Education and Development
Kuboni, Kinshuk, Helen Lentell, Wayne Mackintosh,
Victor, Renee Webb, and Paul
is the role of innovation in education and development?
is defined as “the process of making changes to something
established by introducing something new.” It applies to
“…radical or incremental changes to products, processes
Over the years there
have been many changes in the way education is designed and delivered
in parts of the world.
technology is a significant driver behind change, and sometimes plays
an important role in innovations in educational design and delivery.
There are immense possibilities for greater and wider-spread change
with the use of present-day technological advancements, as well as
with the implementation of innovative educational programs. The
challenge is to ensure that innovation plays a constructive role in
improving educational opportunities for billions of people who remain
under-served in a rapidly developing world.
following is one scenario that serves to illustrate the potential
impact of technology in education. This scenario may or may not
represent an ideal application of innovation and technology; however
it is indicative of the link between technological innovation and
innovations in educational delivery:
scenario . . .
attends evening classes while working full-time. She travels to work
by bus, making an hour and half commute each day. After settling in
her seat, Anne puts on her headphones and turns on her PDA/cell-phone
(a ‘smart phone’), which has an audio copy of the lecture
from the night before. After class, the evening before, Anne had gone
online using her low-cost computer to download the audio recording
the lecturer had made. Now she listens to the lecture a second time
to fill in gaps that she missed when she was tired in the evening
class. Anne also sends a text message from her smart phone to a
classmate in order to clarify the meaning of a concept. Arriving at
work, Anne is feeling more confident about the concepts that seemed
so fuzzy the previous evening.
her lunch break, Anne uses her company computer to browse the class
discussion area on the institution’s website, and she joins her
class colleagues in a brief online discussion. Next Anne begins to
tackle her homework, which requires research, discussion of the topic
with a class group, and submission of a joint assignment. Anne starts
planning the assignment during the afternoon tea break, and at the
end of the work day she spends 20-minutes typing the assignment
outline and then emails it to her group before saving it on a memory
stick and heading home via minibus. En route, Anne catches up on
readings. One chapter is from a 500-page book, which is both heavy to
carry and very expensive. Fortunately, the institution has digital
rights for use of the content by its learners, so Anne downloaded the
chapter to her smart phone. Considering her hectic family life, this
chapter would likely go unread at home.
above scenario might seem familiar to those who have studied by night
classes. While it focuses on a learner, the scenario could be similar
for teachers, tutors, agricultural extension workers, and other
that are now available in most Commonwealth countries increase the
potential to support learners and educators, and can help remove the
barriers of time and distance. New information and communications
technologies (ICTs) do not replace all previous ones, nor do they
replace the need for good educational design and delivery. However,
appropriate technologies can provide additional possibilities for
learner support, interactivity, and access to education.
the weekend, Anne must travel to visit a relative in a rural area, so
she is unable to attend a scheduled discussion group session. The
institution broadcasts its discussion groups by radio, so Anne tunes
in, and uses her cell-phone to send her comments via text messages
that her group leader shares with the group. The cell-phone is
affordable and works well outside of city limits where land-lines do
can innovation and technology offset the barriers of access and
mobility that has been a deterrent to education in many parts of the
the emergence of smart phones, eBook readers, ‘Podcasts’
Internet and low-cost
computers, as well as solar electricity, cell phone access, and other
technologies, comes the opportunity to provide education to assist
individuals and communities in places under-served by traditional
educational institutes. Technology and other innovations enable
educational design and delivery to be adapted to the needs and
environment of students enrolled in Open and Distance learning (ODL)
and traditional educational programs. Thus, technology can also help
programs shift to a ‘learner-centered’ approach to
Driven Approach to Innovation
focus must be on achieving education and development objectives, not
on popularising technical gadgets. However, learners have
demonstrated the ability to gain technical proficiency in a variety
of software, hardware, and other information and communications
technologies (ICTs). How can education systems assimilate this into
program design and delivery in order to improve efficiency, control
costs, and expand delivery of education to larger numbers of people?
How will the convergence of communications technologies affect the
potential for providing improved learner support?
an environment in which the postal system is slow or unreliable,
traditional ODL can face challenges in program delivery. Today
Internet and email has enabled changes in the design and delivery of
ODL in many parts of the world. What technologies are accessible for
learners in developing countries? In many places, cell phones are in
very widespread use, and text messaging is popular for work and
personal communications, yet few institutions have adopted this tool.
How can instructors and institutes more closely match their
educational design and delivery with the technologies to which
learners have regular access?
Abreast of Technological Change
technology should not drive our teaching, technology does drive
educators have the challenge of monitoring changes in technologies,
determining if they apply to learners living in ‘the real
world,’ and seeking ways to use technologies to complement and
support instructional methodologies and practices.
will educate the educators? How can educators keep abreast of
technological advancements that support innovations and improvements
in instructional design and delivery? What can institutions,
governments, and international organisations do to help educators to
master new technologies and tools for creating and facilitating
Opportunities, and Barriers
the challenges of insufficient numbers of teachers being trained,
teachers leaving the profession, and too few classrooms in developing
countries, can technology enable more people to access education?
Will the next generation of low-cost computers make it feasible for
more students in developing countries to have access to this
technology? It is not the technology, but the potential it provides
for access, efficiency, and enhanced learning opportunities.
Computers better enable learners to access education through ODL.
Learners can use Internet technology to communicate with other
students or instructors across a city or around the world. Teachers
and students can access information through virtual libraries and the
World Wide Web, and use software to master technical as well as
opportunities are immense, but there are also technological
limitations in many parts of developing countries. Barriers to
technological innovations for supporting education include inadequate
telecommunications bandwidth, lack of trained support staff, and the
cost and the availability of simple telephones, cell phones,
computers, and electricity.
are some questions to ponder in applying innovation to enable access
processes are needed to provide electricity and broadband access for
all educational institutions (e.g. schools, colleges, universities);
processes are needed to provide broadband access to all lifelong
learners (adults who can pay reasonable rates for access);
alternatives do institutions have if they are unlikely to be
connected to a reliable electricity service in the foreseeable
alternatives are there for introducing computers or increasing their
numbers in schools and institutions of higher learning; and
computers are to be installed in institutions, what processes are
under way to ensure full training and support for teachers and
learners to effectively integrate these into the teaching, learning
and school management processes?
are the innovations in education that can help meet the
three-billion people challenge?
for Education for Development
challenge of closing the ever-widening gap between the haves and
have-nots may rest with the willingness of the education community to
view education from a new perspective —and to innovate. This
may include making use of affordable and accessible technologies to
expand access to education. It may also require other innovative
process or service strategies that do not rely on technology. It may
require a shift in focus, to target educational and training programs
to align more closely with what people identify as their most urgent
education in new and unconventional ways is only one of a number of
solutions, but it is through innovation that we can meet the
challenges of improved efficiencies, lower costs, increasing
accessibility, and greater success in achieving development goals