EdTech has been a thriving space over the last few months. A recent panel discussion offers advice on using educational technology abroad.
Educators, entrepreneurs and technologists recently came together for “Sprechen sie EdTech – an International EdTech Panel,” hosted by Knewton, to discuss the implementation of technology into educational systems across the globe. Panelists included Nick Novak of Arbor Education, Harlyn Pacheco of Qlovi, Jay Chakrapani of CK-12 Foundation and Justin M. Trupe of Uncommon Schools. The panelists, with previous work experience in Uganda, Colombia and Honduras, respectively, used their field knowledge to provide insight into how their edtech tools were being applied in those countries. Panelist Nick Novak started off the discussion by talking about the emerging use of technology implementation into education, referencing Thailand’s recent deployment of tablets to about 800,000 students across the country and United Arab Emirates’ deployment of iPads to its schools. While technology is certainly gaining traction, the panelists noted the difficulties with trying to figure out how to best apply the data being gathered in the education field. Harlyn Pacheco noted that while education is mandated in Colombia, there are many individuals in rural communities who do not have access to it. However, a resource such as the International Children’s Digital Library provides them access to a vast pool of books that can be obtained virtually. The panelists also addressed the challenges that come with working on a startup in a new country, such as how to implement their services and the importance of the government’s role in adopting the technologies. “As much as we talk about the technology side of it, it’s also a question of execution and how we are actually getting people to use that technology in a meaningful way,” said Nick Novak, speaking via Google+ Hangout from the UK, referring to the school management system he set up in Uganda. Novak noted the challenges faced by the non-profits in Uganda who create schools in areas where none previously existed and where often, power was not accessible in the schools. His organization considered the environment and needs of the Ugandan students and developed a mobile-based platform for use on old-style Nokia phones, which Ugandans are used to using for everyday banking. Justin Trupe highlighted the social problems of Honduras, which he said was the country with the highest murder rate that wasn’t in wartime. He emphasized the lack of training for teachers as a big obstacle. “How do you train teachers effectively if that’s the environment that their country is in?” said Trupe, noting that technology was being used to train teachers how to use technology themselves in a classroom setting. “That really is the most effective tool in those developing countries is that service, to say ‘here’s how you use it.’” The last question asked by the host that evening pertained to what resources individuals might look to if they are trying to understand an educational system within a certain country. Panelists mentioned USAID.gov (U.S. Agency for International Development) and UNESCO reports. Harlyn Pacheco summed up the overall remarks by mentioning the importance of human interaction when trying to understand the needs of an unfamiliar community. “The best thing always, is to go out and talk to the teachers.” The event was sponsored by Pearson, Innovate NYC Schools and JumpRope and concluded with a “I Need A…” segment in which attendees could ask what they were looking for in the edtech world. “Needs” included job offers, events and one teacher looking for a new position in education technology.