Book Review: Bridging the Global Digital Divide through Human Connections, Training, and Techno
By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University
Figure 1: Impacting the Digital Divide... (cover)
Impacting the Digital Divide on a Global Scale: Case Studies of Mobile Technology Integration in Schools around the World
By Savilla I. Banister
New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
2017 147 pp.
It is easy to forget to be amazed at the enablements of the WWW and Internet! After all, their integration with modern life is so seamless. Savilla I. Banister’s “Impacting the Digital Divide on a Global Scale: Case Studies of Mobile Technology Integration in Schools around the World” (2017) reminds readers of the just how potent such technologies may be, particularly in developing countries.
Closing the Digital Divide
For the dream of the World Wide Web (WWW) and Internet to come to full fruition, digital technologies have to accommodate any and all who can benefit from the connectivity and who can also contribute. The name of this game is inclusion. Globally, though, given the different levels of country development, different people groups will “on-board” at different paces. The resulting digital divide means that there are “haves” and “have-nots,” with differing accesses to online data, interconnected peoples, freeware, online opportunities, and virtual experiences.
A report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) suggests that the digital divide is narrowing:
Of the 226 million new Internet users added in 2010, most (162 million) were from the world’s poorer countries. In 2015, the ITU’s annual Measuring the Information Society Report noted that 3.2 billion people were online, representing 43.4% of the global population, while mobile-cellular subscriptions had reached almost 7.1 billion worldwide, with over 95% of the global population covered by a mobile-cellular signal. (Banister, 2017, p. 5)
These advances may be credited to the savvy and initiative of those in developing countries. Those from outside can also contribute, such as from the public sector. Part of the work of the U.S. federal government is to expand its soft power by extending American values abroad. Private industry also has a role. Leading software companies like Microsoft make grant funding available and sponsor a raft of programs in partner countries to advance technology in education. Facebook has its Internet.org initiative to connect 4.5 billion people to the Internet. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) effort is active in 42 developing countries, and the said laptops have 150 applications pre-installed and an Android interface. The efforts described are impressive, with solar-powered mobile kiosks “that provide Wi-Fi and battery recharge” and systems to enable farmers to monitor their cattle’s health (p. 6). Raspberry Pi (RP) units have been harnessed
… to assist in water purification, Internet distribution, and business expansion projects. Expanding educational connections are being made using the RP units in several areas, including Mali and India, providing teachers and students with digital devices in the classroom. An RP offline server known as RACHEL-PI provides a range of educational materials such as Khan Academy resources, classic literature, and textbooks to schools with limited funds (pp. 6 - 7).
In terms of educational technologies, the “marginalized populations” are defined as those who experience “limited or no digital resource access apart from school; limited or no digital resource access as a part of school; school digital resource use focused on drill-and-practice applications or basic technical skills” (p. 8).
For many such creative applications to be actualized, people in a population need to adapt to the technologies, learn their functionalities, and adapt them to meet local needs. Everett Rogers’ “diffusion of innovation” (1962) model suggests that such adoptions move through parts of populations at different speeds: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
Well designed programs for provisioning of equipment, training, and support may accelerate technology adoptions. Proper design has to take into account local needs, cultural sensitivities, local government, extant infrastructure (and potential for expansions), and sustainability, among other factors. There needs to be a healthy give-and-take among program officers and program participants. Particular target groups that may affect change in marginalized populations include leaders, teachers, and learners.
Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA)
Banister’s nonfiction work collects her “interviews” with individuals who participated in the U.S. State Department’s Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) program, which brings educators and leaders from around the world to take workshops [on “curriculum development, gender equity, service learning, and digital technologies for teaching and learning” (p. 13)] over a six-week period at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The names of the workshops include the following: “Exploring Mobile Technologies,” “Collaborative Tools,” “Free Open Source Software,” “Web 2.0 Tools,” “Augmented Reality,” “Dynamic Media,” “Cloud Computing,” “Integrating Bulletin Boards in ELA/FL Teaching,” “Interactive Whiteboards,” “Mobile Technologies for Teaching,” and “TEA Fellows Final Tech Presentations.” This work contains detailed summaries about what was done for each workshop, with the writing serving almost as a blueprint for hosting something similar. Each participant is lent a Dell laptop, an iPad Mini, an account on the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS), a Google account, and a BGSU (university) account. The first week involves setup of the technologies and walk-throughs, to ensure a smooth learning process.
