Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Romance with "self-directed" and "autonomous" learning as a design gaming solution for universal education

Educational gaming is becoming big business and definitely seen as a solution to the chronic issues of poor/ absentee teachers in schools in poor and disadvantaged contexts, particularly in the developing world. Sugata Mitra and his Hole-in-the-Wall project inspired the director of SlumDog Millionaire and resulted in him winning the TED prize for innovation

The Global XPrize for Education also holds a similar perspective of emphasizing how the youth need to be empowered by gaming with the assumption that they will teach themselves and don’t need to rely on others, especially bad teachers. But is there such a thing as 'self-directed' learning? Does this imply no intervention at all and that these gaming platforms fill the human gap? Do children make the best decisions for their own personal growth? When we talk about autonomous learning, are we talking about being independent of schooling as we know it? Are we saying its an institution that has failed our children and thereby, we require novel interventions in this digital age- and what better platform than games that is most loved by children?

Sounds appealing for sure. But would anyone in the West seriously propose the poor kids in say, the Bronx to play learning games as a potential solution, given the school system has failed them? Hardly. We instead fight the system, protest, partner with teachers, and bring in new inspiration through mentors, activists, and success stories from within. While schools are limited as an institution no doubt, nobody would seriously propose to rid them from society as we have not found an alternative ideal for socializing our children. Learning games are important to diversify our means of engagements but to seek in them a schooling substitute, is to give up on these children altogether.

A recent NPR article by Anya Kamenetz 'With the Right Technology, Can Children Teach Themselves? explores this further especially in light of the new announcement by Global XPrize.
Check it out. ..

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Special Guest Editorial on 'ICTs for Leisure in Development' is out now!

Nimmi Rangaswamy and I served as Guest editors for the Information Technologies and International Development Journal on the theme of 'ICTs for Leisure in Development.' This is a nice step towards our book  Poor@Play that is expected to come out with Harvard University Press in mid 2016.

So why this Special Issue? Well, contrary to the peripheral connotation of leisure, this Special Issue makes the case of it being central to technology adoption and use in the development context. In this issue, we put together various original research studies that reconceptualize ICT mobilization and serviceability to extend beyond a conservative understanding of developmental value. We strive to drive home the following points, namely:

Leisure is a critical area of technology infusion that leads to discovery and magnification of digital literacies. Moreover, leisure offers an experimental space to informally diffuse learnings and impart social impacts that bind people and technologies.

As mobile technologies move beyond urban areas and the upper classes who can afford them, it is essential to bring together stories about crafting technologies that include a spectrum of playful behaviors as mainstream ICTD research.

The ICTD community at large is poised at a juncture where interdisciplinary crossings are pushing the boundaries of established themes and subject matters, providing an opportunity to move away from ICTD’s established viewpoints.

Authors for this Leisure in Development Special Section are:
Pamela Abbott, Brunel University, UK
Brian Ekdale, University of Iowa, USA
Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University, USA
Beth Kolko, University of Washington, USA
Elisa Oreglia, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Peppino Ortoleva, University of Torino, Italy
Robert Racadio, University of Washington, USA
Araba Sey, University of Washington, USA
Dinah Tetteh, Bowling Green State University, USA
Melissa Tully, University of Iowa, USA

Read these ITID articles published September 10, 2014 at