Posts tagged ‘developing world’

Unexpected Issues in Online Education Deal: The Bandwidth Catch-22

Interesting issue came up in the efforts to provide online education through San Jose.

“I get this call from San Jose State: ‘Uh, we have a problem,'” recalled Mark Ryan, superintendent of a charter school in Oakland that was taking part in the project to offer for-credit online classes to students, including high school students. According to the newspaper, “It turned out some of the low-income teens didn’t have computers and high-speed Internet connections at home that the online course required. Many needed personal attention to make it through. The final results aren’t in yet, but the experiment exposed some challenges to the promise of a low-cost online education. And it showed there is still a divide between technology-driven educators and the low-income, first-generation college hopefuls they are trying to reach.”

via Unexpected Issues in Online Education Deal | Inside Higher Ed.

So why isn’t there better bandwidth everywhere? The NYTimes says that it’s an issue of “digital literacy.” Which creates this interesting Catch-22 problem: How can we use online education to improve digital literacy if there’s not enough bandwidth for online education because of too little digital literacy?

The major causes for low subscribership, as extensive survey research shows, are low interest in the Internet and minimal digital literacy. And too many American households lack the money or interest to buy a computer. As a result, more Americans subscribe to cable TV and cellphones than to Internet service. Our broadband subscription rate is 70 percent, but could easily surpass 90 percent if computer ownership and digital literacy were widespread.

via No Country for Slow Broadband – NYTimes.com.

June 20, 2013 at 1:09 am 5 comments

The White Geek’s burden

I thought that Julian Assange’s point in this piece in the NYTimes were fascinating, but I was particularly struck by his description of “the white geek’s burden.”  My colleague, Beki Grinter, has pointed to a similar rhetoric going on with MOOCs — that the United States is offering MOOCs for “the developing world” such as “Africa.” As she points out in her blog post, even that phrasing ignores the complexity of languages and cultures in the enormous continent of “Africa.”  Are MOOCs another example of the US gadget consumerism that Assange critiques in his essay?

In the book the authors happily take up the white geek’s burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.

via The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ by Julian Assange – NYTimes.com.

June 14, 2013 at 1:55 am 1 comment

Fertile Ground in Africa for Computer Science to Take Root – NYTimes.com

What a great story!  It’s wonderful to read about the interest in CS among children growing up with digital technology in Africa, and I love the idea that CS is a science that can flourish without big infrastructural advancements.  The challenge there, as here in the US, is how to prepare teachers.  That’s a grand challenge for CS education today.

Computer science in Africa, to be sure, is still held back by the perception that it is preferable to study and work in Europe or the United States, even if that means leaving Africa permanently. This must change for computer science to flourish in the region. Georgia Tech researchers recommended in a study that African educators reinforce efforts to mold computer science curriculum to meet “local needs.”

A shortage of skilled teachers also remains a problem. The continent’s leading computer science departments — based on research publications — are all in South Africa. Yet even there, the number of university-level teachers is limited. “Our C.S. departments are much smaller than counterparts in the U.S.,” said Bill Tucker, an American who is a senior lecturer at the University of Western Cape.

via Fertile Ground in Africa for Computer Science to Take Root – NYTimes.com.

December 6, 2011 at 11:16 am Leave a comment


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