The core design for this event was informed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for both teachers and students. Specifically, people may be Empowered Learners, Digital Citizens, Knowledge Constructors, Innovative Designers, Computational Thinkers, Creative Communicators, and Global Collaborators (p. 22), through their uses of technologies. After the six-week session, the participants return to their countries, and they harness what they’ve learned and adapt those to their local contexts.
This book reads like a follow-up to the program. The interviews focus on the local contexts of teaching and learning, the uses of various digital technologies (hardware and software), the methods for digital integration in the teaching and learning context, and the vision for future work with teaching students (mostly in the high school and young adult vocational tracks) and professional development for teachers. The TEA participants provide general information about their local educational contexts and initiatives, but based on the write-ups, these would be stronger if based on physical visits to the respective locales by the author and more broadly sourcing, beyond the TEA fellows.
Figure 2: Project Locations by Country
In total, there have been 93 TEA fellows from 46 countries including the following: “Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe” (p. 14).
The author conducted remote interviews of a fourth of the TEA Fellows (from the 2013 – 2017 cohorts) and showcased their professional experiences and plans to continue integration of digital technologies in teaching and learning. This collection contains 11 chapters, organized under 10 sections. The sections are focused around both individuals and their innovations with mobile phones, tablets, and projectors; web-based collaborative tools; user-generated media; programs to increase gender equity in education and job preparedness; teacher professional development programs, and digital citizenship. Interspersed in the chapters are thumbnail-sized imagery of the focal teacher, classrooms, and learners. (These would be stronger with more informative captions and with photo credits.)
Global Case Studies
The third chapter focuses on countries in East Asia: “Interviews with Dara Heng, Vanne Thai (Cambodia) and Khongorzul Tsogtoo (Mongolia).” In Cambodia, Dara Heng works for a non-profit-funded school for “street-working children,” who are orphans or those from single-parent households without the resources to attend government schools (p. 30). Students who are accepted through the interview process are paid to attend school, so they may attend school and support their families (p. 30). Banister writes: “This special school does have Internet and email through an administrative computer, and some computers with database and media applications. Students do have opportunities to learn ICT skills and computer programming in school” (p. 30). Wolfram Mathematica is used by the math teachers, and Tubechop is used to extract relevant parts of YouTube videos for learning. Other tools used include Google Docs, Google Photos, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Voice of America (VOA) (an arm of U.S. soft power), and Kahoot.
Vanne Thai (Cambodia) teaches 10th grade English classes. She describes herself charmingly as “not really a gentle lady” but is more “boisterous and energetic” (p. 32). She structures her classrooms to support having students take on “leadership roles in the classroom, as well as gender equity” (p. 33) but without explanation for how or how effectively. The local computer labs are used for word-processing but without Internet connectivity (p. 33). Some 60 students are sharing 15 computers (p. 33). Thai will be pursuing grants to upgrade the educational technologies through the “US Embassy and the Peace Corps” (p. 34).
