by Colin Maclay and Charles Nesson
with Isabel Neto
Additional Case Studies
The combination of advances in information technology and increasing
perceptions of its importance in the modern economy has fostered significant
interest on the part of both developing countries and development practitioners
in leveraging information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve
learning opportunities. While information technologies have long been
present in some educational settings, the massification of the Internet
and World Wide Web, in conjunction with increasingly powerful and inexpensive
technology have changed the level of promise associated with ICTs in this
This module will attempt to offer a basic picture of the broad ICT and
learning landscape, as well as complementary deeper consideration of select
specific issues. We will examine different goals, strategies, and challenges,
and prompt participants to explore the implications of our experiences
The module begins with four short case studies, each followed by a series
of questions designed to elicit debate about the broader meanings of certain
aspects of the case. The second part of the module offers a series of
topical articles that build on the cases indirectly, again followed by
questions that should help draw connections among them. During the course
of the week, we have also invited special guests who are intimately familiar
with the case studies to participate in the dialogue, something of a virtual
panel discussion (more details on this over the course of the week). The
topics covered in this module are by no means exhaustive, and will not
explicitly examine many important topics including broad educational reform
efforts, distance education, capacity building, and technological tools.
Governments, the private sector, international institutions and non-profits
alike are promoting the use of computers and the Internet in the hopes
that they may serve as transformative educational resources. Their goals
are varied and cover virtually every challenge facing education systems.
They include improving mastery of content (literacy, language, math and
science), developing basic technological skills (programming, computer
literacy), providing educational resources and content, supporting and
supplementing educators (through training and distance education), fostering
creative and team oriented skills (through project-based learning and
group work), individualizing the learning experience, and, of course,
enabling broad educational reform.
The implications, academic and otherwise, of the introduction of ICTs
into schools are not yet clear on a widespread basis, largely due to the
lack of rigorous analysis of these efforts and their relatively recent
onset. Consideration of these topics leans heavily on anecdote and intuition,
with few controlled experiments, and the limited data gathering common
in many developing world nations. The varied goals and roles of technology
make meaningful measurement hard, and accompanying interventions make
ICT’s effects more difficult to isolate. As policymakers and educators
move ahead, improving our analysis of ICTs and learning remains largely
Many agree that ICTs can act as a catalyst for education reform, attracting
attention to education, injecting dynamic learning opportunities into
the curriculum, and offering access to nearly limitless content (significant
language barriers notwithstanding), but introducing technology without
other components will leave these lofty aspirations beyond reach. Experience
suggests that the challenge of integrating ICTs in learning is not as
straightforward as it may appear.
While some smaller scale pilot projects to integrate technology into
the educational process have shown promising results, many of the larger
developing world initiatives continue to fall prey to age-old education
and development challenges. Governments and educational institutions are
wrestling with unanticipated institutional, financial, philosophical (of
education) and political hurdles, and many are finding themselves under-equipped
to deal with the challenges. To be sure, efforts to integrate ICT and
learning are relatively young (more so in the developing world), and the
challenges are complex ones. While the responses to these barriers are
not yet clear, it is clear that needs, styles, challenges and goals vary
widely among countries and communities.
What are some of the institutional barriers to integrating technology
– and why might school administrators be resistant to it? How do
we ensure that the projects we develop are financially sustainable? Should
technology be focused upon as a subject or used as tool in different subjects?
How do we handle the re-balancing that arises when these new tools and
ideas enter the classroom and school, changing the way teachers and learners
interact? How do we develop the right stimuli to get teachers, learners
and community members interested and excited in participating? How do
we ensure the survival of these programs and priorities over changes in
These barriers do not fit neatly into clearly defined categories, tending
to exist on a series of continua, but one way to describe the principal
challenges is along the following lines:
Institutional – Capacity of schools, administrations,
and implementing and supervisory authorities, as well as individual educators
(particularly when they are often skeptical, afraid of losing their job,
underpaid and undertrained) to undertake a wide variety of activities
including teacher training and motivation, development and adaptation
of curriculum to relevant standards, program evaluation, and maintenance
of ICT tools.
Financial – Access to necessary funding, including
not only the initial costs, but the oft-forgotten ongoing expenses of
operations, including connectivity and electricity, plus maintenance,
and equipment replacement, and the budget for initial and ongoing training
(commonly recommended at 30-40% of overall project investment).
Philosophical (of education) – Agreement on a
contextually relevant vision and approach for education reform that addresses
key questions about goals and methods for learning (such as finding the
balance between teacher-directed instruction, a project-based constructivist
approach, or including project-based constructivist approaches within
a standards-based curriculum).
