prepare for their (digital) future? Read more

4    How to save US$120,000,000 on ICT  - costs of digital learning
In the UK large savings are made by dismantling BECTA, the organisation to implement digital teaching throughout the educational system. It sheds a light on the high demands and complexity of digital learning and the huge costs involved. How can lower income countries prepare for digital teaching? Read more

5    Evidence Please!  - digital learning in poor countries
A short yet powerful statement about the failure of "one-laptop-per-child" projects. It is remarkable that Wayan Vota, for 5 years one of the strongest OLPC promoters, now launches a new but similar vision: "One powerful smartphone per teacher, or a combination of voice/SMS phones and smartphones for teachers and students, have the potential to actually achieve the unfulfilled technology saturation promise of One Laptop Per Child" (Edutech-debate Sept. 14, 2010).
For the reader to judge the realism.
There is a growing popularity in the ICT community for "leap-frog models" into the future with unproven ICT solutions for poor countries. As if the future is now. Step by step approaches which can help out today, get abandoned.  Read more 
How to avoid waste ... ?!

6   Avoid only "worst practice ICT use in education"?
The internet debate in April/May 2010 organised by InfoDev/World Bank: "Most Investments in Educational Technology are Wasted".  In-depth on the wastes resulting from efforts to introduce computer-based learning in poor countries. Money is not used to prepare the infrastructure and other pre-conditions for digital teaching. Hopeful technologies are tried and again untested. What is the role of the advisors? What should be improved to get more digital value for money?  Read more 

Other articles in our archive bring forward  the hopes and challenges for digital teaching and the urge for realistic policies to modernise education for all involved.

In the mean time:

How to explain the flow of lowland rivers? 
Here one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off"

Just ask: "What changes the flow?" 


This system gives full control to teachers used to 'chalk and talk'.
Teachers will train themselves each lesson in visualisation, to set clear goals 
and to involve pupils: basic teaching skills to work with digital tools - when ready.
  All it needs is electricity and a one-off investment at low cost.
For more about the Nationwide Visualisation Project, click here

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why to save $46 billion (US$41 billion) on ICT

Evaluating 30 years: computers do not yet live up to their (full) potential in education. In rich countries investments in computer labs proof to be productive. However, it seems like digital teaching and learning tools in optimal situations improve, but in many cases bring down learning results - nationwide.  Governments have started to reverse policies: from technology to better teachers.
Policy effects of digital tools in classrooms in rich countries as summarised recently:

United Kingdom.  Evidence on the positive impact of ICT on standards remains unclear in 'PS Public Service' on 22 July 2010: "The most fundamental application of technology in schools is the way in which it enables teachers to concentrate on what they do best – teaching. Too much of the education budget in recent years has been spent on getting technology into the classroom with a view that the mere injection of technology itself will contribute to raising standards. However, it is the case that the evidence on the positive impact of ICT on standards remains unclear. The focus on the use of technology in schools, therefore, should be to support teachers' professional needs".

USA.  Obama's revolutionairy low budget Reform in Education 
focuses on quality teachers to turn the tide
in 'The Financial Times' on 28 July 2010: "In the last generation, America’s “K-12” (primary and secondary) public schools system has gradually fallen behind other developed countries (during the era that digital teaching moved centre stage at the expense of trillions of US$ - VT). 
American pupils come 31st in a worldwide ranking of proficiency in mathematics and even lower down in some of the sciences.
On some measures US pupils have a lower level of literacy in English than in some northern European countries where English is the second language.
Thirty years ago (before computers) the US regularly came in the top five on such measures."

With an eye on low-income countries: note that quality decline parallel with the introduction of digital teaching, occurred especially on weaker and on deprived schools (in USA one-third of public schools). 

AustraliaComputers alone provide a low-level of learning in 'Computerworld. The Voice of Management' on 23 July 2010: "The existing program is quite targeted around computers in schools. The coalition could very well look more broadly at supporting software and learning aids, because computers alone provide a low-level of learning.Therefore the planned investment of $46 billion for National Broadband Network, the "Digital Education Revolution" is considered to be cancelled.

