Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transforming teaching by broadband

The last two eLearning conferences I have attended in New Zealand have opened with the Minister of Education speaking at length about the government plan to spend $1.5 billion on fiber optic roll out, which will include schools, across the country. What was perplexing to me was hearing significant numbers of kiwi teachers express sentiments along the lines of "there was nothing in that for me"! Agreed, the previous Minister announced a day off school for all teachers during his final conference speech, and the implications were far easier to grasp.

I observed a class of Year 3 students grapple with a similar concept recently when they met to discuss how they would spend the wonderful $250 prize they had received from the Ruth Hart Jessee Strange Award - a big feast or a Flip video camera? Hard decision for them to make!

I was reminded about this when I watched the BBC video of Sam Pitroda, who is adviser to the Prime Minister of India, delivering his views on how access to broadband in his country will impact teachers and teaching in India in the very near future.

Some of the gems from his talk include:

"Technology is a great social leveler, second only to death."

"It is not a question of replacing teachers by broadband; it's a question of transforming teaching by broadband."

He tells us that:
In India there are currently 550 million telephones
They are adding 15 million new connections each month
There will be 800 million in the next couple of years

This will see the whole country connected and the local government bodies connected to form a national knowledge network.

He speaks about the teacher's role as a mentor and talks of the internet / broadband bringing the guru tradition back to India. Guru are people who are there for you, who have many answers, we look up to them, but they are not always teaching.
He says the concept of teacher delivery with duster and blackboard is obsolete; it doesn't make sense today but we still go on doing it! And it will have to change. That's the power of the internet.

I am reminded that as educators we need to be looking for inspiration at every level (from personal to blogs/books/Twitter to large conference keynotes) outside of our traditional 'Mother Country' and North American go-tos. The video is only 3 minutes long. Check it out here.


  1. A sound post. I would also endorse that we look beyond our education contexts at how other non-education sectors are wrestling with learning/engagement/community and accordingly widen who we follow on Twitter and what feeds we RSS. Also lets feed more gorgeous media such as "Stop motion with wolf and pig" found at into our education loop and let it give those educators who question the worth of broadband a wee prod with its level of innovation and creativity.

  2. I have also heard all those promises but I wonder is broadband enough. If we are not getting 1:1 or at least 1:4 (computers to students) into the classroom for daily use, then we are never going to be applying the power of the web to teaching and learning.

  3. I myself would spend the $250 on a huge fest. But I do see the importance of using broadband telecommunications in the education system. You are able to do so much more with the internet with it. I could not imagine going on the internet without using high speed internet access. I guess it's because my parents have been paying for high speed internet access since 2001. I remember trying to download anything too forever.

  4. @Chrissie Couldn't agree with you more about our students using their connectivity to express their creativity. Like you I have shown students video like the one you mentioned to extend their thinking.
    @Shaun Having had the opportunity to work with many teachers in many different schools and setups I believe that fast internet is the single most important technical need our teachers have. You can run a very creative and connected class with one decent computer and a data projector if you have fast broadband. But 1:1 on dial-up..... so much more difficult. I was interested to hear Jeff Utecht speak at the Education Project in Bahrain last year and he told the educators from round the world the same thing. In fact educators from 3rd world countries were asking him what was the single most important technical focus for them. His reply: get fast internet
    @Timothy - our kids would love you!! Nothing more likely to win their affection that a special feed!

  5. Good news. A move towards creativity to balance all that lower order thinking productivity. Can't wait to start using it. Thanks for the 'heads up'


  6. ..and I commented on the wrong post. That was meant to be for the Aviary posting. Sorry.

  7. Hi Manaiakalani
    I am sorry I didn't get to read your post but I will just like to say thank you for commenting on to my blog.
    well bye for now

  8. Thought prevoking, thanks. I am always impressed by observing just what schools are doing on the internet, what else they might do (or do more of) if it was faster and cheaper, and to hear what the current barriers are to them relaising their vision. The NEN thinking could benefit from hearing more about what would support/empower/transform if only it were faster and cheaper.