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Reading Audrey Watters: A reflection on personalised learning via education technology through a decolonial lens

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The blogpost was written by Moizza Binat Sarwar for the EdTech Hub blog. The blogpost is available at the EdTech Hub under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. It is reposted here without any modifications.

At EdTech Hub, we’ve been reflecting on how coloniality is embedded in the work we do: from the colonial roots of the international development sector, to colonial practices embedded in research methods, to “core-to-periphery” design and deployment of EdTech interventions. We’ve just begun this journey, but in trying to embrace one of our EdTech Hub values of ‘fearless, humble learning’ we wanted to think out loud with you. This is the third in a long-form series exploring what it means to strive toward ‘Decolonising EdTech’. Thanks to Taskeen Adam for the conversation and comments. [You can find blog one and two here.]

The main objective of Watters’ book Teaching Machines: The history of personalised learning (2021) is to correct any misconceptions that EdTech today is ‘new’ and ‘shiny’ instead of an idea associated with technology used for imparting education as early as the 1890s. Drawing on Watter’s book and her ‘Hack Education’ blog, we are reflecting on elements of Watters’ historical take on personalised learning —  one specific aspect of EdTech —  and sharing five decolonial reflections on the current form and landscape of EdTech. We’re thinking out loud about how EdTech designs, products and implementations can assist in replicating features of colonial power and extraction if not consciously addressed. 

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Remote learning solutions for resilient education systems: Seven resource packs to guide governments and policymakers

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The blogpost was written by Robert Jenkins, UNICEF, and Jaime Saavedra, World Bank and published on Education for Global Development on Mach 2, 2022. The blogpost is avaible at https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/remote-learning-solutions-resilient-education-systems-seven-resource-packs-guide . It is published here without any modification and with permission from the authors

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as 1.6 billion schoolchildren were affected by school closures, countries around the world introduced remote learning as a crisis-response. This led to an unprecedented change in the provision of education. Most countries found themselves setting up remote learning at break-neck speed and often for the first time at scale, which contributed to large variations in the quality and effectiveness of remote learning programs.

Two years of disruptions to schooling has had a devastating impact on learning. But even before the pandemic, the world was grappling with a learning crisis, which has now worsened even further than previously feared. Pre-pandemic data show that half of ten-year-olds living in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read or understand a simple story, which is referred to as learning poverty. It is now estimated that learning poverty could reach 70 percent globally due to the learning lost to school closures.

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Our maths videos for teachers

Reading Time: < 1 minutes

In the context of a numeracy programme (in sub-Saharan Africa) we had a conversation a few days ago, that reminded me of the videos that we produced for OER4Schools, now almost 10 years ago. We recently migrated the OER4Schools wiki, and it’s available here https://oer.opendeved.net. We’re still working on it, so it’s not perfect, but getting there.

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Can digital personalized learning end the world’s education crisis?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The blogpost was written by   Andaleeb Alam, UNICEF, and Dr. Nathan M. Castillo , University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and published on the Education for All blog on June 20, 2022. The blogpost is available at https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/can-digital-personalized-learning-end-worlds-education-crisis. It is published here without any modifications and with permission from the authors.

Learning at your own pace, catching up on missed classes, filling learning gaps… EdTech products can offer many solutions in lower-income countries. A new analysis by UNICEF shows good practices and areas for improvement to make these products more equitable and effective.

Learning is in crisis. Even before COVID-19, 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) were unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10. The pandemic is expected to push that figure up to 70 percent.

The past decade has generated major advances in technology and experimentation with digital learning solutions that enable a new kind of experience – by tailoring learning to the needs of the individual; what we are calling digital personalized learning.

Digital personalized learning has shown promise in LMICs in closing education gaps for lower-attaining students by allowing them to learn at their own pace and to their own proficiency, positioning it as a potential tool to address learning gaps as the worst of the pandemic recedes.

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Decolonizing EdTech in Africa: picking local EdTech solutions over foreign solutions

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Abdul Mohamed . Originally posted on LinkedIn

I recently attended the eLearning Africa conference in Kigali: the largest and longest Africa focused digital learning gathering.

However, within an hour of entering the venue, I was surprised to find that most of the EdTech solutions on display were foreign. This observation was unsettling, a disappointment that many other attendees also commented on. I ran the numbers, nearly 80% of the 51 EdTech solutions on display were foreign.

What stung most, and sparked this piece, was that many of foreign EdTech solutions seemed to show little care for adapting their solutions to the needs of African learners.

  • A digital classroom solution provider demoed their product, which was completely in German
  • Another eLearning product boasted about their 3,000+ courses, of which 60%+ are taught in German

If curious, yes, there are German speaking Africans. 0.001% of Africa’s 1.3B citizens speak German.