These are "Frameworks for Interpreting the (negative results in) Romania and North Carolina Home Computer Use Studies" were Wayan Vota looks for in the Edutech-debate. They underpin the relevance of the August discussion of InfoDev (World Bank/UNESCO) about long-denied evidence that access to computers in many circumstances leads to poor educational attainment.

These evaluations feed the wider debate that is now surrounding Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows (2010). Carr argues that the Internet is leading to a short-attention-span culture. He cites a pile of research showing that the multi-distraction, hyper-link world degrades people’s abilities to engage in deep thought or serious contemplation. Digital teaching might increase motivation of students - the stimuli used by teachers and the information is so diverse that it is merely processed in the short-term-memory. Like watching good National Geographic documentaries: after seen and understood: soon forgotten. Teaching becomes "edu-tainment". Knowledge that pupils have to learn does not get connected to or stored in the long-term-memory, which is the basis of secure learning.

Effective digital teaching. We obviously do not know yet how to use new technologies to really optimise learning processes. For established school subjects, teaching with digital equipment involves more than offering knowledge in understandable and interesting formats - the premises on which most ICT enthusiasts promote computer use by pupils.  From various studies we learn that the approach has to be holistic. To start with: pupils need varied and relevant exercises to fixate information into their long-term-memory. In neuro-physiological terms, to develop new neuron-clusters and the lasting neurological pathways to link new understanding to existing knowledge. What it takes to achieve this is gravely underestimated - joyful exercises commonly used in e-learning software turn out to be not good enough.
Secondly: digital equipment, being so flexible in offering so much, has proved to be a double-edged sword. Teachers must have clear lesson targets, know how to reach those and do so in a disciplined manner, otherwise learning suffers.

Thirdly, for high school students digital learning involves the need for personal interaction, role-models and teachers. Learning as part of growing up is a social process in which technology can help but cannot assume centre stage. 'Social learning' has become a high priority on the agendas of rich countries' educational practices. But creating a productive balance using a simple model with appropriate variation in activities is still a major challenge for 'the new digital pedagogy'. Not to mention how to prevent distraction and pupils just entertaining themselves.

A 'pedagogic leap' is needed for digital teaching to become truly effective. How will the average teacher develop - and how to be trained? We are now much more aware of the missing link between computers being motivational and engaging for youngsters and their role in developing effective, durable learning in school. This gap may take a generation to bridge. More sophisticated pedagogical understanding of digital teaching has to be developed and applied before students of the average teacher in rich and in developing countries can benefit from this type of technology in their classroom. There is, however, plenty of evidence, for instance from independent OECD studies in Europe, that the use of computers in computer labs and libraries has a positive impact - contributing to teaching and to learning. An area to prioritise in countries where budgets are low.

1899 Jean Cote's vision of a classroom in the year 2000: a teacher transmits books to pupils via a kind of 
mechanical micing device. It illustrates the long history of technological fantasies about education. 
Image in David Buckingham: 'Beyond Technology - Children Learning in the Age of Digital Culture'

Startling rhetoric  Considering its results the marketing of educational technology is startling. From the start it doesn't want to see any problems but only "practical solutions". True: the debatable effects could not have been foreseen 20 years ago, although negative results time and again were brought forward in independent studies (see menu-bar: Sound pedagogy). But up till today the marketing messages are relentlessly upbeat. Digital tools… motivate, inspire and stimulate teachers and students; the latest technology is Engaging - Enriching  - Empowering; IT transfers the learning experience by lightning the flame of learning. ICTs inspire creativity in the classroom, share knowledge, spark brilliance and transform the future.
Technology is about creating opportunities, realizing potential, achieving excellence. The effects of this rhetoric, and other aspects of the marketing of this trillion dollar saga, are evaluated in 2007 in the opening chapters of 'Beyond Technology' by Prof. Buckingham of London Institute of Education - a study in the United Kingdom, arguably world leader in digital education.
In low income countries with a poor educational infrastructure in all respects, a similar rhetoric is used by the ICT industry and experts to introduce the one-laptop-per-child concept after 2005 and other digital tools as the (only) solution.
"ICT as a teacher substitute 
ICT rhetoric can explain Ugandas' Minister Bitamazires' hope in 'technocentric' solutions as expressed in her statement on a symposium with "experts tipping the region over importance ICT" in Kampala on 29 of June 2010:
"Students learn more on their own when they interact with ICT than with their teachers".   (Photo Bitamazire © Uganda news-net)  