Political – Delicate alignment of stakeholders
that permits decision-makers and implementers (regardless of whether they
are from government or other sectors) to address the aforementioned challenges
effectively, in spite of changes in popular sentiment or power structures.
While technological areas are another major challenge and could well
be another category, they already tend to gather an inordinate amount
of focus, particularly in the planning stages of learning and ICT projects,
and should be informed by the other challenges. Planning, implementing
and maintaining the technology aspects of any initiative are essential
for success, but they are not sufficient to ensure it. These decisions
and actions are daunting to be sure, particularly for institutions without
technical expertise, and particularly in the challenging operational context
of many developing world nations. On the other hand, they do have a more
direct method of resolution than many of the aforementioned institutional,
political and financial barriers, particularly when supported by an effective
There are no one-size-fits-all answers in development or learning, and
their interaction is no different. The cases presented and questions posed
in this module are not intended to represent correct approaches, but rather
to stimulate discussion and debate, informed by the unique and varied
experiences of the diverse BOLD participants. As much as anything, the
goal should be to ask the right questions, exploring what may intuitively
seem right, and cross-pollinating experiences from different regions and
The following four case studies offer a very limited sample of projects
that seek to enhance learning using ICT’s. They are not presented
as being model projects, but rather to spark a dialogue on some of the
many issues surrounding integrating ICTs into learning. The summaries
are by no means complete (our apologies for any inaccuracies). For a more
detailed description of each project we encourage you to consult the additional
resources and links listed below each summary. Shorter descriptions of
additional case studies can also be found at the end of this module.
NIIT Hole in the Wall Project:
NIIT, a leading computer software, services and training company headquartered
in New Delhi, India, decided to conduct an experiment in what founder
Sugata Mitra calls “minimally invasive education”. They installed
an outdoor kiosk with a basic computer, Internet access and “touch
pad” pointing device that is accessible from outside the boundary
wall of their office, which borders a New Delhi slum. The kiosk was turned
on without any announcement or instruction, and built in such a way that
only children could use it comfortably. A video camera was placed on a
tree near the kiosk in order to record activity near the kiosk. Activity
on the CPU was monitored from another PC on the network. The statistics
that were collected ranged from how much each application was used, to
the number of times the system was shut down, to popularity of websites
and number of short-cuts created. Follow-up interviews were conducted
by NIIT staff after the initial observations were made and conclusions
NIIT photo from http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/holeinthewall.html
Curious children (mostly aged 5-16) quickly investigated the kiosk and
within days were found to begin basic operations including browsing the
Web and painting without instruction, despite the fact that the software
was in a foreign language (English, rather than Hindi). Children formed
impromptu classes, introduced their own vocabulary (“needle”
for the cursor, “channels” for websites), and learned other
operations possible with only a touch pad (short cuts, cutting and pasting,
folder creation) within one month. Adults were not personally interested
in the kiosk, but did believe that it was valuable for the children. The
experiment was repeated in other settings with similar results: despite
lack of training, not necessarily intuitive software, and language barriers,
children indeed rapidly maximized their basic understanding of the computer.
NIIT screenshot from http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/holeinthewall.html
“Everyone agrees that today's children must be computer-literate.
If computer literacy is defined as turning a computer on and off and doing
the basic functions, then this method allows that kind of computer literacy
to be achieved with no formal instruction. Therefore any formal instruction
for that kind of education is a waste of time and money. You can use that
time and money to have a teacher teach something else that children cannot
learn on their own.”
– Dr. Sugata Mitra, Founder of NIIT Hole in the Wall Project
A video detailing the project can be found here.
Issues for you to consider:
Suppose you are a curmudgeon skeptic who sees nothing much in this description
but that kids with nothing better to do can learn to play video games.
What questions would you ask to test the value of this? What is the minimal
proposition that it demonstrates? What propositions is the story of these
"experiments" offered to demonstrate? What undocumented propositions
would have to be true to connect the evidence offered by the story to
the establishment of positive conclusions about Internet education?
Site about the project
including interview with Sugata Mitra
information and history
information about some of the experiments
World Links is a global learning network linking thousands of students
and teachers around the world via the Internet for collaborative projects
and integration of technology into learning. The program works with schools,
helping them to get online, and to prepare their teachers and curricula
to use ICT to improve teaching and learning, largely through its training
program. The program is now in over 20 developing countries across Africa,
Asia and Latin America. One of the core elements of the World Links approach
is collaborative project-based learning, with approximately 200,000 students
and teachers in these countries having used the Internet to work with
partners in over 20 industrialized countries. An estimated ninety-eight
percent of all World Links schools connected during the past four years
remain up and running. World Links attributes this high success rate to
a strategic approach involving Ministries of Education, schools, parents
and private sector partners.
