Jono's day job. XPrize: Global learning

Once we the fine people of bad voltage have solved the water crisis by donating to the Bad Community Charity:Water Fund raiser there will be a lot of children who no longer need to travel several hours a day to collect water and so will be able to be educated.

The problem is that largely as a result of the water problem there is a lack of teachers, because why train to be a teacher if few people go to school.

This is where Xprise comes in they have realised there is a gap here and on Monday launched:

Global learning Xprize a project aimed at augmenting teachers through the use of low to mid range tablets using open source learning software.

I’m joking when I say this is a result of our charity campaign of course and the Xprize is not dependant on us raising a lot of money but if you can give something please do.

This thread is not about raising money however. I’d just like to know what people think about this.

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I feel anything to help educate those whithout the time or resources is great! I think it would be better to get physical teachers in place. I would hate to create a mesh of tablet zombies in the third world. They are a great learning tool, but I see our children here in the US becoming iphone,tablet,minecraft zombies. It scares me that the youth may be loosing much needed social skills.

I don’t think the tablets could ever replace real physical teachers and the social interaction that comes from a classroom. But I do think when that is not as viable an option, it is better to make use of the tools we have than not do anything at all.

my 2 cents

I don’t think anybody would argue here: the ideal solution would me more teachers and schools but there are around a quarter of a billion kids who do not have any access to education today and while there are other charities trying to solve this in the traditional way: building schools, training teachers, for example. This is not going scale quickly.

I think this is an innovative approach which if successful should be easy to replicate and modify to suit needs of different countries. The requirement that winning solution has to be open source I think is key here: if the solution can be shown to work in one place then there will be lots of people making open source localised versions for other areas.

I’m sure we have regulars here in Bad Voltage that could handle the coding part of this challenge but the winning team will need to have a much wider skill set than just coding to produce a solution that works it will need educational experts and a real vision to succeed.

I wish this project every success and I’m sure @jonobacon will be able to keep us updated on progress.

Education is great. Online education is a revolution and has its advantages (some of which are not fully tapped by the current online course publishers).

However, as @parzzix pointed out, NOTHING can replace the human connection of a real teacher. I hope we never really try to do that. Technology is a tool, it is a way to augment and way to open up access, but it should always be accompanied by, to the largest extent possible, some form of communication and hopefully in-person contact. I would much rather see an effort to bolster the number of available teachers (which, of course, requires a fight on many, many levels).

This ties into something that I think is lacking in our solving social problems. I feel like often there’s a group doing this and another one doing that, but not communicating or, even better, working together. Ending poverty or otherwise solving social issues is not a one-field job, and requires solving inter-locking problems TOGETHER, rather than working on various ones peacemeal.

There are many charities working provide more schools and train teachers and I don’t believe Xprize, or anyone else is suggesting we should eradicate teachers.

The Xprize competition is about using technology to supplement existing teachers where they exist and act as a substitute for them when they are not available until we can train more to do the job.

You are correct in saying dealing with the problems of poverty is a multi-layered subject. We need to provide access to clean water and sanitation, education and the ability to trade fairly so they stop being reliant on charity. This is just one component in this joined up approach.

250 million children have no access to education partly due to need for many to walk several hours a day just to get water and partly due to a lack of suitable schools and teachers. Charity: Water is working to fix the first problem and we at Bad Voltage have so far raised $770 to help them. XPrize have realized that to meet UNESCO’s figure of 1.6million more teachers needed by 2015 is going to be tough and are asking can we use technology to help here.

I don’t know if it can and I fully accept there is no substitute for a good teacher. But, this has got to worth trying, hasn’t it? Also note, this is probably not going to be an online solution since we can’t assume the children involved will have any internet access though I’m sure the proposed solutions will make use of the internet if it is available.

@jonobacon please correct me if I’ve misinterpreted the aims of this Xprize in anyway.

I noted in the podcast that a Book:

was mentioned,
No shit, I logged on today and saw the book was available TODAY … and I listened to this TODAY.

How’s that for serendipity.


You know, I kind of disagree. As a young one, nearly all of my teachers were pretty much rubbish. I do think learning from humans is important, because they can answers other media simply can’t, but the accepted model of a grade school teacher is severely lacking. I got more out of one on one mentors, but that has even more severe problems of scalability, responsibility, and abuse.

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