The new promise  Mitras' and Negropontes' philosophy of 'self-learning' of pupils in low income countries promises "… to leap-frog decades of development… (with computers giving access) to illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem solving potential". Experiences in rich countries where children over the age of four are surrounded by computers do not confirm this for the established school subjects and bring to light that reaching learning targets has become more difficult than before.     "OLPC pupils will educate themselves"  
That is why John Spencer in "Computerworld UK" (August 5 2010) concludes under the title "ICT as a teacher substitute": "CAL (computer assisted learning) and the VLE (virtual learning environment); don’t make me laugh. Never has so much money and time been wasted on such delusional nonsense. No amount of theorising about ‘constructivist pedagogy’ or ‘creating independent learners’ from the apologists can change this". As ICT specialist Spencer recognizes the importance of computers in education but not yet in the classroom. That can change in the future after a 'pedagogical leap' forward.

ICT aid   promoting unproven ICTs (the mediaeval approach)
Test and make it work first (the scientific approach)
Below: cure with leaches (untested for 3000 years)
TEST first!  Clever ICT investments for donors 
as advised in Esther Duflo's TED talk (see post May 29)
After 30 years this is clear for classrooms: before advising any unproven technology - InfoDev/World Bank, UNESCO, ICT4D and the others better invest and experiment with promising IT tools in two or three settings until these really work in poor environments. Implementation procedures have to be developed to make it all sustainable, also money-wise. Until then investments can safely be concentrated on computer labs and building up the infrastructure needed.

In the mean time for in classrooms: teachers used to 'chalk and talk' need robust and reliable tools which give them full control and immediate support. To improve learning achievements there is innovate 'achievable ICT': click for possibly the best way to modernise teaching.

Read full articles:
Wayan Vota 'Edutech-debate' 16 July 2010 
OECD 'Country case studies on digital learning resources as systematic innovation' 2008-2009

for more, see earlier blog posts and
see: 20 yrs IT - a reality check 
see: Sound pedagogy
see: ICT-IT harmonised

In the mean time:

How to explain 'infrastructure'? Below one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off" - and ask:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Worlds of opportunities to improve education

Graph: High income countries can afford to experiment
with expensive computer technology to develop a pedagogy that works effectively

Paving the way for computers to become fully effective in the classroom
after having already invested billions of dollars
UK (GNI p/c US$40,560) USA (44,710) Netherlands (43,050)
Singapore (28,730) Korea (17,690) Hong Kong (29,040)

Hong Kong: 'Quantum leap' necessary for digital teaching.  On the FutureForum in Singapore May 2010, Hong Kong announced that, although more than US$1 billion has been invested in IT for education over the past decade they are not there yet: a 'quantum leap' is now needed to ensure that pedagogy changes in time with the pace of technological advance. 
A quantum leap, to finally go from trial and error to a robust pedagogy for laptops, PCs, eBooks, mobil phones and IWB use to help teachers. It might take another 10 to 20 years or more to develop a reliable pedagogy to become effective to the point that teaching in the classroom can safely be based on it: manageable by the average teacher and improving learning outcomes substantially.
This raises an important question: how can digital education as it is today ever improve teaching and learning in poor environments which lack the infrastructure, skilled workforce and appropriate financial resources?  
Tap "Sound pedagogy" in the menu bar above for more.

Middle and low income countries can now concentrate on getting well functioning computer labs on all schools and safely wait and postpone the introduction of computer technology into the classroom for the next generation. Independent research suggest that until now, the use of digital equipment in the classroom has rarely lead to improved learning outcomes - at least, not in the traditional school subjects (Tab also "20 years IT reality check" and see the reports posted on this blog) When budgets are limited, there is no need to feel that you are missing out on better learning when you don't put computers in your classrooms. Invest wisely and wait for the quantum leap in pedagogy.

