civil society

No Internet? Just Use Cell Phones

The Learning 203S0 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how mobile technology is making a difference in Ugandan school systems. Image © mejymejy by Geoffrey Ssembajjwe, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Access to information can transform lives and livelihoods. This is particularly true in places where access to information is hindered by economic, geographic, or social barriers.  Today, the rapidly growing reach of cell phones and other modern communications technologies holds tremendous potential to overcome some of these obstacles. A school system that runs on cell phones Creatively and innovatively including teachers, parents, pupils, local leaders and local education authorities in school governance can go a long way in creating schools where children actually learn.  It is widely acknowledged that good quality schools can only be created through inclusion of all stakeholders in school governance. But, how you can effectively include all the stakeholders in the governance of schools without burdening the system? An effective (and cheap) solution that allows for participatory school governance as well as improved school administrative systems and educational programming in developing nations is mobile technology.   Image © kiwanja Showing up with SMS One area where this could prove especially vital is in monitoring school attendance for both students and teachers. At any given time, 27% of Ugandan youth are not in school, and a lack of follow-up on students who are missing classes by teachers and school administrators does little to encourage attendance.  High rates of teacher absenteeisum (20-30% in some districts) costs the Ugandan government the equivalent of $30 million (USD) annually for services that are not delivered. Attendence can be easily managed using mobile phone-based technology by all stakeholders and leads to greater accountability in the system. And that's it’s just one segment in the school administrative system which can effectively incorporate such technology. The list of uses for mobile phone technology is practically endless and can prove important in changing school systems for the better with minimal resources, especially in areas that don’t have reliable access to phone lines and the Internet through traditional means.  Simply creating a pathway for information between the schools system and parents will give parents and the wider community the ability to become more involved in what is happening locally in education. Using this novel system for communication and organization can transform schools in the developing world by 2030. Geoffrey Ssembajjwe works for Plan International in Uganda setting up school administrative systems and educational programming that use only mobile phones.

Taking Back Education After a [Literal] War on Schools

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how the principal of a high school that was burned to the ground during Sierra Leone's civil war views the state of education in his war-ravaged country.  by Joseph K. Kposowa, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor War-torn and developing countries have an urgent need for stable educational systems. Education is a key aspect of nation-building (or nation re-building), prosperity, and peace. What many conflict areas lack are educational systems that provide for their students physically, socio-culturally, and psychologically. Qualified teachers, teaching materials and a suitable classroom environment for students may be hard to come by, let alone the access to technology that has greatly changed education in the developed world. Connecting globally The introduction of computer studies and Internet connectivity can make a tremendous difference. In most developing countries or in countries torn apart by war, poor Internet service in schools has greatly interfered with the ability of students to share what they know with the world. My students and I have participated in Education Fast Forward (EFF) debates in both Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya via Cisco. We were able to consider different views on how to achieve global peace from students around the world and shared our own views on how to equip students with the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow. Supporting locally Psychologically, there is a need for providing care to students who have lived through war. At each school the importance of peace and of understanding the rights of children must be a focus. Additionally, promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical education can promote the wellbeing of students and the community at large.  Finally, a solid educational system can provide career guidance to its students. This will make a difference by helping students to choose courses that will equip them for a stable future. Many schools in developing countries do not prepare students for the realities of the job market and after graduation many students struggle to find work. In Sierra Leone, which endured 11 years of war, stable, solid educational systems can be found only in the private sector. I believe that the development of quality education systems that are accessible to all should be emphasized and supported school-by-school, student-by-student.    Joseph Kposowa is the principal of Sierra Leone’s Bumpe High School and a Promethean Education Fast Forward ambassador. Since 2009, the rebuilt Bumpe High School has returned to peak enrolment of 600 students – the student population it had before it was destroyed by rebels during the country’s 1991-2002 civil war.

