Key topics related to the use of new technologies in education

they come in all shapes, colors and sizes ...

they come in all shapes, colors and sizes ...

Oh, you work at the World Bank, someone recently remarked to me.

It must be great to have access to so much information and data about so many things.

Yes, that's certainly a perk of the job, I responded, although it can be overwhelming at times.

What's more interesting, and exciting, at least to me (and, truth be told, overwhelming as well), is the access to so many fascinating questions.

(For what it's worth: Most of the information and data with which we are traditionally associated are actually 'open' these days, freely accessible to anyone with a web browser as a result of our access to information policy). 

Here's a (lightly anonymized, slightly disguised) sample of questions that arrived in my in-box just today:

  • For the first time in a few decades, our country is about to build lots of new schools: Should we be designing them any differently in order to accommodate the use of new technologies?
  • What are some compelling examples of how 'edtech' has been 'scaled up' to promote greater equity and inclusiveness that are relevant to our country?
  • We want to put all our textbooks online -- how should we do this?
  • We need to hire an expert in governance issues in education systems who can help us better understand the opportunities and challenges that new technologies will pose for us in the future: Can you suggest some related terms of reference, and a shortlist of candidates who speak our language and are familiar with operating contexts in our country and region?
  • What specs should we include in our big new tender for tablets?

(By the time I've completed this blog post, I expect a few more will have been sent to me as well.)

Whether these should be the types of things we get questions about -- that's another matter. There are no bad questions ... but of course some questions are better than others. Before we attempt to respond to a specific information request, we first pause and consider if we are being asked the 'right question'.

In steering people to the 'right question', or at least to a better question (or, as we like to phrase it when we respond, 'That's a great question! And here's another question that you may also wish to consider ...'), we have concluded that it usually helps to be able to address the one that they have already posed.

To help with this, we are trying to better organize what we know, based on our own work and more generally, to better address the things that we -- and the 100+ governments with which we actively work around the world -- don't know.

As part of this process, we have developed a master list of master list of 50+ key topics related to the use of new technologies in education of potential operational relevance to the World Bank in its strategic advice, lending activities and research going forward.  It is not  meant to be comprehensive in its ​consideration of topics related to the use of technology in education, and does not represent a 'framework for how to think about edtech'. Instead, it seeks to document and organize related requests for information and advice into distinct categories. It is not based on what the World Bank has done and supported in the past, but rather on questions we receive related to what governments are looking to do in the future. Reasonable people can and will no doubt disagree about whether we are being asked the 'right' questions or not. (We have strong opinions on this ourselves!)