Easy is Hard” — But the Right Technology Solutions Can Help Transform Education

I wanted to share this inspiring blog posted by Paige Johnson in the CSR@Intel blog on how governments are using technology to improve education in their countires. Paige is a scientist by training and a teacher by passion who has devoted the past 20 years to education, curriculum development and professional development. The past 14 of those years have been with Intel, where her current title is Education Strategist. Recently, she has also been providing sabbatical coverage for Brian Gonzalez, Director of Global Education Sales Programs at Intel.

I recently took on a new role that put me in closer touch with countries where technology in education has moved high up on the political agenda. Not all that long ago, governments were asking, “Why should we do this?” and “How do we do this?” Today, a number of countries are recognizing that ensuring that every student has access to computer and the internet is a key to being economically competitive — locally, regionally and globally. These countries are pioneers in ensuring all young people have ubiquitous the ability to develop 21st century skills at an early age.

My new role has given me a deeper understanding of some of the challenges of making a technical infrastructure work seamlessly in lots of different environments. And seamless is important, because you’re not going to get great use of technology in schools unless teachers and students have real access that’s real easy.

But easy is hard. It’s not just about adding technology on top of what you already do. It’s about changing school cultural and teachers’ behavior. It means thinking about instruction in transformative ways to keep pace with the information age. In an ideal world, you’d change the entire educational system at once. You’d deploy computers along with amazing new digital resources, new learning standards, revised testing methods, new approaches to teacher professional development. In the real world — and especially the developing world — you can’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. The leading countries are not letting the goal of perfect hold them back from making progress.

Here’s one thing I’ve observed: When you see large deployments of netbooks in schools, you often find visionary leaders driving those projects. For example, consider Alicia Bañuelos from the Universidad de La Punta in San Luis, Argentina. Alicia is an important leader in the state of San Luis’s effort to provide a netbook to every student in their province. It has taken tremendous effort for this poor rural state to give each student access to a device and the internet and one that Alicia acknowledges has sometime fallen short of ideal. “It’s not going to be perfect. But the only way I know to bootstrap my struggling rural economy into the information age and become globally competitive is through a strong workforce and a great infrastructure to the Internet. It’s worth me taking the risk to make it happen.”

Deployments like these points to a promising trend: Affordable netbooks based on our Intel® Atom™ architecture are opening up a whole new opportunity for governments to invest in another segment of education. Until recently, many countries focused more on integrating technology in higher education and secondary schools, with an emphasis on job skills training and workforce development. Today, affordability of technology and the performance of Atom-based netbooks allow even countries with limited budgets to consider the transformative potential of technology in primary grades. Countries like Macedonia, Georgia and Portugal are not just putting technology into schools but also looking at broadband connectivity to the internet, digitizing their curriculum, and training their teachers to fully take advantage of the devices in schools.

There is a common theme in our conversations with governments around the world. They know that to compete in an information economy, they need to start developing a knowledge-based citizenry much earlier. Our students have to be able to learn how to learn, to think critically and to collaborate across cultures. Having those skills — and the opportunity to practice them — is particularly important in developing countries, where students often leave the education system at younger ages.

• Read more about Intel’s deployments of netbooks in education on Intel’s website.

• Policymakers seeking to create a technology plan for their school system can download a free e-book to help with their planning at the Tech & Learning Website.

• Educators considering the move to a 1:1 computing model can find resources to help at the K-12 Computing Blueprint.

One Response to Easy is Hard” — But the Right Technology Solutions Can Help Transform Education

  1. Bob Wiles says:

    Interesting post…the young people of today will certainly grow up with digital technology hardwired (pardon the pun) into them. The earlier we start, the more well-suited they will be to become the next generation of leaders. Putting the tools in place can be the easy part…shifting the thought process is often more challenging.