Posted by: crudbasher | April 17, 2015

How Not To Teach 4 Billion People

Yesterday I talked about how the “developing” world is getting modern communications technology via cell phones. Today I want to tie together two very different stories.

First, a nice piece by Peter Diamandis (he’s the guy who came up with the X-Prizes for various things). H/T Singularityhub

The most dramatic (positive) change in our global economy is about to occur between 2016 and 2020.

Three to five billion new consumers, who have never purchased anything, never uploaded anything, and never invented and sold anything, are about to come online and provide a mega-surge to the global economy.

While most of these individuals are in Africa, India, China, and the developing world, and their income is low, when aggregated, this represents tens of trillions of new dollars flowing into the global economy…and no one is talking about it.

He sees this as happening by 2020. That’s only 5 years! Is it possible to connect 4 billion people in that time? Yes. Yes it is. The rest of the article talks about 4 major efforts to make this happen.

Like every other article like this it talks about how these new people will spend money and consume media. It does not talk about how these people will learn. That’s what I want to talk about. How do you do it? Well, let’s start with how not to do it which leads us to story #2.

I have written before about the LA schools initiative to give iPads to every student. Here’s the results. H/T LATimes

The $1.3-billion iPad effort was a signature program under then-Supt. John Deasy. But it faltered almost immediately during the fall 2013 rollout of the devices. Questions later arose about whether Apple and Pearson enjoyed an advantage in the bidding process; an FBI criminal investigation is ongoing.


“Only two schools of 69 in the Instructional Technology Initiative … use Pearson regularly,” according to an internal March report from project director Bernadette Lucas. “Any given class typically experiences one problem or more daily. Teachers report that the students enjoy the interactive content — when it’s available. When it’s not, teachers and students try to roll with the interruptions to teaching and learning as best they can.”

The remaining schools, she said, with more than 35,000 students, “have given up on attempting regular use of the app.”
Other problems emerged as well, according to that report. District specialists said the materials are not readily adaptable for students who are not proficient in English. And there are no online tests to help guide instruction; the only available assessments are on paper. Nor has Pearson provided data or tools that permit an analysis of how often the curriculum is used or how well it functions.

It failed because clearly not enough money was dedicated to support, the software wasn’t ready and there was no buy in from teachers. I have said this many times: buying iPads for all the students is easy. You just write a check. The problem is, an iPad is a device that is geared to the individual. This doesn’t fit in a system that does not recognize the individual in favor of standardization. In the end, like most government actions, the people involved got rich and the project failed.

So can you apply this to the “developing” world? Well, the cost clearly would be prohibitive right off the bat.

The top down factory model of schooling won’t work for the rest of the world. Because it is too expensive, they will get a chance to experience and develop a disaggregated, roll your own, BYOD model of education. Maybe, like land lines, Africa is going to skip mass public schooling too? I can only hope so.

See more: Searching for a New Model For Learning – Part 4



  1. […] second reason is when I read about the LA school district abandoning a program to give every student iPads after squandering over a billion dollars. Let the students bring what […]

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