The most significant constraints to date for the program have been in
the area of building a sustainable funding model, both in terms of the
non-profit organization’s costs and those of the participating schools.
Schools are responsible for a variety of significant start-up and ongoing
costs, while World Links must cover its own operating costs. The model
is ever evolving, but relies heavily on hard-to-get and potentially fickle
donor funding. World Links has had notable success developing a community
telecenter model, where computer labs are opened to the community outside
of school hours for fee-based usage. This arrangement covers the operating
expenses of the learning center, while enabling non-school users to take
advantage of the technological infrastructure. Funding, however, remains
a barrier to entry for many interested participants, and a barrier to
expansion for World Links.
Adapted from: http://www.world-links.org/english/html/about.html
Issues for you to consider:
Compare and contrast this project with CDI.
Note the differences in the distributed governance structure, the idea
of social franchising, the choice to operate independent of existing educational
institutions (particularly given all the institutional, political, and
financial barriers common to the education establishment and government),
the insistence on each school being self-sustaining, and more demand driven
approaches to learning.
Project home page (in English,
Spanish, French and Portuguese):
describing the approaches of the Computer Clubhouse and Committee for
Democratization of Information Technologies of Sao Paolo (CDI)
Computer Labs in Public High Schools:
The Dominican Republic
Starting around 1997, the Dominican Republic began the installation of
computer labs in hundreds of high schools throughout the country. Each
was equipped with 20 networked computers, productivity software and a
VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) Internet connection. The goals of
the project were not simply to provide connectivity and hardware, but
rather to provide a tool to facilitate learning in different subject areas
to every high school, regardless of its location.
In spite of some major setbacks including inadequate or no electricity
in some areas, limited community participation (and little or no preparation
for the host school), and assorted technical difficulties, the effort
succeeded in supplying labs to virtually every high school in the nation.
In doing so, it has in many areas provided a resource not only for students
but also for community members. And while this is certainly impressive,
there remain many areas for improvement, particularly in the area of teacher
training and use of the labs for educational purposes.
The unstructured access periods are dominated by chat, games, and surfing,
while integration in the curriculum is greatest in the subject areas of
natural and social sciences, mathematics and Spanish language (according
to a lab supervisor survey). And although integration overall in the curriculum
was lower than hoped and educational content is still lacking, educators
reported that student interest in their studies increased prominently.
The response and overall experience has been quite varied across schools,
however, with some computers still boxed-up and collecting dust more than
four years after of launching the project. Although encouraged to remain
open outside of school hours, most labs are closed after school and on
weekends, as well as during the summer holidays. Operating costs are significant
and ongoing financing of the labs remains an unsolved challenge. Critics
argue the project is a failure, while supporters respond that although
they have had difficulties, they succeeded in installing thousands of
computers with Internet connections across the country, thus offering
the nation’s high school students access to new technologies that
would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.
Issues for you to consider:
What might have led the government to success in distributing and networking
the computers, but to less positive results in other elements of the program?
Why might some of the computers have remained in boxes even though many
of the technical issues were resolved? Are there ways that school and
community involvement could help address some of the barriers this project
has encountered, particularly in terms of financial sustainability? What
sort of things would need to happen in order to leverage that support?
report was completed in October 2002 and contains an analysis of the
use of ICT’s in the Dominican public education system in the introduction
and Chapter 1.
Profile from the 2001-2002 Global Information Technology Report
Jamaica Computer-Based Education
Project: Drawing Youth into Technology through Creative Expression
The Berkman Center began doing research into information technology education
projects in Jamaica in 1996. In January 2003, it launched a computer-based
learning pilot project in Jamaica’s schools in co-operation with
the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and
Technology and other local organizations. The main goal of the project
is to draw youth into technology through creative expression, spurring
the production of local (audio and visual) media and encouraging the development
of new representations of self and community.
The project is very small-scale, supported by two Berkman affiliates
in Kingston and a modest budget. It works entirely within schools that
have functioning (possibly underutilized) computer labs, prioritizing
expansion to as many interested schools as possible in the near term,
and continuation and expansion as appropriate.
