A First Nation reservation in Ontario. A study hall for girls in Lucknow, India. A room full of consultants in Boston. A disparate bunch, with one important thing in common: they are all showing us how to use technology to improve education today.
This month I’ve spent time out Europe in India, Canada and the US. And I’ve been fascinated to see new practices that are expanding educational opportunity around the world. On the way, I read this great report from the WEF on Unlocking the Potential of Technology in education. In advance of our webinar on Open Educational Practices in April, here are a few examples:
- Wiiji Kaakendaasodaa, Ontario, Canada
Ontario has one of the world’s highest performing education systems. But its Aboriginal communities have long been underserved, with drop-out rates of 60% in reservation schools, unemployment at 97% and massive teacher shortage. In response the Martin Aboriginal Initiative and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education launched Let’s All Learn Together or Wiiji Kakendaasodaa. It’s a model school project involving a mix of tele-education; high quality professional development; a focus on teaching time, teaching quality and resources; community engagement and more. Working from 2010 – 2014, the project achieved incredible results: when the project began most students did not reach provincial standards, when it ended most students met or exceeded provincial standards. Mixed in-person and digital engagements can promote quality education in hard to reach communities.
- Digital Study Hall, Lucknow, India
Urvashi Sahni is a tireless advocate for gender equality and girls’ education in India, where 50% of girls would rather be boys. She is also the initiator of the Digital Study Hall, a ground-breaking programme that seeks to improve education for poor children in Northern India in slum and rural communities. They digitally record classes by the best teachers in India, collect them in a large distributed database, and then distribute them to schools. The teachers at the schools then use the videos of the high quality teachers as the basis for their lessons. The classroom teacher’s role is cast as that of the mediator, whose main duties are to make the class lively, dynamic and engaged. In this way a team is formed between video and class teacher, ensuring kids get a better education, and the teacher develops their practice. There are now 2000 videos being used by 140 teacher trainers and 140,000 trainee teachers across Uttar Pradesh.
- Summit Public Schools, Bay Area, USA
The US scores somewhere in the middle of the OECD countries on 21st-century skills, but its real issue is inequality. Still only 30% of students from low-income communities enrol in college compared to 80% of their high-income peers. And of those 30% each poor student is three times more likely to drop out than their richer counterpart. Summit Public Schools in San Francisco is a chain of 9 charter schools that are seeking to close this gap by preparing kids from low-income backgrounds for success in college, career and life. They use education technology throughout the educational process: to strengthen its project-based learning approach, to embed a competency-based curriculum, to track student progress over the year. Two aspects of the approach are interesting. First, specialized software known as a Personalised Learning Plan (PLP) is used to track student performance. Second, students use curricula that are heavily based in digital playlists, allowing them to engage in online self-directed learning, and make the most of free resources like Khan Academy. The proof is in the outcomes: 96% of Summit graduates are accepted to university.
No matter the location, addressing educational inequality in the digital era requires us to trial a range of approaches. Those listed above share common attributes: provide a holistic, wrap-around service; target a broad range of education outcomes; use technology where it can add value, and build human capacity where that has most impact.