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Challenges, opportunities for global ed tech development

By Steven McKee
April 1, 2015
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We all know how difficult and challenging implementing ed tech projects can be. Not all initiatives are successful and many take a while to bear fruit, even in the U.S. and Europe. In developing countries, the challenges are even greater because teacher training and professional learning programs have yet to address educational technology, technical support is little or nonexistent and curriculum needs to be adjusted.

At an international conference a few months ago in India, I encouraged experts from around Asia to share their impressions about the success rate of ed tech development projects. They estimated that 80 to 90 percent of ed tech programs were failures, with the majority of schools unable or unwilling to use the technology effectively.

Many countries struggle with deploying tech projects?

In Asia, we recently received confirmation of the failure of two mega ed tech projects. Thailand had attempted to equip all students with tablets, but the lack of training, integration with curriculum and support materials hindered the program. It was canceled.

And in Malaysia, the flagship 1Bestari Net program, which featured expanded broadband for all schools and a virtual learning environment for students, teachers and parents, achieved less than 1 percent use and thus will not reach critical mass to be self-sustaining.

These are just a couple of examples illustrating that despite many countries' attempts to improve and update education systems, many struggle with deploying newer technologies. During my decades of work in international educational development, I've found that what made past development models successful is lacking in today's educational technology projects.

Lack of teacher training, implementation framework hinders successful tech integration

It seems there are certain common mistakes, including the lack of programs to train teachers and a failure to upgrade content to match new technologies. Further, the lack of a strong, systematic ed tech implementation framework means projects are launched on a mass scale without proper development, planning or testing.

This situation presents an opportunity for ISTE to make significant global contributions by acting as a beacon for bringing together experts, agencies, stakeholders and concerned parties at events worldwide. I'm pleased to be working with ISTE in Asia to explore this issue in an effort to develop new frameworks to improve the successful and sustainable integration of technology into learning and teaching throughout the developing world.

In order to ensure success, countries need experienced partners and opportunities to discuss and exchange best (and worst) practices; to consider effective policies and deployment strategies; to help determine which technologies are most appropriate to national goals; and to help develop localized teacher training programs, rather than repurposing programs developed for more experienced countries. ISTE is a leader in these areas as countries move forward with new initiatives.

Sharing best practices key to sustainable implementation

We all believe ed tech holds huge potential to improve learning and teaching in many countries, but there are significant obstacles to implementation across national school systems. In the next few years, we hope to gather together at selected events to share best practices on sustainable and successful project implementation.

In Asia this year, ISTE international consultant Tony Brandenburg and I will host meetings with senior officials in several key Asian countries and will hold a series of workshops on ed tech planning and teacher development. From these meetings and workshops, we hope to develop new initiatives to deepen ISTE's engagement in Asia. We also have presentations and panels scheduled at major regional conferences in 2015 including GESS Dubai, GESS Indonesia and Worlddidac Asia.

We invite all interested parties to participate and share their experiences at these events and future sessions.