(ICT) Leveraging Technology for Education in Complex and Challenging Environments
August 23, 2011 – 11:30 a.m.
||Mike Laflin, Education Development Center
David Yunger, Microsoft
Lou August, World Vision International
David Atchoarena, UNESCO
||Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education
Moderator Anthony Bloome introduced the session and set the following as a premise for the use and effectiveness of educational technology: devices and software can only be as good as their users, and must serve a learning outcome if they are to add value for education.
This theme was echoed by the presenters, each of whom highlighted the critical roles that community engagement and design iteration play in the success of educational technology programs. Mike Laflin of EDC pointed to his experiences delivering interactive radio instruction (IRI) at scale in the Sudan, a project seeking to address dire needs in basic education services. Laflin indicated that the use of formative evaluations for iterative improvements determines the success or failure of a project, particularly one attempting to deliver a full curriculum to large populations.
UNESCO’s David Atchoarena also acknowledged the vital role that partnerships play in increasing the knowledge base of best practices in the ICT for Education field overall, and noted the ever-increasing importance of inter-organizational knowledge sharing. Lou August from World Vision International and David Yunger from Microsoft similarly identified the fruitful partnerships their organizations are involved in, ranging from local community organizations to international content and hardware providers. World Vision is currently working in several places to convert community centers into connected telecenters, though August noted that creating the right physical conditions and finding local and passionate people for success is often challenging.
Each of the presenters made it clear that their projects hinge on the support and alignment with host country governments’ plans and goals. Microsoft’s ongoing work in Haiti began with an “Envisioning Workshop” with the Ministry of Education, designed to ensure that project activities would be complementary to the Haitian Government’s long-term strategy. Audience members asked whether lack of buy-in from teachers or students had hindered success in the presenters’ work, however the panelists responded that buy-in from central level stakeholders was more frequently an issue, and that their concerns often centered around learning outcomes and cost.
“We know that, no matter what, it is never the learners’ fault” said EDC’s Mike Laflin, when asked about how to design successfully for scale. “We must ask, ‘overall, are kids learning?’ And if they are not, it is our job to find out why.”
Key take away points Technology can be a useful learning tool in complex and challenging environments. Telecenters around the world, IRI in Sudan, and the creation of partnership around the world, are all endeavors working to create conditions that are sustainable for learning through technology.