Digital Technologies Development And Emerging Markets Education Essay

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Development rates are unfortunately not equally divided into each country. Out of approximately 7 million people in the world, one million people are considered to be "rich", 5 million live in developing countries and according to Collier (2007, p. 3), the rest reside in countries that are 'falling behind, and often falling apart'.

Such countries experience the lowest pointers of human development, having high infant mortality rates, low life expectancy levels and high levels of illiteracy. These patterns prove that living conditions in these countries are far from the appropriate ones.

Hopefully, there have been several approaches towards the improvement of crucial sectors such as health, education, economy etc. In the context of this essay, special emphasis is placed on education as mentality usually represents the core of all problems.

The education standards of a specific country are actually a reflection of its residents' personality. Indicators of education problems may reveal vital problems in several other fields like economy and politics. Therefore, an analysed overview over carefully selected approaches in terms of education growth could lead to significant deductions.

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In the context of reviewing development approaches the "Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa" (AsgiSA) is thoroughly analysed. This scheme addresses several important issues in which education plays a major role. Likewise, the results of a multi-case study regarding literacy practices depict the possible effects of technology related teaching methods on education.

Another proposal that was designed in order to contribute to education advance and introduce web 2.0 technologies in developing countries is "One Laptop Per Child". Having received quite contradictive comments, this idea has influenced the education system in various countries, fact that makes the need for further discussion imperative.

Through analytical evaluation of such attempts, the development of education could finally obtain a more understandable image and its impacts would be clear enough in terms of reaching a fair conclusion.

Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa

-Introduction

The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) is an improvement scheme that was introduced in July 2005 by President Mbeki so as to 'halve unemployment, halve poverty, accelerate employment equity and improve broad-based black economic empowerment', as outlined by McGrath et al. (2007, p. 422).

The education system in Africa required a reformation because as Heugh (1999, p. 302) portrays, 'education for African language speaking students had been based on principles encapsulated in the Bantu Education Act of 1953'.

-Main policies

The main initiative of this highly promising pattern was to achieve critical changes in the structure of education. As McGrath et al. (2007, p. 425) exemplify, its primary goals included 'achieving higher levels of literacy and numeracy in the early grades of school, doubling maths and science high school graduates by 2008, upgrading career guidance, upgrading public further education and training (FET) colleges, expanding adult basic education and training (ABET) delivery'.

Along these lines, through the launch of another design named JIPSA, education and training were considered to be interrelated aspects. This fact is justified by the main proposals of JIPSA which as analysed by McGrath et al. (2007, p. 426) include 'curriculum reform, higher education reorganisation, further education and training transformation, a new skills development system, adult basic education and training expansion and an overarching human resources development strategy'.

-Evaluation

The actions presented are considered to be innovating since they do not only focus on public education growth but on its connection with employability as well. Their significance is more visible given the fact that 'while employment among men is about 50 per cent, it is only 34 per cent among women' and 'while 60 per cent of those between the ages of 35 and 50 are working, fewer than 25 per cent of those between 20 and 25 are', as stated by Hausmann (2008, p. 3).

As far as the positive sides are concerned, there is proof of 'on-going college development', 'growth in learner numbers' and 'some signs of greater diversity in terms of age and curriculum delivery', facts that McGrath et al. (2007, p. 430) demonstrate.

There were issues though concerning the 'correct balance between education and training in the skills area' and also those regarding the fact that even though 'the Department of Education has published its plans for recurricularisation, the proposals remain untested by the market' as explained by McGrath et al. (2007, p. 430).

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Overall, it seems that although the AsgiSA scheme had very encouraging key benefits to present, there were certain drawbacks in tis implementation. As a result, when such huge strategies are developed, there should be special control mechanisms that could ensure its performance.

ICT and web 2.0 towards education growth

As explained above, certain proposals that are designed in order to advance education may result in success and failure as well. When the discussion though places emphasis on technology-related renovations, the impacts may be totally different.

Laptop use experiment

-Introduction

An interesting approach that will be analysed focused on the analysis of laptop use in ten schools in California and Maine. As highlighted by Warschauer (2008, p. 53), 'The research was based on a sociocultural framework of literacy'. As a result, the experiment's goal was to identify the extent to which social and cultural aspects are connected to literacy levels in school environment.

-Main procedure

The experiment took place in ten different schools while five to seven students participated from each school. In total, six hundred and fifty hours of classroom observations were performed, along with various interviews and surveys. The collected data were analysed with qualitative and quantitative methods and the benefits of their assessment lies in three different fields; reading, writing and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy.

