Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Electronic Peace Corp

A few months back I wrote about how two things will change education in developing countries (see here); the hundred dollar laptop and the mobile phone. Over the last 24 hours I have seen a couple of stories that seem to bear out my prediction, or at least appear to show that things are moving in the right direction.

Whilst over at the BBC's website I came across this story about how mobile phones are transforming life in Kenya. Of all the interesting details that the article contains, the one that stood out was the a third of all Kenyans have a mobile. While I'm sure that most are not the state of the art phones with built - in camera and mp3 players that will change in the near future as these items become standard on all entry level models. This means that students have a means of watching video, listening to audio material and perhaps most importantly of all producing such things.

The other item I saw in the news was the imminent arrival in Greece of the first MIT 100 dollar laptops (though they are going to cost a bit more than that in the beginning). I finally got to see one of these things in detail on TV and I was most impressed both by the design and its potential. Although I don't think that it will have much impact here, the possibilities for countries which do not have the money to pay for PCs or Macs are enormous.

The idea that the laptop can replace existing textbooks is just the beginning as the potential for producing material and spreading ideas is simply endless. Suddenly, blogging, podcasting, vlogging, wikis and social networking cease to be the preserve of the well - off countries of the North and become a means to educate and be educated wherever you are.

Here's an idea: The Electronic Peace Corp. The idea is that people sign up to help a project in a developing country without having to leave their own living room, let alone country. This would allow doctors, teacher, business leaders, engineers and the like to contribute their time and expertise. The ability to communicate in real time via Skype video and the like would mean that people could be on hand to help when needed. A kind of walking, talking Wiki page.

Another possibility is that you make translating Wikipedia part of your national curriculum. In countries where instruction in English is common students translate Wiki pages into the local languages. Suddenly, within the space of a few years the vast repository of knowledge Wikipedia contains in English becomes available in hundreds of different languages and dialects.

What do you think the 100 dollar laptop could be used for?

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