1. May 2012 10:42
In this blog post, I report on my recent trip to Bangladesh, made on behalf of the British Council
. The aim was to research how technology can help learning even in challenging situations. The country is, in a word: "amazing". It is one of the most populous nations on earth, with approximately 160 million people. Everywhere you look, people are working, in shops, in fields, in factories. Traffic is congested; chimneys pour pollution into the air. Despite all this industry, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.
My work as an educational consultant took me to a number of village schools. Classes are composed of children of different ages. Boys and girls sit apart in class. Teachers are worried not so much by the content of classes but by the fact that students are hungry; some need shoes. Many never finish their education.
In this kind of situation, my role as an advisor on technology throws up many challenges. Although the government has long-term plans for digitalising the country, the coverage of internet access remains poor and electricity supplies are erratic. However, I witnessed how just one computer with internet connection and a data projector can improve learning opportunities tremendously. Instead of simply using their (rather old) books with a picture of a volcano, the lesson I watched came alive as the teacher projected an animated volcanic eruption; the students were fascinated at the images of molten lava. Students today can Skype with learners abroad, learning through projects such as Connecting Classrooms:http://www.britishcouncil.org/learning-connecting-classrooms.htm
I saw my first Life Player in Bangladesh. This is an exciting new portable device - a wind-up radio which is also powered by a solar cell. It plays mp3 files, so teachers can use pre-recorded material in a class outside where there is no power socket!
They say travel broadens the mind. After this trip, I won't be quite so angry when my computer crashes or a file is slow to download - at least I have the technology! The people I met in Bangladesh show that with a positive approach, technology can benefit teachers and language learners in the developing world.