Teacher capacity-building is key to future success. In fact, that digital teaching is not ready yet for in the classrooms, provides an excellent opportunity to prepare national and local partners in a step-by-step plan to install an Internet system with matured websites and a reliable infrastructure for computer labs. Meanwhile teacher training and new curriculum materials can be based around excellent student-focused visualisation and interactivity. All this will prepare you and your students for a successful introduction of appropriate computer technology, using a pedagogy that works. Future technology must become affordable and robust. Digital teaching in classrooms will only work effectively when teachers have the chance and skills to remain in charge of their teaching, without the technology taking over. Capacity-building now is the most important key to future success.
Rarely successful  Some middle-income countries are already trying to base their education system on the widespread use of computer technology, taking risks at a very early stage: Malaysia (GNI p/c US$5620), Macedonia (3070), Kosovo, Barbados - just like Kuwait (30,630) and United Arab Emirates (26,210). As posts on this blog illustrate: early adoption of new ICTs as a solution for problems of low or static achievement in education rarely prove to be successful.

Atanu Dey concluded at the recent Delhi World Bank debate
'Most Investments in Educational Technology are Wasted':
"There are better and cheaper ways to improve education"

Low and middle income countries can concentrate on the giant task of installing computer labs in their public sector schools to teach computer skills and as digital library. This is, by the way, equal to the situation on most schools in many high-income countries. These investments cannot wait because many jobs and careers that students take up after leaving school rely heavily on ICT skills. 

One better and cheaper way to improve education .....
"Achievable ICT": click for possibly the best way to modernise teaching in the classroom

For more
see: ICT-IT harmonised
see: 20 yrs IT - a reality check 
see: Sound pedagogy

In the mean time:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
How to explain how a cell divides? Below one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off"

Step up question: "What is the subject?"  

Thursday, 17 June 2010

How to save US$120,000,000 on ICT

ICT policies in high-income countries are diverse. Finland has the best educational system in the world which, interestingly enough, is not due to the use of ICT: according to an OECD study on ICT implementation (December 2008), the use of computers in classrooms systematically declined after 1999. France sticks to traditional teaching methods and holds back from installing expensive computer technology - waiting until it becomes affordable and is shown to make significant improvements in learning. As in Finland, computers are installed in labs to develop computer literacy; teachers mainly use computers for lesson preparation and students for certain homework tasks. The UK however, committed to computer assisted teaching from the start, has spent an estimated equivalent of 80 billion dollars over the last twenty years. So far, according to Pisa reports and independent research, this investment has not raised the level of learning outcomes. Recently, Becta advised the UK government to increase ICT budgets by 30% to ensure that previous investments become more effective. A kill or cure effort anticipating worse to come?

From: eSchoolNews June 10 by Meris Stansbury
ICT institute BECTA shut down - too costly
(photos © eSchoolNews)

As a cost-cutting measure, the new Tory Minister Nick Gibs (photo) announced on June 9 that Becta will be shut down in November 2010. He explained that "the savings in subsequent years will be £65m (US$120m)". Becta was set up in 1988 to promote the effective use of ICT in education. Through Becta’s work, UK schools have received expert advice on ICT purchases and classroom applications. According to its website, £1.5bn has been spent on computer technology for UK schools through Becta’s procurement agreements since 2002, saving the nation’s educational system £223m. Becta also says it has achieved cost savings of £55m for educational institutions and providers in the past year alone.
According to The Guardian newspaper, few were prepared for the 12-year agency’s closure, the loss of 240 jobs and the loss of what Becta chairman Graham Badman said about valuable ICT services provided for schools and their students. The UK government says Becta's closure will mean that individual schools will be able to decide for themselves how to use technology.
Read the full article here

Governments in middle and low income countries facing the enormous task of integrating computer technology into their educational system might want to take a close look at the role of Becta in the UK in order to imitate parts of it. If such an agency is set up to implement technology, it might be best to prevent it becoming self-reinforcing - a lobby for evermore, everywhere. "Becta “research” was subjective and far closer to marketing than anything I would describe as serious, academic research"*. Our advice is to select from the UK experience what has proved to work according to independent research and to adjust this to what is appropriate for your circumstances and calculate future costs of ownership by schools in relation to available budgets. See point 3 in 'Bridging the digital divide systematically', click: IT-ICT policy harmonised

* Qouted from John Donne: Becta Bites the Dust.

In the mean time:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
How to discuss remains of the earliest modern human found (Ethiopia -160,000 years)?
Below one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off".

Just ask: "Who can explain what we see here?"

