technology

Can Investment Funds Break Down Brazil’s Education Barriers?

by Guilherme Cintra, Learning 2030 Contributor Image © andresmh At least once a week, I read in Brazilian newspapers about my country’s poor PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ranking. Brazil currently sits at 53rd of the 65 participating counties. To me, it’s proof of the necessity for bigger investments in education.  The struggle in Brazil is not only with the poor quality of education but with inequality in accessing education as well. In most cases, the family you were born into determines what type of education you are going to get. And that will probably define how bright your future is going to be.  Brazil has made some advances in education in the past few decades, mainly in the terms of access to primary education. But, we still have a long way to go.  What works and what doesn't The knee-jerk reaction is that more education spending will allow us to advance. That is part of the solution, but it is not enough. We have to be more efficient in the way we spend our resources.The national debate must shift from quantity to the quality of the educational investments we make. The challenge of the next few decades is understanding what works efficiently and what doesn’t. Finding solutions for our schools will have a huge impact in developing efficient educational models that do what they are supposed to: teach. To be efficient as educators in the coming years, we need to understand which skills are needed by students to face the challenges of the rapid changes occurring worldwide and how to make sure they acquire those skills. Image © andresmh Technology in education: a means not an end The solutions for 2030 are not only the ones that will help students in developing the autonomy necessary for achieving success when navigating in the huge amount of information available anywhere these days.  They’re also the ones that will help teachers to become more efficient in guiding students and closing the knowledge gaps that grow at an even faster pace with the incredible rate at which information is produced.  For educational models that rely on technology to work, the proposed tools have to be developed with users in mind.      Technology has to be developed in a way that adapts to students learning cycles but also allows for this process to be cheaper and more scalable so that more people have access to quality education. Brazil knows only too well about the educational gaps. We are hoping to develop new ways to close them efficiently in this ever-changing reality we’ll face in the coming decades. Guilherme Carneiro da Cunha Cintra works for Brazil’s Gera Venture Capital, a Venture Capital/Growth Equity firm focused on improving education in an emerging market

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.

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. 

‘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…

Fixing a Learning Disconnect in the Digital Age

by Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor The relationship between in-school and out-of-school learning has been the source of robust scholarship since the early 20th century. One conclusion that has been drawn from many of the studies of formal and informal learning is that school curriculum and pedagogy should learn from the ways in which learning takes place out-of school. Several researchers have argued that bridges should be made with informal learning practices and learners funds of knowledge with formal education as a way to promote authentic and meaningful engagement that can support identity development. A growing disconnect with digital learning Concerns about the growing disconnect between the digital learner and the school have revitalized public conversations and academic research on the mismatch between in-school and out-of-school learning. Today, there are varied and conflicting views about young people's use of technology, ranging from grave concerns about lack of socialization and poor interaction skills, Internet addiction and cyber bullying, to idealizations of a new generation of highly motivated, highly technologized learners. (Image ©hackerNY used under Creative Commons License) Can we make schools relevant to 2030 and beyond? Efforts motivated by the need to make schools relevant for 21st century learners and — on the other hand — to make learners ready for the 21st century, have resulted in explorations of the ways in which to meaningfully and powerfully bridge between cultures, literacies and social practices of "digital natives." The techno-enthusiast voices of "smart schooling" describe a vision of future school as a fluid, self-fashioning digital learning arena that is increasingly network-based, spanning boundaries between school and out-of-school sites and formal and informal spaces. Here, individuals’ interests guide the learning activity towards educational, vocational and civic goals. At the other end of these optimistic views, there are voices that seriously question whether digital technologies and youth media cultures can legitimately enrich the key tasks of the school, envisioning scenarios in which digital media might hinder, distort or even destroy what the school is and should be about. Media overload? No matter where you stand on these debates, it's clear that the growing diversity and fragmentation of today's media ecology means that young people have a greater range of and choices in media and communications. What is also clear is that (currently, at least) it is generally educationally-privileged youth with productive learning supports at home who are able to take full advantage of the new learning opportunities that the digital world has to offer and to translate these opportunities to academic and/or career successes for themselves. A divisive distinction In my own research work, I am interested in contributing to ongoing discourse, debates and research between the encounters of informal and formal learning in the digital age. My research goal is to offer a conceptual framework via which separations between formal and informal learning (and between the digital learner and the school) could be re-framed so as to overcome the traditional divisive distinction between the two.   Cross-context learning for 2030 Students have always engaged and learned within and across contexts, operating in different spaces and places via different tools. However, creating hybrid spaces of learning that authentically harness the funds of knowledge embedded in the life worlds of digital learners is a key challenge for research on learning and education in the 21st century. In my view, the role and position of the school in the digital age should not be seen as opposing youth culture nor as digital enrichment of traditional schooling, but rather conceptualizing school as an important part of a network of contexts of learning. A hybrid ecosystem for today's learners Together with other learning contexts, a hybrid learning ecosystem can optimally support engagement and identity-building for today's diverse learners. I am suggesting the creation of spaces in which formal and informal meet, creating a third hybrid space for authentic and transformative practices in school and out. Here, formal and informal learning with digital technologies would reciprocally transform one another. Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen is a Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki and former Director of CICERO Learning She will serve as a member of the expert Quorum for the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI)'s upcoming  Equinox Summit Learning 2030 from Sept 29 -Oct 3, 2013 Selected Publications: Kumpulainen, K., Mikkola, A., & Jaatinen, A-M. (2013). The choronotopes of technology-mediated creative learning practices in an elementary school community. Learning, Media and Technology. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2012.752383 Kumpulainen, K., Krokfors, L., Lipponen, L., Tissari, V., Hilppö, J. & Rajala, A. (2011). Learning Bridges – Toward Participatory Learning Environments. Helsinki: CICERO Learning, University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-6046-5 (paperback).