-Reading related benefits

As indicated by Warschauer (2008, p. 55), the major changes were 'scaffolding (provision of support so students can read more challenging material), epistemic engagement (active involvement in knowledge building), and page to screen (increased amount of reading online)'.

-Writing related benefits

One of the most significant effects of laptop use on writing skills was that the students enjoyed the alternative type of writing and subsequently, they made use of it even in their free time. In this context, they found the additional tools such as formatting, spell-checker etc. interesting enough and as a result, their writing abilities were improved as well.

-ICT literacy related benefits

The innovation that the use of laptops mainly introduced to the students was web 2.0. The students had for the very first time access to several applications and online information over the internet, where they had the chance to find, review and compare different material that was related to their studies. As a consequence, the teaching conditions could be improved and the interest of the students towards school and knowledge could dramatically change.

Furthermore, the applications that students could use boosted their interests and skills to a higher level. The new opportunities that were available consisted of music and video editing software, animations etc. Many students explored further their abilities to compose music or create funny videos and in this way their potential talents could evolve into valuable skills.

-Issues of concern

In spite of the fact that there were fundamental advantages, some drawbacks were also identified. First of all, the use of the laptops did not result in higher performance indicators. As signified by Warschauer (2008, p. 63), 'the newness of laptop programs and the fact that the teachers and students we observed in our study are still in the early stages of learning how best to make use of laptops in the classroom' are parameters that need to be taken into account.

Another critical factor that prevented students from totally absorbing the positive effects of laptop use was their social and economic status (SES). Students from lower SES status were likely to have less experience with laptops as well as more limited literacy abilities. Consequently, they demonstrated less potential towards fully taking advantage of laptops' capabilities.

As a result, the introduction of laptops into classrooms could not delete the gap between higher and lower social and economic status. Unfortunately, those schools with lower levels of SES may find more difficulties in obtaining the required performance targets.

-Conclusion

In brief, it seems that the proposed approach had both positive and negative impacts. The use of laptops definitely altered the way of teaching. Students became aware of internet's strengths, enriched their knowledge, practiced their skills and demonstrated a special interest towards technology.

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On the other hand, there was not outstanding analogy between the use of laptops and students' performance. Besides, the SES status inevitably affected students' experience and formed a situation of injustice between students.

Nonetheless, the innovative idea of using laptops at schools could prove to be unique in terms of ameliorating education. Since every deep restructuring requires appropriate attention, considerable action should be taken in order to support such attempts to unfold their true potential.

One laptop per child (OLPC)

-Introduction

The challenge to introduce low-cost technological devices into developing countries is quite complicated a subject. As supported by Pal et al. (2009, p. 49), 'such projects have employed a range of strategies at designing interfaces and infrastructure differently to serve the unique needs of developing regions and populations with limited technology and textual literacy experience'.

In the field of ICT for Development (ICT4D), the One Laptop Per Child project was the cause of various discussions in terms of the possible dangers surrounding such promising decisions. Therefore, a suitable analysis would reveal crucial key points that could clarify our view on the eligibility of technology towards the developing world.

-Key aspects

The "One Laptop Per Child" (OLPC) is literally a project that was announced by the Media Lab of MIT in 2005. It actually represents a nonprofitmaking organisation whose primary goal is to donate laptops having a considerably low price of 100$ to children living in developing countries.

Buchele et al. (2007, p. 113) declare that 'the vision of OLPC is to allow children who might otherwise not have access to quality educational opportunities to use the laptops to access knowledge and provide them with the opportunity to engage their own capacity for learning, regardless of their physical location or financial limitations'.

This project is considered to be by his founder, Nicholas Negroponte, as an education related project, rather than a laptop related one. According to him it focuses on the personality of the child, since the user is free to explore, test and experience new ideas and methods while improving their skills at the same time.

- XO-1

The XO-1 is a famous subnotebook computer which was developed by the OLPC in order to support its main vision; providing poor countries with innovative methods of supporting education. A closer look to a middle school in Harlem which consisted of sixth-grade students will clarify the real experience, as noted by Lowes (2008).

There were many factors of the innovative XO-1 that were appreciated by the majority of students. First of all, the writing ability was dramatically different. As opposed to the traditional handwriting, it was regarded as faster, more legible and subsequently this power leaded them to write and express themselves even more. Another characteristic that students found unique was the group related activities, like chat, camera and picture sharing etc.