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Too costly - Kenya shuts down computer labs

Kenya is probably the richest nation in East Africa with an annual Gross National Income GNI per capita of $550 (Ethiopia $170, Uganda $300, Rwanda $220, Tanzania $350, compare also: Ghana $510, Guyana $1150, Serbia $4010, Hong Kong $29,404, UK $40,500). Kenya has to plan her ICT investments in education carefully so that they are sustainable. Yearly costs of ownership tend to be overlooked.

from: The Nation News by JACOB NGETICH June 2010
Why MPs shot down computer labs

In his 2009-2010 Budget speech in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta allocated Sh1.3 billion (US $16 million) for the Mobile Computer Laboratories Project for use by high schools students.
However, months later, a member of the Finance Committee and MP Shakeel Shabbir rubbished it, terming it a deliberate attempt to make money and cheat the taxpayer with an unsustainable project. ... Mr Shabbir claimed then that sub-standard buses had already been bought from India for the project. The Ministry of Information would provide broadband or satellite connection, while the Ministry of Education was to scout for teachers and meet the operational cost. ...
The amount allocated for the project by the Treasury was only meant for capital expenditure, with operational expenditure derived from CDF. “Under the initiative, the CDF was to buy and fuel the bus that would go round and also cater for the two teachers,” explains Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary ICT - photo.

Read the full story here

To close the digital divide systematically,
see: ICT-IT harmonised
see: Nationwide Visualisation Project 

In the mean time:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
How to explain 'radar'? Below, the use of radar, one off the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off".

Step up: "In which three ways radar is used in this visual?"

Monday, 7 June 2010

Evidence Please!

We tend to take positive results and the real progress of computer-assisted teaching for granted. However, there are very good reasons to exercise care in this area. To date, independent large-scale research carried out in rich countries reports hardly any positive effects on learning standards - at least not in the long-established school subjects - see our posts. Where is the evidence for the claim by the IT community that computers really promote rapid improvements in teaching or learning in middle and low income countries? Here Allen, a regular contributor to the debate, raises a valid question:

Allen's question in the Debate led by Mark Warschauer:
"You've investigated successful programs?"

"You've investigated successful programs? Even highly successful programs? Could you, perhaps, identify one or two of these programs?

Without your resources I haven't found any successful programs, at least by the metric of improving educational outcomes, so I'm interested in successful - highly successful - programs. In fact all the programs I've had access to have been dismal failures both financially and educationally so you can understand that highly successful programs, and how they achieved their success, would be of interest to me".
Find the Debate here 
EduTech Debate by InfoDev World Bank

for Research Reports see this blog and
see: 20 yrs IT - a reality check 
see: Sound pedagogy
see: ICT-IT harmonised
In the mean time:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
How to explain static electricity? Below one off the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off".

Step up question: "Why is her hair standing strait up?"

To modernise teaching today, see:  Nationwide Visualisation Project

Friday, 4 June 2010

Welcome to our no-nonsense blog

Welcome! After months of preparation we now happily invite you to have a look around on our new blog.

Good ideas are worth spreading. Tab on the subjects in the menu bar above: you will find here all information about the 'Nationwide Visualisation Project' and its rationale.

Why we started this blog? See the sidebar - to contribute to effective investments in ICT.

Wisdom on ICT comes at a high price already paid for. Implementation of ICT to make pupils computer-literate has to be a priority, but is a risky business. Even more so if computer technology gets introduced as attempt to modernise teaching in the classroom, especially in middle and low income countries where resources are limited. How to be most effective? We select news-reports that will make you think and re-think. This might help you to consider investment schemes which will really make a difference for the future of your schools.

The reports in our archives are varied. These weeks we highlight the InfoDev/World Bank debate now held in Delhi: "Most Investments in Educational Technology are Wasted". Hopefully you appreciate our summaries which you find among related subjects below.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Avoid only "worst practice ICT use in education"?

Highlighting the Delhi debate in April/May 2010 organised by InfoDev/World Bank:
"Most Investments in Educational Technology are Wasted"
Three guest speakers defend the way computer technology has been introduced in middle and low income countries so far, and three opponents argue that much of the money could have been better used. Here is a response to that last position.

