Author Archives: alexquarles

Case Study: Apple and Teach for America Team Up to Give iPads to Teachers

Teach for America (TFA) is an organization that began in 1990 with the mission to educate all children regardless of race, socio-economic status, or geographic location. Since then, nearly 33,000 leaders have taught with TFA in 43 urban and rural communities. The organization operates by looking for individuals with leadership potential and gives them the tools and the opportunity to teach in low-income communities. Last year, TFA teamed up with tech-giant Apple to create a program to give their teachers another edge in the classroom: when the iPad 2 was released in March, 2011 buyers were given the option to donate their original iPads to TFA teachers. Once donated, these iPads were then refurbished and offered to over 9,000 TFA corps members in 38 states. In an email notice from Apple, the company posed this statement: “What could an iPad do for your classroom and your students? Well, we’re asking you to help us answer this question.” With this statement, Apple poses the same question that I’ve been looking to answer throughout my investigation of this project: who actually reaps the benefits?

There are a wide variety of stakeholders involved in the iPad hand-off, and each one has unique gains that accompany the project’s success:

  • Donors feel like they’re doing something good, and for some it’s an excuse to buy a new iPad without that feeling of guilt that often comes with expensive purchases (especially when your first-gen iPad is working just fine).
  • Apple gets great publicity, especially after being criticized earlier this year for the company’s lack of philanthropic efforts. Furthermore, the majority of the cost is placed on donors (a refurbished iPad can sell for up to $499 on ebay or amazon).
  • Teach for America gives its teachers another edge in the classroom, and could use the program as an incentive to get teachers to apply (this is admittedly a very shallow incentive for an organization that bases its work on social justice, but it’s an incentive all the same).
  • Teachers reap the benefits of thousands of apps for education, get the opportunity to bring technology into the classroom, and can organize class lists, lesson plans, and calendars with various iPad apps.

What bothers me most about this program is that despite seemingly good intentions, the only people that aren’t guaranteed to benefit are the students, when they should really be a top priority. With just one iPad per teacher and classes of upwards of 30 students, not everyone has access to the technology, and many teachers find the iPad to be more of a hindrance than a help. Even if teachers can find an appropriate way to distribute the iPad so that every student gets a turn, many apps for education are designed to replace curriculum rather than act as supplements. Because it’s so difficult to distribute iPads to every student, there hasn’t been much demand for apps that should be used with curriculum. Instead they are designed to be used as something extra, with fun quizzes and games, or photos and videos, so teachers have little incentive to use them during valuable classroom time.

While the iPad program may not benefit students directly, it does indirectly affect them by providing tools to help teachers organize their classrooms, calendars, and grade books, and connect with other educators. Apps for teachers like teacherpal, bubblesheet, and the ideastore, can help teachers save precious time and be more efficient in the classroom. Finally, the connectivity and sense of community that can be achieved through access to these types of tools can help new teachers (TFA teachers do not generally have an education background) feel more comfortable in the classroom.

Lessons Learned: ICT4D

Throughout the semester we’ve been looking at a wide variety of uses of ICT in areas such as governance, education, health, and disaster mitigation. What’s been most interesting is the broad range of applications for ICTs in almost every sector of development, and in every corner of the globe. Until this course, I’d always assumed that ICTs would be cumbersome and ineffective in remote areas or underdeveloped nations, but throughout the semester it’s become more and more clear that ICTs can be used almost anywhere if the proper measures are taken to ensure it’s sustainability.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that thought and planning are key to successful ICT projects. Like any development initiative, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, and all stakeholders must be consulted and considered. Even after the project has been implemented, there must be a constant process of evaluation and analysis to keep the project sustainable. I’ve also come to realize that many of the most successful projects are built from the ground up, and that these grassroots projects have been planned and initiated by the everyday people who will be using the proposed technology. A prime example of one project that fell short of it’s potential is the One Laptop Per Child Program. It’s intentions are good, but the project was implemented with little collaboration from the majority of it’s stakeholders, and without the use of a pilot program there is little room for adjustment.

As someone who plans on pursuing a career in education, I’ve really enjoyed looking at the potential for ICT projects in this field. Education by itself can do so much good, so with the addition of ICTs that can improve upon what people already know and create a global forum for learning, there’s almost limitless potential for success. One of the keys to successful ICTs for education is a true access to knowledge for all, and the number of ICT programs that work toward that goal truly give me hope for the future.

Random Hacks of Kindness

This past Saturday, techies from across the country joined together in Mountain View, California for the first ever Random Hacks of Kindess event. The meeting, held in a warehouse space transformed into a tech-center/community center hybrid called “The Hacker Dojo,” included participation from technology powerhouses like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as NASA, the World Bank and various other international agencies. The goal: bring some of the nations best coders together to find new ways to use technology to solve real world problems, looking specifically at how people can send and recieve information during a disaster. The event came out of a joint need felt by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft representatives to create a community of developers to build tools to help emergency workers. Out of the event came a variety of apps and projects, many of which focused on the use of social media sites, SMS, and GPS technology to track statuses of disasters, receive information, and notify loved ones of a victim’s status. One of the most important results of Random Hacks of Kindess is the collaboration between NASA and developers, NASA recieves huge amounts of data from it’s satellites daily, and they realize the massive potential for its use: “We’ve got 40 years of data,” said Robert Schingler, a project manager in the office of center director at NASA Ames research center at nearby Moffett Field. “But, NASA needs a good application programming interface (API) so developers can make better use of it.” Ideally, many of the technologies developed at the event could be used by the World Banka and other international organizations: “It’s a perfect opportunity to mobilize the technology community to work on issues such as sustainable development and disaster relief,” said Emma Phillips, a consultant in disaster risk management and sustainable development at the World Bank. “This is a first step in building community, and bringing together the public and private sectors for a common goal.”