In Mongolia, Khongorzul Tsogtoo works to provide education in a population where a third is “nomadic” (p. 35). She works in seasonal boarding schools for children of nomadic families. About the educational system, Banister writes:
Primary and secondary education formerly lasted 10 years, and is being expanded to a 12-year system which will be fully in place at the 2019-2020 school year, when the current third-graders graduate. As of 1993, English is taught in all secondary schools across Mongolia, beginning in fifth grade. (p. 35)
The uses of mobile devices seem to challenge the policies for classroom management at Khutal Secondary School in Selenge Province in Mongolia. The author writes:
The school policy had prohibited students from bringing their phones to class, citing inattentiveness to instruction and off-task student behaviors, but Ms. Khongorzul contacted parents to let them know that students needed their cell phones with Internet connectivity for the work in her class. For this reason, several students were actually given their parents’ phones to bring to school, as those devices had more robust Internet plans. Predictably, some students did choose to use Facebook during a lesson, and Knongorzul (sic) immediately confiscated the devices and did not return them to the students. After keeping the phones for a week, parents contacted her requesting that their phones be returned. Ms. Khongorzul returned the phones to the parents, and the offending students have not been allowed to use cell phones in her class since that time. (p. 36)
Such an anecdote captures the mix of competing interests in education and the importance of working constructively within regulatory regimes. Khongorzul aims to add an interactive whiteboard to the classroom.
The next chapter focuses on the Indian subcontinent in “Interviews with Lakshmi Venkataraman, Sudha Bakshi, Ashok Reddy Bathi and Samarendra Roy (India)” (Ch. 4). India has a population of 1.4 billion people (second only to the People’s Republic of China), and 50% of its population is under 25. At the national level, its goal is to make education “a right for all children between the ages of 6 – 14” (p. 41). Lakshmi Venkataraman is a physics teacher and Head for Technology and Global Education at Ashok Leyland School in Hosur, New Delhi, India. Banister describes Venkataraman’s workplace:
The school provides educational opportunities for the children of employees of a bus company and this company supports the school…The school has a student body of 1,736 students, 439 of which are 12th graders. (p. 42)
She also trains teachers in the uses of technologies in education on “word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation, communication, assessment and media creation tools and challenges” (p. 42). She uses some elements of the Microsoft Educators Network. She also uses “Office 365, Educreations, Vimeo, Prezi, Edmodo, and Khan Academy” (p. 42). In a student exhibition of tech-enhanced learning, the students showcased technologies including Tarsia, Mind Research Institute tools, Quizlet, Khan Academy, Prezi, Socrative, Sway, and others (p. 43).
Sudha Bakshi, of India, teaches English in public schools, at the secondary level (students from 14 – 16 years old). She also leads interschool competitions for public speaking. She models the uses of mobile devices in her classrooms. For example, her students create presentations on platforms and applications such as “Animoto, Popplet, Scratch, Sway and Wordle” (p. 45).
Ashok Reddy Bathi (India) works as an English teacher in a government secondary school. At the time of the interview, he was working as “a school teacher and State Resource Group Member” with contact with “10,000 area schools” (p. 46). He is also active with non-governmental organizations, including Save the Children, the Mamidipudi Venkata Rangaiya Foundation, and others. One of Bathi’s notable endeavors is encouraging the creation of local contents for teaching and learning, including expert videos to run on MANA TV SOFTNET shown across Telangana state. Teachers are building a national repository for open educational resources (OERs). Banister writes:
In upcoming years, Ashok Reddy Bathi will continue to encourage the collaboration of teachers and administrators, using online social networking and video-conferencing platforms such as Google Plus and Skype. As teachers share ideas and successes, they encourage innovation and increased student engagement. He hopes to see more mobile technologies being used inside the classroom, more access to laptops and digital tablets, the addition of interactive whiteboards to classrooms, and eBook content distributed to students in the near future (p. 48).
The global case studies do give the sense that cultural change is a long-term effort.
Samarendra Roy (India) formerly worked as an English teacher and is currently District Inspector of Schools in West Bengal, India. He supervises 3,000 schools (p. 49), and part of his job involves learning about the penetration of educational technologies into various parts of the school system. He is currently seeking a free digital conferencing tool to advance the work (p. 49).