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5 principles to create effective Communities of Practice across governments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Rachel Hinton, Tom Kaye and Christina Myers for the EdTech Hub blog.

In 2021, EdTech Hub partnered with the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government to deliver an executive education programme focused on digital transformation and educational technologies (EdTech). This programme — which convened nearly 30 policymakers from 13 countries — was a miniature community of practice (COP) focused on EdTech reform. In this blog, we introduce key principles to implement international, cross-government COPs to support the design of effective EdTech reforms and programmes. 

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Guidelines for Mapping Education Data in Sub-Saharan Africa

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The blogpost was written by Taskeen Adam and Irene Selwaness and published on the EdTech Hub blog on June 14, 2022. The blogpost is available at https://edtechhub.org/2022/06/14/guidelines-for-mapping-education-data-in-sub-saharan-africa/ under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. It is reposted here without any modifications.


Are you a government official, NGO or researcher looking to understand what education data is available locally? Our new guidance note shares practical lessons learnt from mapping the availability of education data in Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.

Last year, we posted about the Unlocking Data initiative and its goal to support access, use, and sharing of education data to effectively tell the story of education in Africa. In 2020,  we hosted a series of workshops that aimed to unpack the biggest barriers in data sharing. At these workshops, the community of practice realised that before we can truly discuss (re)using education data effectively, we need to understand what data exists, where the data gaps are, and what data indicators are needed for decision-making. To delve into the topic further, we hosted an event to showcase early ‘Lessons Learnt from Education Data Mapping in Africa’ and created a working methodology for education data mapping.

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Decolonising Open Educational Resources (OER): Why the focus on ‘open’ and ‘access’ is not enough for the EdTech revolution

Reading Time: 10 minutes

At EdTech Hub, we’ve been reflecting on how coloniality is embedded in the work we do: from the colonial roots of the international development sector to colonial practices embedded in research methods, to “core-to-periphery” design and deployment of EdTech interventions. We’ve just begun this journey, but in trying to embody one of our EdTech Hub values of ‘fearless and humble learning,’ we wanted to think out loud with you. This is the second in long-form series exploring what it means to strive toward ‘Decolonising EdTech’. Thanks to Taskeen Adam and Moizza Binat Sarwar for their support and insights.


As a community organiser, I started a grassroots learning neighbourhood initiative for self-directed, agile learning among families, children, and youth in Egypt where I am from. We initially used Open Educational Resources for input and content to questions asked and raised by children according to their interests and curiosities. After months of using such resources, I found the children coming and asking me: “Are there no Arabs who ever contributed to inventions around the world?” Knowing the rich history of the Arab civilization, and its extended Islamic heritage that laid the foundations, during the middle centuries, for modern sciences today, I felt ashamed as an educator of the hidden message I unintentionally to my students”

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‘Tich Mi Ar Tich Dem’: Designing a low-cost and scalable teacher professional development in Sierra Leone

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the past two decades, Sierra Leone has faced a series of shocks: a civil war, landslides, Ebola, and the COVID-19 pandemic. These shocks have aggravated the learning crisis that the country’s education system faces—and dramatically increased the pressure on teachers to deliver high-quality support to children.

In this context, the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and the Teaching Service Commission have come together to design a low-cost and scalable initiative to support the professional development of the education workforce. The initiative is school-based, technology-supported, and focused on early grade literacy and numeracy.

With funding from Dubai Cares, we have started to support the Government of Sierra Leone to build evidence to inform the development of the model under the Tich Mi Ar Tich Dem—’teach me to teach them’— programme.

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Better Purpose on the Science of Learning

Reading Time: < 1 minutes

Colleagues over at Better Purpose are offering insights into the Science of Learning through their Science of Learning report.

They have this to say:

  • Our Science of Learning report summarises how children learn (in general, when learning maths and how to read, in adolescence and remotely using technology).
  • While access to education has significantly increased worldwide, hundreds of millions of children are still not achieving the level of learning that they should.  A major contributor to the lack of progress in learning is an implementation gap between what the theory tells us about how children learn most effectively and the practices deployed by teachers in classrooms; this gap is particularly acute in low-income contexts. 
  • In recent years, advances in the sciences of the brain have built a compelling body of knowledge about how children learn.  This report presents a summary of key evidence about how children learn, drawing on research from neuroscience, behavioural sciences, and cognitive sciences.  It provides an overview of useful frameworks which translate the science of learning into implications for teaching.  It also highlights some leading organisations who are shaping this field and provides references for further learning.  
  • In compiling this report we have drawn upon the work of leading researchers from all over the world, whose publications cover both high and low-income contexts. Our assumption is that while the core principles of how children learn apply universally, more research is needed to examine how the application of these principles differs across contexts.  We hope that this report provides a useful reference point for learning and practice.

For more information, visit the Science of Learning.