Check out the article:

Apps for Development and StatPlanet

In April 2010 the World Bank launched it’s Open Data Initiative, which made an array of World Bank data sets open and available to the public via the web. As a part of this initiative, the World Bank also started the Apps for Development Competition, a challenge to global citizens to create software related to one or more of the Millennium Development Goals. Submissions included all types of software, the only requirement being that they use one or more data set from the World Bank Catalog. The winner was StatPlanet, an application which “aims to provide anyone – but in particular decision makers and policy makers – with a quick and easy interface to access the World Bank data, in a format that suits their needs or interests, even when Internet connectivity is not available.” As an IDEV nerd I have to admit that I had so much fun exploring this software, it’s available both online and as a desktop app and is really an extremely innovative tool for policymakers. Users can view any of the World Bank indicators in map or graph form, and of any year or nation where data is available, maps and graphs can also be viewed in video format to map growth over time.

Social Good Summit

This September, the United Nations Foundation hosted it’s second Social Good Summit, a four-day summit in New York City that looks to create innovative solutions to today’s development problems through the use of new media. Speakers included a unique mix of professionals from both the development and the digital media fields as well as activists, philanthropists, and movers and shakers from every corner of the globe. The keystone to the summit’s success was open communication from individuals across the globe, it was linked to almost every form of social media and encouraged active participation from students, teachers, leaders, and everyday individuals who want to work to solve development problems. The goals of the summit include:

  • Bringing together a new dynamic community of leaders (and followers) — technologists, innovators, social entrepreneurs, bloggers and more
  • Raising awareness for the global challenges to be address by the General Assembly during UN Week
  • Discovering, encouraging and showcasing new and innovative solutions to those global challenges
  • Igniting a conversation between a live audience and a world-wide audience via livestream
  • Connecting leaders already working in the social good space with technologists and other leaders who can collaborate and share best practices.
  • Creating a sustainable thought-leadership forum that sparks important discussion and inspires new solutions.

E-education in Uruguay

Thanks to a classmate I found this great article on the World Bank website! In Uruguay, the national archives joined with the ministry of education to digitize key documents for use in newly digitized classrooms. I think it’s amazing that not only the national archives realized that they could play a pivotal role in the development of e-education but also that they stepped up to make things happen. Most importantly, administrators at the archives have put a system in place so that they can receive feedback from students and educators. The biggest problem facing this initiative comes during the monitoring and evaluation stage, because most of it’s positive results can’t be measured via testing. Even if we can determine this program’s impact, it will take years to determine which factors are most successful and to implement the appropriate changes.

Rural Banks Computerisation Project

Originally posted on Blackboard by Alexandra Quarles

I kept finding articles about small rural banks in Ghana that had found a lot of success with this program, so I wanted to go back and look at its beginnings. One of the major benefits of this program is that it was designed with rural banks in mind; the aim of the program is to “ensure access to financial services of people in the rural communities” with a focus on farmers. I think it’s also important that the government wants to focus on properly training bank employees to create a sense of confidence in the new system. I only hope that this infrastructure can be maintained over the next few years so that we can really see the benefits of the project.

mHealth Summit in South Africa

Julie Frederiksea’s article, Africa: Exploring Mobile Communications for Healthcare, discusses the Capetown summit of the mHealth alliance to promote the use of mobile technology in the health sector in Africa. I think that there are a few key points to this article that could predict huge success for the summit and its later projects. First, it’s participants are made up of a combination of African governments, private healthcare organizations, ICT companies and global NGOs. This broad spectrum of participants allows for communication and knowledge-sharing that will benefit stakeholders on all sides. Second, the summit focuses on basic technology (the use of SMS messaging) instead modern technologies that are oftentimes costly. Third, the mHealth alliance is also partnering with the UN and the World Health Organization to provide benchmark data for all governments to measure the effectiveness of their projects.

Originally Posted by Alexandra Quarles

ICT Fund Dedicates 22 Million in Funding to the UAE

Originally Posted: September 19, 2011 10:15:51 PM CDT
By: Alexandra Quarles

I found this article to be really interesting, mostly because it’s so recent and it relates to a group called the “ICT Fund.” What struck me most wasn’t the amount of money being used for the project, but the time and effort that both the Fund and the government of the UAE are taking to ensure it’s success. One of the critical points of this effort is that “the ICT Fund will elaborate on the many uses of funding that will better programs within these organizationsto foster an optimum environment for the education as well as basic and applied research and development of information and communication technology.” This focus on education and applied research is so critical to development work and I hope that it will allow for success. The Fund also works to create an “ICT eco-system” in which their projects can flourish.


The Second Digital Divide

I was interested in the need for cooperation between governments, NGOs, and other organizations so I looked on the World Bank website and found this blog post on the “Second Digital Divide” and found it really interesting. It points out that while the digital divide refers to the lack of ICTs for the poor and marginalized in developing countries, there is an equally as important “Second Digital Divide” that has been created. This new divide refers to the education and skill sets associated with new technologies that many groups go without for extended periods of time despite their access to the actual technology. It is noted that the second digital divide is included in many definitions of the digital divide but I believe that this separation is important if the problem is to be addressed fully.

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