“Interviews with Mery Murillo (Costa Rica), Carlos Azurdia (Guatemala), Martha Johanna Moreno Blanco and Paula Andrea Cerón (Colombia) (Ch. 5) focuses on countries in S. America. Mery Murillo, Costa Rica, a “TEA Fellow Class of 2013, has been teaching English to 7th and 8th graders at a public secondary technical school in rural Costa Rica for the past 20 years” (p. 55). Using computers and mobile devices, she uses Google Apps for Education. As a teacher of English-as-a-Foreign Language, she imbues her online intercommunications with students with a sense of fun, such as sending “students questions in English and they are expected to reply quickly in English when they receive the messages” (p. 57). Banister writes of this interactive and student-affirming dynamic:
Students are also encouraged to text Ms. Murillo questions over the weekend, or anytime. She says she learned in the TEA program to treat students as human beings, as people of value, so they realize that they are special and have potential to learn more. (p. 57)
Carlos Azurdia, Guatemala, has been teaching mathematics and English at an all-girl school for two decades. He uses Google Classroom to provide materials and information to his young secondary students. He harnesses Online Jeopardy and Kahoot as teaching and learning resources. He finesses unreliable wireless connectivity by going to offline learning, too. He also uses analog resources, such as when he uses technologies to interest his students in reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but then switches to the physical book once they’re interested in reading (p. 58).
Martha Johanna Moreno Blanco (Columbia) has been teaching English at a public high school and a private college for many years. Her classrooms are fairly large, with 30 – 50 students in them. While students have their own cell phones, the school tablets and laptops are shared and not single-user devices. Students use their cell phones mostly for “social networking and gaming” (p. 61). The learners are using online resources to learn on the code through Khan Academy, MIT’s App Inventor, and MIT’s Scratch (p. 61).
Paula Andrea Cerón (Colombia) has been an English teacher for over 16 years, with students ranging from 12 – 18 years old, and average classroom sizes of 25 students each. She wants to use digital technologies to expand how individuals engage with the world. She uses a free Canvas LMS course shell as an e-learning environment, where she builds learning resources, activities, assessments, and collaborative spaces. She also uses Kahoot, Quizlet, and Socrative. The various technologies are built for intuitive use, and the learners themselves cooperate: “For example, the first time she (Murillo) used the group feature in Quizlet, the students recognized that they needed to locate their group members, and immediately got up to organize their groups, without her having to explain this to them” (p. 63). Cerón uses NearPod to organize “digital lessons on student tablets to keep students organized and focused on the lesson materials, addressing the complex classroom management issues related to one-to-one devices in schools” (p. 63).
The next chapter focuses on countries in South America: “Interviews with Orquidia Flores Muñoz (Venezuela), Noemi Montesino (Argentina) and Charo Jose Dorado (Bolivia)” (Ch. 6). Venezuela has been in the news of late given its economic and political turmoils. Orquidia Flores Muñoz has been an English teacher in Caracas, Venezuela, for over 14 years. Her students range in age from 14 – 17 years old, and she has an average of 45 students in each class. She also works at the Colegio Universitario de Caracas in La Floresta Caracas. She also works as a Community Service Coordinator. (As with some others featured in this book, Muñoz has a number of roles towards the social betterment of her community.) While Muñoz’s students are living in poverty and many skip school to support their families financially, most do have access to cell phones (p. 70); Muñoz encourages them to use their devices “to capture and create content related to their academic pursuits” (p. 70). Some of the technologies mentioned in this chapter include Twibbon (a platform for users to create microsites eliciting support); Padlet, Glogster, and Smore digital bulletin boards; Voki for digital animations; Buncee and StoryJumper for digital storytelling; Phon.to and Vont as digital media tools; Twitter for microblogging; Facebook for social networking; Mega and Google for some cloud storage; blogs and others. Muñoz goes online to share her own presentations and class picture albums, and she embodies the importance of being present online. Also, she uses online resources for her own professional development.
An English teacher for over 16 years, Noemi Montesino (Argentina) uses ChromeBooks that students can take home for additional learning. Her students, aged 13 – 18, also have iPhones and available cell service. However, both a weak Internet network at the school and a “lack of teacher-driven digital technology integration in the classrooms” make it difficult to harness the Internet for real-world learning (pp. 73 – 74). Her strategy then is more about using mobile phones to bridge the digital divide.