‘Design Thinking’…and Why We Should Have a Course on Learning to Work in Groups

The Learning 2030Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a Canadian student views the importance of design thinking and effective collaboration. Image © neurmadic aesthetic by Bryson McLachlan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor From the start of our educational pathways we are presented with projects and problems that require us to form groups. Collaboration is a common theme that runs throughout elementary school, high school and into university. Eventually, it spills out of academia and manifests in other ways in the professional world. It is, simply, the process of working together to solve a problem.  The goals and tasks that groups must solve vary, but what remains the same is a manifestation of the old adage “two heads [or more] are better than one.” ‘Working Well In Groups 101’ Everyone has their own opinion about group work, an opinion usually based on personality types and previous experiences. The fact of the matter is that group work can be a very successful practice for solving problems and completing projects.  Why, then, isn't there a point during formal education – high school, university, etc. – where we are taught how to work in a group setting?  Time and again people are told to work together, but how many of us have actually been schooled on the nuances of how to work collaboratively? It wasn’t until I began the Knowledge Integration program at the University of Waterloo that I received any kind of formal education in how to work collaboratively. One method to improve collaborative work and solve complex problems that I have been introduced to is design thinking. Design thinking is not difficult to learn, and it is a process that I strongly believe should be implemented into high school – and even elementary school – curriculums.  Image © Gavin Topp   What is ‘design thinking’? Design thinking doesn't have a single, concrete definition. Its essence though it is a method of problem solving that, depending how you choose break it down, consists of four to seven steps. In the version I use, the steps are as follows:  1) define the problem you need to solve 2) create and consider different problem solving options 3) refine the options and create prototypes, and  4) apply the best possible solution.  Also referred to as ‘human-centered design’, design thinking is best applied to problems that directly involve people.  Design thinking aims to be a unified, holistic approach to solving problems, and is almost always applied through group work. Why should we use design thinking? Along with the four steps outlined above, design thinking has core principles that dictate how groups should function.  These principles involve: ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, leading with empathy, and being intentional when working collaboratively.  The process works best when everyone involved can put forward their ideas without worrying if they will be received negatively. There are no good or bad ideas; only different ideas that may or may not better suit the problem at hand.  A course (or at least a unit) on working in groups? Design thinking should be taught to students at a relatively young age, perhaps middle school or the beginning of high school: Starting young allows students time to hone and develop their proficiency with design thinking itself, and also with collaboration best practices.  It would allow them to graduate high school and be comfortable with applying their skills to whatever problems arise in their academic and professional lives.  Design thinking provides: a) an effective and flexible method for solving problems both in and out of school  b) a set of principals to guide effective group work.  The landscape of our world today is rife with large-scale, complex problems that span many different disciplines.  Climate change is an excellent example as it is a social, political, and economic problem for which we have yet to find meaningful solutions.  For these types of problems to be solved, students must be equipped with the necessary tools, to be able to work with people that represent vast and diverse interest groups.  Takeaways There is no one strategy that can applied to solving every problem; it is important to research and analyze a problem before applying a specific problem solving technique.  However, many of the problems we face today require group work. If people don’t know how to properly work together, the process of solving these problems is hindered.  Teaching students design thinking at a young age will produce individuals who know how to collaborate, to extract the best ideas from every participant. Design thinking and collaboration are means to an end. If used appropriately, they can be powerful tools for producing much-needed solutions to solve wicked, large-scale problems. Bryson McLachlan is a 4th year University of Waterloo Knowledge Integration student who has worked at Treehaus Collaborative Workspace using collaboration, innovation, and creativity to build and foster a coworking community.

A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

What Will My New Grandchild Have Learned by 2030?

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore what a leader in informal science education and grandmother sees for the future of her grandchild – a high school graduate of 2030. Image © bengrey by Leonie Rennie, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor My grandchildren were born in 2013. What should they have learned by the time they graduate from high school in 2030?  It’s certain that whatever they learn, much of it will have been learned outside of traditional schooling.  Already adolescents have, in one device, in their hand: • a phone • camera • TV • radio • computer • GPS • a library for music and video • and a tool for games An age of touch-screen education Traditional divisions of media are collapsing as visual and broadcast media, computer games, and the printed word become available for download to a single mobile device.  Students at all stages do not need to attend school classes to learn. Schools will have a hard time remaining interesting and relevant if they don’t find ways to better include these media as part of the learning process.  While crossing the boundaries between in-school and out-of-school learning is facilitated by wirelessly connected mobile devices, the challenge for schools is to find ways to help this happen. Learning whenever there’s a chance to learn Learning in school should be designed to enable students to become scientifically and technologically literate citizens, who have the knowledge, skills, desire, and confidence to deal effectively with issues that arise that concern them. Not only in their school years but in their adult lives as well.  This means whatever students learn at school, they should be able to retrieve or find information, assess its relevance, and apply it to the situation or problem at hand.  Students need practice to do this and that means bridging the gap between school and life in the community outside of school.  Remodelling education Research and experience have shown that bridging this gap is not easy. Here are just of the two reasons why: 1. The “real world” is interdisciplinary, not unidisciplinary as suggested by school timetables describing individual subjects as if they were mutually exclusive. Situations or problems occurring in students’ lives outside of school will be multidisciplinary. In order to understand and find answers, knowledge from different subjects will need to be integrated. If students are to learn how to do this, explicit connections need to be made between school knowledge and community issues.  2. Linking school into community issues introduces values, such as social and environmental responsibility, and political and economic considerations that determine how society deals with problems and issues. Students will need to engage in critique and debate, and to evaluate and communicate ways that these problems and issues can be addressed. Falling behind in the world outside of school Whatever happens in formal schooling, change so far looks like it is likely to be slow, despite a few beacons here and there.  Change is happening much more quickly outside of school, and as mobile technologies advance, it is the youth who advance with them. Digital-age students set to graduate from high school in 2030 will need opportunities to learn in ways that that are consistent with how they are learning outside of school and they’ll need skills to determine what is worth knowing.  If they’re lucky, the high-school graduates of 2030 will know how to filter-out the misleading and irrelevant from the worthwhile on the digital landscape, they will use that landscape to inform decisions based on evidence, and they will use critical judgement to attend to the well-being of themselves, others, and the environment in which they live. Curtain University Emeritus Professor Leonie Rennie has made contributions “from oceans to Outback” to equity in science education and education in out-of-school settings in Australia. Her latest book is Knowledge That Counts in a Global Community: Exploring the Contribution of Integrated Curriculum.