The project’s premise is that making computer-based learning fun
for students is the key to drawing them into exploring the possibilities
of computer and Internet technology. The hook is digital music, created
with software in an intuitive graphical representation that allows introduction
of local sounds as sharing between composers (more on Fruity
Loops in this audio
clip). In the big picture, the aim is to help Jamaica's schools create
a network of websites with student-produced content, from music created
in the program (Kingston
page), to school newsletters, and other media. Three schools and one
community center are currently involved (St.
Andrew High School for Girls, Camper Down High School, Tivoli
Gardens High School, and Denham
Town Community Skills Training Project), with ongoing efforts to include
others, as well as one prison.
The project does not yet include any formal evaluation component. Preliminary
success has occurred in schools where a particular teacher in the school
has had the initiative to help bring the program in and find time for
it in the school curriculum. One of the greatest difficulties has been
getting beyond verbal cooperation on the part of the government. Other
major challenges include difficulties with hardware and operating systems
in school labs, lack of student access to the Internet, slow and expensive
Internet connections, lack of time on the part of overworked/underpaid
teachers for training, and insufficient time and money to shepherd the
project until it can stand on its own.
Interviews and Audio:
conducted with students and program administrators
For discussion on the objectives of the project, please click here: audio
For an example of the use of this software in a school in Cambridge, USA,
please click here: audio
Issues for you to consider:
What are the key elements that differentiate this approach from more
traditional ICT and education interventions, and what implications might
they have for success? How should we evaluate its “success”?
What might the appropriate metrics be?
Homepage for the project, including
its blog (weblog), lesson samples, music samples
article about the use of digital music in education
background information about Jamaica and its broader ICT plans:
Profile from the 2001-2002 Global Information Technology Report
report for the network world – Jamaica assessment
The Way Forward-
Human Resource Development Technology Driven Strategy for Jamaica
Harvard – Jamaica Association
We have examined a few of the many ways in which computers and the Internet
can be introduced into a learning environment. The aforementioned approaches
differ in terms of content, form, implementation, scale, objectives, and
so on. Let us now try to look at it in a slightly different manner, examining
some of the ideas behind these initiatives, and attempting to draw lessons
Learning in the Digital Age, Mitchel Resnick
In this article Resnick makes two main distinctions: one between information
and methods: ‘computers are wonderful for transmitting and accessing
information, but they are, more broadly, a new medium through which people
can create and express; a second one between access and technology fluency:
when thinking about the digital divide it is important to shrink the access
gap, but the fluency gap could remain. In view of these differences, there
is the need to rethink the way technologies are used in education. Rethink
when and where people learn, and consider whether educational reforms
should take place, and how.
clip on fun tools in schools
and Challenges of Integrating Technology into the Curriculum, Joanne
Capper (Note: Free Registration Required)
This article looks at the question of whether to formally integrate technology
into the schools' curricula, particularly in primary and secondary education.
Arguments run both ways. Reasons not to include technology formally into
the curricula include: overly packed curricula, unequal or unreliable
access to the Internet, lack of teacher training, and technical difficulties.
Reasons to include it are: possibility to use technical resources in an
integrated manner, the fact that technology can be a powerful tool in
learning, and that it would be the best way to make the most of sometimes
underutilized costly investments. The article gives some examples of curriculum
areas that could gain with the introduction of technology to enhance children’s
Screen it Out and
Pass the Chalk, The Economist
These two articles question the effectiveness of teaching with computers.
They allude to a study performed in Israel that suggests computers may
not be an effective teaching tool, and asks whether there is excessive
enthusiasm about technology in teaching? Based on the study, the article
doubts the sense of preferring technology-enabled approaches over traditional
methods of teaching, especially face to face contact with teachers.
This Stuff Work? A Review of Technology Used to Teach, J. D. Fletcher
(Note: Free Registration Required)
Fletcher analyzes the effectiveness and usefulness of technology in education.
The article talks about the necessary partnership between humans and technology
and the benefits in terms of individualization and interactivity. It also
looks at affordability of technical instruction and effectiveness.
for ICT and Education in the Developing World, Robert Hawkins
Hawkins offers practical insights on the how and why of introducing computers
and the Internet in education. Departing from experiences in the World
Links project (see case study above) Hawkins draws 10 lessons that should
be considered when setting up a project. He examines effectiveness, technical
sustainability and successful solutions, policy and institutional aspects,
training, financing, etc.
Issues for you to consider:
Looking at your own community, how do people perceive education –
how does it relate to personal and professional development of the individual
and the society? What sorts of individual and social investments does
it merit? Is any technology currently used to serve educational aims?