Charo Jose Dorado (Bolivia) taught English at a private secondary school in Cochamba, Bolivia, for almost a decade; she has led the publication of an English magazine, so learners may practice their reading and writing skills. Currently, she teachers at a university and is part of a team “planning to implement online education in the arena of teaching English” (p. 78). She has written a book “to teach Quechua, the Bolivian indigenous language, for elementary students” (p. 78). Technology-wise, she uses Microsoft PowerPoint for slideshows and QR codes. She assigns digital video projects to her students. She harnesses digital imagery as learning objects.
The next chapter combines stories of individuals from West Africa and the Middle East: “Interviews with Habiba Mohammed (Nigeria), Rokhaya Diop (Senegal), Hawoye Fassoukoye (Mali) and Maysaa AlShabatat (Jordan)” (Ch. 7). Habiba Mohammed works as an English teacher in Zaria, Nigeria. She is working to support education for girls:
Currently, Ms. (Habiba) Mohammed is on leave from her school to work in Northern Nigeria with the Center for Girls’ Education initiative for better educational opportunities for young women in the area. Through this work, Ms. Mohammed has seen more than 12,000 girls who had dropped out of school or never had educational opportunities begin to participate in learning clubs and enhanced secondary learning experiences to prepare them for more productive roles in society. In addition, the program provides education and support to address dire issues of violence against women, early marriage, and health concerns. (pp. 85 – 86)
In her work, she encounters a lack of Internet connectivity as well as a lack of digital equipment. She has identified fundamental deficiencies such as “access to potable water, good building ventilation, essential lighting, and functioning toilets” (p. 86). Cell phones, though, are fairly ubiquitous, so she uses Twitter and Facebook in some of her work to fight poverty, illiteracy, and crimes against women.
Rokhaya Diop, who hails from Senegal, is a junior high school teacher of English. She recently took a job as Head of the Gender Bureau at the Ministry of Education and works to address gender inequities in the classroom. Her work involves developing female talent in science and math through promoting student clubs, teacher development, national competitions, and other endeavors. In rural areas, many villages have no electricity; the schools lack computers. Cellular service is present in villages.
Hawoye Fassoukoye (Mali) has been teaching ESL in a public school in Bamako, Mali, since 2008. She highlights the gap between ideals and reality in terms of universal education. Banister describes the context:
Public education in Mali is, in principle, provided free of charge and is compulsory for nine years between the ages of seven and sixteen. The system encompasses six years of primary education beginning at age 7, followed by six years of secondary education. Mali’s actual primary school enrollment rate is low, in large part because families are unable to cover the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and other fees required to attend. In the 2000-01 school year, the primary school enrollment rate was 61% (71% of males and 51% of females). The secondary school enrollment rate was 15% (20% of males and 10% of females). The education system is plagued by a lack of schools in rural areas, as well as shortages of teachers and materials. Estimates of literacy rates in Mali range from 27 to 46%, with literacy rates significantly lower among women than men (p. 90)
She conducts “workshops on gender equity for area teachers, supported by the US Embassy” (p. 90). She works around the spotty Internet connectivity:
Since the Internet connection in and out of school is normally very slow, Hawoye downloads materials and uses them for teaching and learning, rather than accessing resources directly online during class time. She uses digital images and additional media elements to provoke discussions among students and to serve as prompts for writing exercises, vocabulary, and creative stories. (p. 91)
At the time of the interview, she was dealing with a broken screen on an iPad that she’d bought for her work.