Moreover, they were interested in taking advantage of Internet's benefits such as playing games, exploring books, magazines etc. The fact that they could continue their homework at home using the XO-1 was extremely attractive to them as well. As far as the design is concerned, they identified it as user-friendly since it was designed especially for kids and easy to use as for example, all the features could be accessed by the keyboard.

Overall, the XO-1 was considered to be a powerful tool that allowed students to reveal their inner expressions and skills and explore a totally different way of learning. The fact that they were the first to acquire a personal computer made them feel lucky, blessed and in this way more responsible for the safety and integrity of their new "friend".

However, in spite of the XO-1 introduction's positive effects, the students identified several barriers as well. First of all, the system sometimes stopped working and as a result there was a useless need for restarting it frequently, which obviously caused a lot of problems during the learning procedure.

In addition, the speed could be further improved and the cursor that was regarded by the students as the mouse was not functional enough. Last but not least, surfing in popular sites like youtube or myspace was forbidden by firewalls which inevitably negatively influenced students' opinion.

To sum up, this example analytically depicted students' feelings towards a completely new approach in terms of further advancing education. Technology played a major role, as the features of the XO-1 were respected to a great extent by the users. Nevertheless, as explained there were various issues of concern which even if look minimal they could be critical towards the rejection of such technology-related proposals by the students.

- Myths and facts

The example above illustrates the eligibility of new laptops in the education framework but the truth is that there are several aspects that need to be taken into consideration when such promising developmental approaches are reviewed.

Education is by far the most important field on which each country should place emphasis on. Every problem concerning other key sectors such as politics, economy, health etc. actually has its roots within the education field. The reason is simple; mentality is the source of each action. Should education issues are not resolved, difficulties will exist in every other area.

Given this fact, the OLPC's vision is totally inventive and beneficial. Nonetheless, as presented by Buchele et al. (2007, p. 114) 'Other critics argue that if governments of poor nations spend what little money they have on laptops, they are necessarily spending less money on textbooks, teachers, and schools'.

The OLPC movement could be considered to be a laptop project as opposed to the opinion of its founder although it entails a matter of social adaptability to new forms of technology. This fact is supported by Ananny et al. (2007, p. 108) since '"Computerization movements" complicate traditional views of social movements by arguing that: technologies and humans are collaborating actors that co-construct the social meanings of progress; technologies have the potential to enact social change beyond the intended scope of a particular movement or technology'.

This project undoubtedly gives the opportunity to students of poor countries to access a different and multidimensional world; the Internet. The amount of information which students can easily and directly retrieve is second to none, thus providing them with several valuable tools that facilitate and progress their learning experience.

After all, as pinpointed by Smith Tabb et al. (2008. p. 340), 'One of the things that matters most is that the Internet continues to be a free and open technology in order for it to continue to foster innovation, economic growth and democratic communication for all'.

Another significant parameter is that the actual cost of each laptop nowadays is according to the official website (http://laptop.org/en/participate/ways-to-give.shtml) 199$. This fact unfortunately proves that the initial promises of the OLPC organisation regarding low priced laptops of 100$ are definitely not successful.

Adding further to this fact, Kraemer et al. (2009, p. 69) highlight that this price 'does not include upfront deployment costs, which are said to add an additional 5%-10% to the cost of each machine', 'nor does it include the cost of teacher training, additional software, and ongoing maintenance and support'. For example, 'Nigeria failed to honor a pledge by its former president to purchase a million units, partly because they no longer cost $100 a piece'.

Similar approaches were followed by many countries, since as Smith Tabb et al. (2008. p. 340) state, 'By the end of the year 2007, the only countries that had placed actual orders for the laptops were in Latin America. Those orders were as follows: Peru: 40,000, with an option to buy 210,000 more; Brazil: 150,000; Uruguay: 100,000 and Carlos Slim of Mexico had individually ordered 50,000 laptops'.

Undoubtedly, the OLPC project has unveiled new horizons towards education advancement in developing countries. Smith Tabb et al. (2008, p. 341) emphasise this fact stating that 'The one thing that the OLPC project has been able to do is draw attention to a wider possible contribution to the concept of development: information and communication technology for development (ICT4D)'.

Kraemer et al. (2009, p. 69) reinforce this fact as 'lowcost commercial netbooks from Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard, and other PC vendors have been launched with great early success' and consequently 'rather than distributing millions of laptops to poor children itself, OLPC has motivated the PC industry to develop lower-cost, education-oriented PCs, providing developing countries with low-cost computing options directly in competition with OLPC's own innovation'.