Is it generally viewed as a unique opportunity? What is the perceived
role and importance of technology and education?
The numerous and varied experiences with the integration of ICT and learning
suggest great promise as well as great challenges. As we move forward
and these technologies become more widely accessible and appropriate developing
world contexts, however, we will need to make decisions about how best
to adapt to these new tools and approaches, to learning and to each other.
Should technology adapt to fit the current dominant educational models?
Or should educational approaches be redesigned to fit better with these
technologies? Are some approaches better suited to certain kinds of communities?
Do you think it is likely that education will undergo significant change
over the next decade?
For H2O (above questions), please click
For WebBoard (Case Study questions), please click
Wrap-up: Panel discussion with case study
As a wrap up and final part of the learning module, please join us on
an online debate with Colin Maclay, Charles Nesson, and representatives
from different case studies described above.
Representatives from NIIT (Sugata Mitra), Computer
Labs in Schools/Dominican Republic (Mark Lopes) and Jamaica
Computer based Education Project (Rebecca Nesson and Wayne Marshall)
have already confirmed their participation!
The panel discussion will be on during Thursday and Friday (April 17th
and 18th). You can go back and see how the debate is going at any time.
You are also welcome to comment on what is being discussed and give your
opinion – we would love to hear your opinions!
We hope you will enjoy it and find it useful!
Please view the panel discussion, located on WebBoard, by clicking
here. Once on WebBoard, click on "Special Event - Learning Panel
Discussion." Comments may be posted in the regular Learning folder.
In this section you will find some links to additional resources you
may want to explore if you want to further pursue some of the topics discussed
above. These are just a starting point.
From Unesco: http://www.unesco.org/bangkok/education/ict/,
http://is.iite.ru/html/, on evaluation
and indicators http://www.unesco.org/bangkok/education/ict/unesco_projects/JFIT/sitanalintro.htm
OECD case studies of ICT and Education in OECD countries
the European Union
TechKnowLogia: Online magazine
(free registration required) covering wide range of topics in ICT and
General resource of IT and education
- Partnerhsip for IT in Education, UK site. Contains some interesting
articles on Community Technology Centers (CDCs)
for Education: Potential, Parameters and Prospects’, Haddad,
W.; Draxler, A.; prepared for UNESCO,
sends recycled computers to developing world educational institutions
and education non-profits
Additional Case Studies
Educational software: Click-a-tutor
ClickATutor is an educational software application that provides a variety
of material on a wide range of different topics: from Aerodynamics, History,
Mathematics, English Grammar, etc. The software is installed locally on
each machine and uses a self-paced interactive methodology to support
traditional classroom instruction. It is intended to be used by students,
teachers and parents. An online tour is available here.
Issues for you to consider:
Since it is locally-installed software, the content is static and externally
determined. In what ways might this be a problem and what alternatives
can you suggest?
What are the advantages/disadvantages to this format? Even though it
doesn’t take advantage of the Internet might this model serve as
a step forward that might help teachers and students become more comfortable
before accessing the Internet?
Founded in 1993 by The Computer Museum (now part of the Museum
of Science) in collaboration with the MIT
Media Lab and millions in grant money, dozens of computer Clubhouses
around the world provide a safe and creative after-school learning environment
where children ages 10 to 18 from underserved communities work with adult
mentors to explore their own ideas, develop skills, and build confidence
in themselves through the use of technology. The clubhouses provide thousands
of youth around the world with access to resources, skills, and experiences
to help them succeed in their careers, contribute to their communities.
One of the notions developed is one of ‘young entrepreneurs’.
The children in the Clubhouse identify a problem or aspect in their community
that they would like to look at, or change, and they work on it. The clubhouses
work closely with adult mentors: students and professionals in fields
such as art, science, education, and technology who share their experience
and serve as role models. The project counts on Intel financial support.
Interviews and Audio:
If you want to listen to an explanation of the project you can listen
Issues for you to consider:
Do you have any ideas for a more robust funding model? What are the
implications for scalability in this model with the current approach?
Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong
Kindergarden group at MIT
paper on the computer clubhouse
Braille Language Laboratory
One interesting way ICTs are helping educate is through technologies
that are targeted to specific challenges. One of those areas is for blind
or otherwise disabled people. India installed a computer lab specifically
dedicated to serving the needs of the blind. Set up in Ahmedabad, it uses
a "talking keyboard" connected to a Braille printer that allows
students to both hear and read what is being typed by the teacher. They
currently have 10 Braille printers. The software works in any language
and could thus be used in any region in the world.
Association in India