Maysaa AlShabatat (Jordan) is an English teacher in a secondary school. Her country has made serious strides in public education:
The country of Jordan provides free education until the basic level, and most young people are participating in the school system, consisting of a 2-year cycle of preschool, 10 years of compulsory basic educational and 2 years of secondary academic or vocational education. Currently about 79% of children enroll in primary education, with most (97%) of older students enrolling at the secondary level (p. 92)
AlShabatat has set up a website for the sharing of “school-related activities, resources and artifacts” (p. 92). To create presentations, she has used Prezi and GoAnimate. Of special interest is a collaboration between students at her school and one in Denver, Colorado, which may broaden perspectives between individuals of both countries and beyond. Banister writes:
Her students are often involved in creating digital videos to share their thoughts and learning accomplishments. Her students interacted with students in Denver, Colorado, by virtual online video conferencing for three months, sharing stories and experiences. Students exchanged information about themselves and conducted a project about water shortage in the USA and fighting drugs in Jordan. (pp. 93 – 94)
The next chapter focuses on regions in South America: “Interviews with Monica Rubio (Guatemala), Marbel Moreno Davila (Nicaragua) and Claudia Avila Zeron (Honduras)” (Ch. 8).
Monica Rubio (Guatemala) spends her days training young learners to take on a vocation, by teaching “e-learning, blended learning, and face-to-face English as a Foreign Language” to those 14 – 25 years old. She wears a number of hats, as “a bilingual kindergarten teacher, an English-Spanish translator, and a secondary level professor in pedagogy and social sciences” (pp. 99 – 100). She uses Wordle (word clouds), Aurasma (augmented reality), and Elevate app for English learning in her work. She records audio and video exercises.
Marbel Moreno Davila (Nicaragua) teaches at a public secondary school in Paso Hondo, Santo Tomas, Nicaragua. Her students range in age from 11 to 22 years old. She is a trained counselor with a focus on child development. The wifi connections are only available in public park areas (p. 102) but are not available in schools. She is pursuing funding for a digital projector and an interactive whiteboard. She is interested in bringing in Web 2.0 resources for educational purposes, and is interested in applications like Kahoot, Quizlet and Google Docs (p. 103).
Claudia Avila Zeron (Honduras) works in a country that has many hurdles that make it hard to provide education for its youth. Banister writes:
…among working children, an estimated 34% actually complete primary school. A lack of schools prevents many children in Honduras from receiving an education, as do costs such as enrollment fees, school uniforms, and transportation fees. Secondary schooling is divided into two sections, with 3 years known as the common cycle (grades 7 – 9) followed by the diversified cycle (grades 10 – 12 or 13), in which students can focus on various career or technical educational paths (pp. 103 – 104)
Working with a colleague, in 2016, Zeron and their students recycled cans and paper and sold candies and crafts to raise $4,000 to build “a more interactive learning space for teaching English” (p. 104). Their fundraising resulted in the purchase of 20 digital tablets and technical classroom updates. This case provides an inspiring sense of local initiative, strategy, and logistics.
“Interviews with Laxman Sharma and Batuk Lal Tamang (Nepal)” (Ch. 9) is based on an Asian country with 24% of the population achieving secondary school enrollment. The male literacy rate is 75.1% of the population, and the female one is 57.4% (p. 109). Laxman Kumar Sharma (Nepal) is a science teacher for secondary and higher secondary levels. He is also General Secretary for Nepal National Teachers Associations. Rural schools face short staffing for particular areas of learning, and the lack of developed roads make it difficult to access rural schools. However, there are features that enable the harnessing of online means to address some of the challenges. Banister writes:
Though the mountain terrain surrounding the Kathmandu Valley makes road travel to rural schools difficult, the entire country of Nepal is connected via digital networking. Internet access is available in all areas, and cellular phone use is ubiquitous in the teaching profession. In addition, most schools have computers, projection systems and digital resources, such as online portals to support virtual learning. Much of the online content is currently lecture-based for subject areas where qualified teachers are in short supply (science, English, mathematics), but expansion of the online offerings towards more interactive frameworks is planned. Professional development sessions have focused on collaborative and creative tools, such as blogging. Teachers are learning to share ideas and strengthen writing practices through this medium and additional social networking resources. As a master trainer, Laxman Sharma is training the educators that provide professional development seminars throughout Nepal. His focus on digital technology integration and ICT standards is impacting the classroom experiences of students in all regions. (p. 110)
The government also seems positively far-sighted. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) is one of eight nation-wide competencies for teachers in the elementary, intermediate and advanced levels. Sharma has taken a course called “Foundations of Virtual Instruction” on the Coursera MOOC platform. He has published in national publications in Nepal about ICT in education.