‘Animating’ a Level Playing Field in Science Education

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore how, from a very young age, media influences the paths that students follow through their education.   by Lissa Moses, Learning 2030 Blog contributor     Image ©RDECOM In my first year teaching science, I had some mammoth goals: I wanted my students to love science, to be natural explorers, to identify as scientists and to confidently explore the world through the lens of an investigator.  I thought that once I tackled classroom management, I could accomplish my list. No problem. It wasn’t like I was teaching history, a subject plagued with sepia-toned stories of days past; I was teaching science, a subject that naturally bubbled with adventure.* Though I spent hours researching and preparing what I hoped to be life-changing demonstrations and activities, I soon learned of the all-encompassing power of media in the classroom.    The attention-holding power of video The first time I played a video, my 6th graders were transformed: a spell was cast upon them by the powers of moving images and they turned into engaged, focused, pupils for longer periods of time than I had ever experienced.  My students were engrossed and all I had done was press play.  I wish I could say there was a moment when I realized it, but really it occurred to me over time: there was a large problem with the media and I was doing my students a major disservice by not addressing it.  A lack of diversity What I hadn’t noticed was that the majority of resources depicted “the scientist” as an older Caucasian male.  I wanted my students to see themselves as scientists and yet fewer than half of my students were male, zero were old, and zero were Caucasian.  The idea for Mosa Mack: Science Detective was born: The main character is female and voiced by a former student of mine.  The goal is to shake up the way that students and teachers alike perceive scientists so that we are intentionally empowering a broad audience to participate. Science needs diversity.    Getting girls and minority students into the sciences There are dozens of studies and articles investigating why there are so few women and minorities in the STEM fields but as a teacher, you get an inside peek.  Media suggests to students, from an early age, that science isn’t for everyone. We are going to change that. Lissa Moses is a New York City-area schoolteacher, entrepreneur, and founder/creative director at Mosa Mack: Science Detective – which reached its crowdfunding goal in July – producing short animated science mysteries to empower girls and minority students in science.  *Thankfully, since that first year, I have developed a deep love of history and no longer find it painful. Apologies to offended history-lovers, but you have to admit…

Post High School Roadblock? The UK’s Great University Gamble

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore the post-graduation roadblocks encountered by high school students in the UK as their opportunities in higher education change, rapidly.  by Andrew McGettigan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor In 2010, the general election in the United Kingdom brought together the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government.  At that point, I had already become concerned about changes in the way money was moving around the English higher education system. The reforms proposed by this new government soon changed those circuits radically. Could you pay three times more tuition? One such reform would see the maximum tuition fee for an EU student increased from £3400 per year to £9000 per year for undergraduate study at English universities, starting in 2012.  Education is a ‘devolved’ issue in the UK, meaning that it is controlled by regional administrations. Thus, the maximum tuition policy differs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (where there are still no tuition fees for Scottish students). This headline-making transformation garnered the attention and drove the protests that culminated with the Parliamentary vote taken in December 2010, but the more significant move was that the higher fees were designed to replace massive cuts to the direct grants universities and colleges received from the government. (Image © Matt_Baldry)                                                                     The new model So, for those starting university since 2012 who choose to study arts, humanities, social sciences, law, business, etc. (i.e. ‘classroom subjects’), student fees are the only income the host institution receives. The chief effect of this move was to create a ‘level playing field’ for new ‘market entrants’: commercial providers who cannot receive public grants.  This market reform was explained by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, in February 2011: “Currently, one of the main barriers to alternative providers is the teaching grant we pay to publicly-funded HEIs [higher education institutions]. This enables HEIs to charge fees at a level that private providers could not match, and so gives publicly-funded HEIs a significant advantage. Our funding reforms will remove this barrier, because all HEIs will – in future – receive most of their income from students via fees. This reform, of itself, opens up the system.” Students as consumers Now, new competitive pressures are combining with the promotion of students as consumers to create a new culture of higher education: one that is meant to reform teaching.  Quality is now meant to be determined by the vector: consumer-university manager-regulator/ombudsman… This demand-led dynamic replaces the ‘vested producer interests’ of academics. Can they survive? I’m now attempting to monitor what happens to established universities when faced with this new terrain and how they are emulating the private providers.  I’m also attempting to outline what privatization might mean when we are discussing institutions such as universities, which are already independent charities, rather than state-owned entities.  This includes transformations in borrowing, off-balance sheet activity and investment strategies. In particular, recent moves on the capital markets as English universities take the first steps into public bond issuance for several years.  (Image © martie1swart)   What this might mean for other countries… From an international perspective, what may be of most interest are the income contingent repayment loans used to finance undergraduate study in the UK.  These have been touted as the solution to the graduate debt crisis in the US – ‘smart loans’ – since monthly repayments are determined by earnings not by the amount borrowed.  One of the things I continue to look at and hope to examine in greater depth is why these loans are not the technocratic dream solution that many envision. Andrew McGettigan ( has taught at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster. He is the author of 'The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education' (Pluto, April 2013) and writes frequently on higher education for The Guardian.