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Educational-Technology Endeavors Around the World

My heart hammering, I asked a question during World Teachers' Day in the grand UNESCO chamber to the panel of ministers and researchers from Guinea, South Africa, Jamaica, France, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was an exciting moment, even though I couldn't figure out how to turn on my microphone for a second. As I spoke, half of the crowd of about 400 listened in their headsets as an unseen figure in a booth by the wall insta-translated my words into French!

My paraphrased question: Bonjour. My name is Dan Brown and I'm a National Board-certified teacher from Washington, D.C. in the U.S. It's my first time at UNESCO and it's an honor to be here. My question is about educational technology. Although access is always an issue, in what ways are you working to leverage the power of technology and the Internet to uplift teachers? Sharing videos of successful classroom practices, facilitating online networks for teachers, and opening up blogging channels can be good ways to uplift teachers and overcome geographical challenges for people in remote areas.

I think something was lost in translation because the minister from Guinea responded that television and radio schools were attempted in the Ivory Coast from 1975 to 1982 and they were unsuccessful.

The official from Jamaica said that they have been very active in incorporating technology into their education system and, in fact, Cuba is the Caribbean country that is most out in front in this area.

The representative from South Africa responded ruefully that four years ago South Africa embarked on a program to ensure that every teacher had a laptop computer. The effort died when it became apparent that the lack of infrastructure and broadband severely limited the usefulness of the devices.

The French researcher Luc Ria responded that video-based professional development has not been well received in his experience. His dismissal was kind of alarming, and in the later session Ron Thorpe spoke well about the power of examining footage of experts at work.

The minister from the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that the country was experimenting with an e-learning program and that disseminating videos could be a good cost-saving measure in place of sending ministry representatives to remote areas to conduct teacher in-services.

I was hoping to hear more positivity around the idea of connected educators, but c'est la vie. I'd be curious to know if the translator mangled my question or if the idea of comprehensive technology integration into education really is a bridge too far in countries like Guinea, the DRC, and South Africa.

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