Batuk Lal Tamang (Nepal) teaches at a secondary school in Chitwan, Nepal, and has been teaching science (and science teaching) for the past 23 years, with an average of 50 students per class. In addition, he provides professional development for his fellow teachers and is a member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). In the rural part of Nepal where Tamang teaches, non-interactive whiteboards are their main teaching resource. There are digital projectors in only two spaces, a computer lab and a science one. The computer lab has 15 computers. At the moment of the interview, a new building was being built for the school, with six classrooms and installed digital projectors. There is potentially a dedicated English language learning “resource room” (p. 114). Warning teachers not to be “digital dinosaurs,” this instructor is setting up training programs for teachers to better integrate technologies in teaching (p. 114).
“Interviews with Birgy Lorenz (Estonia) and Liene Zvirbule-Jankova (Latvia)” (Ch. 10) focuses on two of the Baltic states. Almost 89% of Estonian adults (25 – 64) have earned the equivalent of a high school degree (p. 119). Their Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and “digital competence” (per Europe’s DIGCOMP 2013 framework promoted by European leaders) skills, though, are not as prevalent. Birgy Lorenz (Estonia) is a teacher in ICT, with special focuses on Computer Graphics and Statistics with Computers. She recently completed a doctorate in Internet Safety (p. 119) and stands to contribute to a new curricula “…for various components of digital competencies, including informatics, digital safety, digital media, 3D printing, robotics and computer programming” (pp. 120 – 121). Locally, the Estonian Informatics Teachers Association’s support for teachers to use digital devices in their teaching.
Latvia is apparently fairly well equipped in terms of education, according to Liene Zvirbule-Jankova (Latvia). This TEA fellow has been an English teacher at a secondary school for a decade, and she prepares her students for the state exam. She teaches English classes currently for the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. The classrooms seem to be fairly well equipped:
Each classroom has a computer and a digital projector or large digital TV for displaying comptuer-generated resources. In addition, the school has a mobile cart, providing the opportunity for all students to use a laptop during specific lessons. The school Internet connectivity and WIFI service is strong and dependable, so teachers and students can easily access digital resources. Students themselves have access to mobile phones and / or home computers to use for school assignments and homework. (p. 122)
Such affordances broaden what teachers can assign to their students. Internet-hosted articles may be accessed for reading assignments—and on devices from phones to computers. Zvirbule-Jankova mentioned anticipation about using Google Classroom for document sharing and co-authoring and co-editing of essays. .
Into the Future
The final chapter, “Narrowing the Digital Divide and Strengthening Educational Connections” (Ch. 11), makes the case for the situatedness of learning and the importance of understanding the local conditions where that learning occurs. With the “rapid proliferation of information, digital media, curated academic content, online conversations and social media networks” (p. 129), it is easy to get left behind. Left unaddressed, the digital divide can become an unbridgeable gap for many. If the Internet (1983) and Web (1991) are disruptive technologies, now, in 2018, in the early years of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it seems wise to anticipate and prepare for other changes on the horizon.
Coordinating interviews across time zones involves a non-trivial amount of work. Savilla I. Banister’s Impacting the Digital Divide on a Global Scale: Case Studies of Mobile Technology Integration in Schools around the World is a feel-good one, with the sheen of positivism and can-do. While the book showcases “interviews,” these read like generalized summaries with a rare quote included. If these were Q&As, the respondents would have more power to affect the contents and be better able to express using their own voices, instead of having an author select the details. Sometimes, assertions are made without back-up details, such as the statistics about the respective countries and their literacy rates and educational policies. There are also obvious typos in certain parts of the text.
About the Author
Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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