- Overview

It is quite obvious that The One Laptop Per Child project has had an impact on numerous aspects that could be identified to a great extent. As a result, a balanced review could be extracted from the details mentioned above.

As thoroughly exemplified, such unique approaches always hide various risks. First of all, one very significant fact is that the actual cost of a laptop was higher than initially expected and the total cost of owning such a laptop should be always taken into consideration.

Another fundamental constraint is the fact that every new scheme that is proposed towards ameliorating a country's education should be always checked by the corresponding government. In this way, several beneficial approaches may not be identified as such and not appropriately funded, thus resulting in overall failure.

Furthermore, the introduction of laptops in developing countries where teaching conditions are quite specific may not prove to be successful. The replacement of the old traditional teaching methods with new inventive ones may be rejected both by the teachers and the students as well.

Regardless of the negative impacts though, the OLPC project was the reason why a new emerging trend took place in the global business market. Several companies considered OLPC's vision as an example to pursue further similar attempts.

Consequently, such a competition could undeniably have a progressive impact on the education of developing countries. Any possible disadvantages of the OLPC project could soon be neglected compared to the innovations that technology 2.0 could bring to the students.

Conclusion

Taking all the points mentioned above into consideration, education is one of the most vital sectors on which particular attention should be placed.

Developing countries face a variety of critical problems that need to be accurately addressed. Unfortunately, living conditions in these countries are much worse than those in the developed ones. However, there is evidence that certain steps have been made towards their improvement.

Among all the different vital sectors of each country, education is considered to be the most significant one. It is directly linked with the way people think and behave thus advancing education ultimately means improving a country's foundation.

The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) was a generous attempt towards education progress. The benefits that emerged were not only limited to education amelioration but included increase of employability rates as well.

When technology innovations become the main subject of attention though, the discussion is much more interesting. The extent to which education could be improved is analogous to the evolution of technology.

As was analysed in detail, there were various attempts focused on ICT and web 2.0 features. The laptop experiment demonstrated a clear idea of the interrelation between technology and education as students discovered new ways of learning that through suitable control and planning could positively influence their future.

The One Laptop Per Child project made the greatest contribution in terms of understanding the real importance of technology integration into the education field. Even if it is rather complicated an issue, numerous conclusions could be drawn.

One significant aspect is that when focusing on such vital development approaches, governments' intentions should be taken into account. While certain attempts may seem beneficial, governments' plans towards their support could represent the most critical obstacle in the context of education growth.

Besides, current teaching conditions are another crucial parameter. Traditional ways of teaching have always been the most reliable and hopeful way of introducing the world of knowledge to new generations. The role of teacher has been always identified as the key factor that leads to students' proper education.

Nonetheless, technology has invaded with increasing rates into our lives and as a result education could not be omitted. The appropriate use of technology related innovations could ultimately boost education to the next level since for instance, the unique benefits that laptops could deliver are second to none.

The experiments described prove that students made the most of the new available opportunities that their laptops had. The exploration of the Internet unquestionably altered the way students learn, discover and study. Their hobbies and interests could be easily transformed into valuable skills with the support of the proper technological equipment.

Likewise, web 2.0 and its exclusive services such as micro blogs, wiki-related websites etc. reveal a new world of opportunities. Students are free to express themselves in various ways that improve their understanding, learnability and IT skills.

However, the cost of such inventive attempts should not be neglected. Education is a valuable part for each country thus the corresponding funding is properly monitored. If the benefit-to-cost ratio is not beneficial, their support could not be guaranteed.

Apparently, technology and education growth are two different aspects but totally interrelated. The education in developing countries is often poor enough and consequently future generations lack suitable qualifications that would benefit them both professionally and socially.

Technology is a possible solution towards a creative form of education that is profitable for both sides; students and states. The question though remains; are governments on a global scale ready to accept it?

Bibliography

Baliamoune-Lutz, M. (2003) 'An analysis of the determinants and effects of ICT diffusion in developing countries', Information Technology for Development, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 151-169.

Kenny, C. (2006) Overselling the Web?: Development and the Internet, Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers.

Ngwenyama, O. and Morawczynski, O. (2007) 'Unraveling the impact of investments in ICT, education and health on development: An analysis of archival data of five West African countries using regression splines', Electronic Journal of Information Systems and Developing Countries, Vol. 29, No. 5, pp. 1-15.

Wilson, E. (2004) The Information Revolution and Developing Countries, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.