Michael Trucano, Senior ICT and Educational Policy Specialist at InfoDev/World Bank has seen it happening around the world, over and over again:
"Given that many initiatives seem immune to learning from either 'best' or even 'good' practice in other places or contexts, it may be most practical to recommend 'lots of practice', as there appears to be a natural learning curve that accompanies large scale adoption of ICTs in the education sector in many countries - even if this means 'repeating the mistakes' of others".

from:Michael Trucano on Fri, 04/30/2010
Worst practice ICT use in education

Next Trucano raises the question: "But do we really need to repeat the mistakes of others?" and concludes that maybe only "worst practice in ICT use in education" should be avoided. A statement like this from a top researcher at the World Bank reveals a lot about the common acceptance of the waste of investment in educational technologies. And "we" refers directly and correctly to the role of the IT community itself.

On a regular basis I talk to top management at government ministries in middle and low income countries and meet their influential IT advisers - mostly from abroad and paid by donor facilitating organisations. Ministers listen carefully to them. To me, it appears like these advisers are responsible for many of the policies subsequently adopted: it is at their level - and not the lower levels in the educational hierarchies - that decisions about the amount and destination of investments in educational technology are made. Outcomes have not been good and so for IT advisers and aid facilitating agencies a fundamental re-think is urgently needed.

Here Trucano's list of nine 'worst practices in ICT'         photo Trucano © World Bank 
(mostly directed by enthusiastic IT specialists and the computer lobby) -
1. Dump hardware in schools, hope for magic to happen
2. Design for OECD learning environments, implement elsewhere
3. Think about educational content only after you have rolled out your hardware
4. Assume you can just import content from somewhere else
5. Don't monitor, don't evaluate
6. Make a big bet on an unproven technology
7. Don't acknowledge total cost of ownership/operation calculations
8. Assume away equity (fairness; justice) issues but which need careful proactive attention
9. Don't train your teachers (nor your school headmasters, for that matter)
I'd like to add:
10: ignore the benefits of achievable ICT to modernise teaching at low cost and no risk (click)

There is a false dichotomy in the "Delhi - Waste debate". Are those who think too much money is wasted really against computers? I don't think so. There is a common understanding that computers have to be integrated in developing economies as fast as possible, wherever it makes sense and especially in education. That is why donor facilitators have established IT-task forces to promote and assist this strategy. But there is an enthusiasm within the IT community which makes them regularly overlook (for instantce) points 5 to 8 in Trucano's list. This oversight leads to unrealistic policies for middle and low income countries. The IT advisers reject 'waste' as an appropriate description of what is going on, as if they don't have to be cautious regarding the financial consequences of the implementation strategies they advise be taken.

Implementation strategies which advisers promote should become longer term, spending 3 to 7 years creating a stable infrastructure before teachers start using IT in their classrooms.
Analysis followed by evaluation based on research elsewhere is simply not being effective in most places, partly because researchers and opinion-makers who report to the IT community are too eager to get computers into classrooms as a first priority as the key measure of success. Conclusions are reported to 'the home front' in optimistic terms and tend to obscure the shortcomings or failure of programs - holding up the cheap promise of 'computers enriching education' as a cover, instead of concluding that a firm step-by-step approach dealing first with critical barriers is far preferable.
Being pragmatic is essential. Instead of implicitly allowing similar mistakes to be repeated, annalists, government consultants and education leaders should note carefully Trucano's observations and the Delhi debate outcomes and question themselves about the value and appropriateness of their future implementation advice.

Role of ICT conferences

5th African e-Learning Conference
Zambia May 2010
Photos by Inzy Studios Lusaka, © ICWE GmbH
ICT conferences are important places to promote and present sensible implementation plans, concentrating first on preparation (and to raise voices against investment schemes doomed to failure). But ICT conferences, like the one recently held in Zambia, traditionally celebrate the arrival of computers in education as if this will bring immediate blessings - no matter where and even when failure is highly predictable. Also and especially, the 'professional advisers' at such events ignore the downsides of computer technology in the classroom and set out false expectations for visiting educationalists and policy makers who want rapid progress in their schools and who are in positions to get money flowing quickly. Instead of being warned about doubtful investments (as listed by Trucano), they go home with unrealistic IT policies in their minds - a side effect of these over-optimistic gatherings which the organisers and guest speakers should plan to prevent.

