Blog

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

Reading Time: 9 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.

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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.

Decolonising EdTech: A resource list for tackling coloniality and digital neocolonialism in EdTech

Reading Time: 7 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 first of a three-part, long-form series exploring what it means to strive toward ‘Decolonising EdTech’.

Special thanks to our @GlobalEdTechHub twitter followers who responded to our crowd-sourcing call for resources on Decolonising EdTech.

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Policymakers and Girls’ Education in Emergencies in Kenya

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a recent report, we explore the extent to which policymakers in Kenya have produced or used quality data to drive equitable and coordinated provisions of education for girls and women. We conducted 25 semi-structured interviews with a wide range of key stakeholders, both at the national and county levels. We also consulted non-state actors such as United Nations organisations, civil society organisations, research organisations, non-governmental organisations and religious authorities. 

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The Story of ‘Unlocking Data’

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Photo Credit: Image by ESSA

Imagine you are working in the Ugandan Ministry of Education and you want to understand how barriers to girls’ education at secondary level are changing. You can find a few academic articles that look relevant but sit behind a paywall, and a high-level report from a consulting firm, none of which answer the exact question you want to ask. You know the data that was used to write these articles and reports could provide crucial insights if analysed with your priorities in mind. However, tracking down the data is fruitless  —  the data was not deposited, catalogued, or indeed ethically cleared for future use.

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Using ‘building blocks’ to develop digital education platforms cheaper and faster

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Earlier this year, our team at EdTech Hub and partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation noticed a recurring pattern: we saw colleagues around the world — in government, the private sector, civil society — working to develop various digital platforms for learning. We also noticed that most of them tended to need similar platform components — and they either developed them from scratch or used off-the-shelf solutions that weren’t quite tailored to their needs. 

We found ourselves wondering … if we, as a global EdTech community, can understand which platform components or ‘building blocks’, are needed and how they can be used most effectively, we could reduce duplication, increase quality, and conserve resources — ultimately lowering the cost of digital education opportunities and giving access to more children. 

So, we set out to investigate existing and potential use cases for how open-source, modular ‘building blocks’ can be used to build digital platforms for education in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We wanted to test the following hypothesis:

build digital platforms for education
… but what are ‘building blocks’?

Building blocks can mean different things in different contexts. In our research we defined building blocks as open-source, modular, interoperable pieces of code or software that can be (re)used to build or tailor platforms. They are the middle ground between building bespoke platforms and using off-the-shelf platforms.

Examples of platforms that could leverage building blocks include content repositories, teacher professional development platforms, virtual learning environments, student information systems, and education management information systems.  Broadly, these platforms fall into two major categories: platforms for teaching and learning and platforms for education system management.

What did we do?

We conducted desktop research and semi-structured interviews with donors, ministry officials, and platform developers to gather a long list of platforms and tools that are used in sub-Saharan Africa. From this, we did a deep dive on three building block platforms (DHIS2 for education, OpenEMIS and Sunbird), and four countries (Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan).

Through our research, we were able to provide insights on the following questions: 

  1. How can education systems potentially benefit from building blocks?
  2. What are the pathways to successful uptake?
  3. When should you build from scratch, use off-the-shelf solutions, or use building blocks?
  4. What roles do key stakeholders play?
  5. How can stakeholders interact better?
  6. What are the risks of provision?
  7. Is there a need and demand?
  8. How can donors provide better support?
  9. What considerations need to be taken into account to determine a country’s readiness to use digital platform building blocks?
What did we find?

In addition to our insights on the above nine questions, some of our unique findings included the following:

  • While countries such as India have a thriving community both developing and using building blocks, this is not yet the case in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, ministries are more likely to build bespoke solutions from scratch (e.g., Kenya’s National Education Management Information System) or to use off-the-shelf solutions (e.g., MS Teams). This is either because they are unaware of existing building blocks or have concerns about the integrity of open-source platforms.
  • While there are no homegrown examples of building blocks in sub-Saharan Africa, building blocks that are developed by international partners are being used (e.g., OpenEMIS used in DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, and DHIS2 for Education used in Eswatini, Mozambique, The Gambia, Togo, Uganda, and Tanzania).
  • Factors that enable effective use of building blocks include:
  1.  Digital infrastructure maturity
  2.  Human capacity such as skilled developers and data analysts
  3. A supportive ecosystem 
  4. Sufficient funding
  5. Stakeholder and policy support
  • There is a need to ‘educate demand’ on the use of open-source platforms and building blocks for both donors and in-country decision-makers. There are a large number of bespoke platforms being developed by ministries with donor funding. Sharing information regarding the benefits of building blocks can reduce duplication and conserve resources.
  • There is a need to coordinate donor funding on platform development. There are a number of donors developing different platforms of a similar nature within a country.  This has resulted in fragmented data that can even produce conflicting findings. Donor projects and funding need to be coordinated such that they invest in building central and / or integrable platforms.

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao

St. Vincent Cooperative Bank partners with UK-SVG Friends for SVG relief efforts

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Cross-posted from https://uksvgfriends.org/.

The UK-SVG Friendship Trust has teamed up with the St. Vincent Cooperative Bank as its local partner to assure the framework for the disbursement of its EC$ 800,000 La Soufriere Volcanic Eruption Recovery Assistance Programme.

The UK based Trust has engaged the bank due to its long-standing commitment to the country as one of the oldest indigenous banks. The “penny bank” with its strong roots in local communities will act to ensure that all funds spent locally are accounted for and that the programme delivers for its intended beneficiaries.

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Advancing evidence-based decision making in LMICs: Focus of EdTech Hub’s work

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This blog post is a cross-post from EdTech Hub‘s blog https://edtechhub.org/2021/05/07/advancing-evidence-based-decision-making-in-lmics-focus-of-edtech-hubs-work/ (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0). The blog post was written by Sara Hennessy on the 7th May 2021.

This blog sets out the Hub’s aims and approaches to identifying appropriate and effective uses of EdTech that can potentially raise learning outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Research shows that EdTech offers immense potential, but sustainable and positive change at scale has largely proved elusive in practice – particularly for marginalised learners where we focus our work. 

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