Plenary 6: Participatory Roundtable:
“Who says You Can’t have 21st Century Education in Low-Resource Settings?
August 24, 2011 — 1:45 p.m.
||Asha Kanwar, Commonwealth of Learning
Mathew Taylor, Intel
David Atchoarena, UNESCO
Gavin Dykes, Education World Forum
Wayan Vota, Inveneo
Steven Rothstein, Perkins School for the Blind
Sonia Derenoncourt, Peace Corps
||Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education
In this session presenters from both the public and private sector gave brief overviews of their involvement with ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in education. The moderator, Anthony Bloome, presented a context for ICT in education and asked, “Where can science and technology take us?”
Professor Asha Kanwar of Commonweath of Learning (COL) guided the audience through the work that COL does in developing open education resource (OER) materials. In India and Malawi, among other countries, these materials provide quality content and are adaptable to local contexts. In addition, OER fosters teacher collaboration and helps to build capacity. David Atchoarena from UNESCO discussed the impact of the information economy on education and how this transformation is causing more education to occur outside of the classroom. Mathew Taylor, representing Intel, briefed the audience on a successful pilot project in Zambia that uses solar technology to power a computer lab for students. The lab has increased student enrollment and attendance at the school. By providing a range of for-profit services after school hours, the project is now recouping the money spent building the lab.
Gavin Dykes from Education World Forum discussed the importance of developing and following frameworks in ICT. Wayan Vota of Inveneo discussed the need to build human capacity and scale successful ICT projects with the help of local technology companies. Vota gave examples of Inveneo projects in Haiti and Tanzania that exemplify this model. Steven Rothstein from Perkins expanded the discussion to include assistive technology such as Braille writers that work without electricity, impactful mobile platforms using SMS that are accessible to the deaf, and the importance of distance education to the disabled. Lastly, Sonia Derenoncourt from Peace Corps described some of the many projects done by Peace Corps Volunteers around the world, including using Google Earth for developing eco-tourism and developing native-language blogs in Bulgaria. Audience members queried the panel on their experiences with funding in the constrained fiscal climate. Many of the presenters explained that local ownership and gaining community support develop capacity and sustainability, which in turn simplifies fiscal management. Richard Whelden (USAID) asked about the types of research done to demonstrate the efficacy and impact of these programs. As most of the programs are new, the available research consists only of preliminary evaluations. This will expand in the coming years.
Key take away points stress that technology may not be the answer to educating those in low-resource settings, but it can support the spread and access to quality materials because of the lower costs and power requirements of modern technology. Technology in various forms can be used to further include people with disabilities and the new tech-savvy generation is now training others in new and creative uses for technology. The most successful pilots and interventions have great community investment and involvement; local ownership is a key to accomplishment.