How to come up with blueprints for success? How to replace misleading over-optimism with common sense? You do not have to be Einstein to understand that the highest priority is to promote solutions to critical barriers first - like developing a solid infrastructure, preparing the teachers and only introducing educational technology which has already proved its worth in low or middle income countries. With smaller spending limits, much more can be achieved when wastage is minimised. Researchers, opinion-makers and computer-industry promoters have much responsibility to exercise in this process. Consider Trucano's Point 8, the equity issue: developing economies have no money for experiments. Loans, taxes or donor money gets wasted and is lost for basic needs such as salaries, furniture to sit on, school lunches or schoolbooks. Here realism in setting goals is imperative to foster progress.

A new, scientific approach is required from infoDev, US-Aid, UNESCO ICT4D, GeSCI and others who promote implementing expensive IT in education. Novelties which seem promising, like Negroponte's new eBook Being Digital, can be experimented with in a few regions or small countries until a complete working model is capable of implementation at manageable and accountable cost. In the 21st century the approach of 'trial and error' should be left behind, especially by the IT community. If they really want to close the digital divide they by now have to come up with blueprints for success. Here's an eye-opener on this subject, courtesy of Chris Blattman who did put this speech on his blog a few days earlier:

Esther Duflo's TED talk
Prof. Duflo is development economist at M.I.T. and has been awarded the John
Bates Clark Medal for "the most significant contribution to economic thought
and knowledge.” This award is regarded as a step up for the Noble Prize.

To close the digital divide systematically,
see: ICT-IT harmonised
see: Beyond chalk and talk
see: Nationwide Visualisation Project

original post Trucano 
In the mean time:

Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
How relate rain, static electricity and lightning? Below one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off".

Step up: "What is happening to the ice-cubs in the circle?

    Friday, 28 May 2010

    E-learning is not the point here!

    Nigeria has decided to adopt e-learning across the public school system and to include the curriculum. This happened in the weeks of the World Bank debate: "Most Investments in Educational Technology are Wasted". Hopefully Nigeria will take lessons learned elsewhere at heart. First and for all it has to prepare the infrastructure and invest in capacity building before expecting teachers to achieve curriculum goals digitally - according to reader comments. 

    From: Ngozi Sams, April 20, 2010 02:53AM
    Nigeria chooses digital education
    Some reader comments:

    "First we need electricity"
    Posted by KissTeeth on Apr 20 2010:
    E-learning (LOL). First we need electricity then broadband and computer industries then computer literate teachers and finally e-learning. In Nigeria, we always want to run before we even learn to crawl. And please I don't want some posters giving me a list of “text-book advantages” of e-learning -- as so often happens with crammers at school. That is not the point here.

    "How many of these teachers can even teach?"

    Posted by Seasonal on Apr 20 2010
    This should be a future oriented project. We do not even have stable electricity. Standards of learning in schools have fallen so low -and we think e-learning will make people smarter? Please... How many of these teachers can even use computers, also how many of these teachers can even teach? I remember when I was in secondary school, one or two of my English teachers couldn't even speak English well - imagine! Abegi. Although it's a good idea, it's not what Nigeria needs at the moment.
     High-school classrooms like many South of the Sahara - click on image to enlarge

    These readers comments are fully understandable and lead to only one conclusion: Nigeria has to start preparing for the introduction of computer technology in education now now now. Considering the state of public schools in Nigeria, this has to be done with a long term vision. In a systematic step by step approach the critical barriers have to be solved first. Only relative small budgets are available for this - not the trillions of dollars as any OECD country of Nigeria's size spends on IT.
    Fortunately the Delhi debate produces clear advices. With proactive attention Nigeria might be able to avoid the wrong policies which elsewhere have led to wastage or failure.

    Read the full article in Next and more comments here

    To close the digital divide systematically
    see:  ICT-IT harmonised
    see:  Beyond chalk and talk
    In the mean time:

    Teachers in developing economies need in their classrooms robust and reliable tools.
    The Nationwide Visualisation Project introduces on highschools simple to use teaching aids.
    How to learn about ways to struggle for independence?  
    Below one of the 2500 visuals: "Put on - take off".

    Step up question:  "When did most African nations become independant?"


    To modernise teaching today, see:  Nationwide Visualisation Project