My Post August 5

3. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights essentially states that every person has a right to an education. Think about an experience you have had as a DE practitioner or about a story you may have heard or read where there were problems for a particular population of potential students not being fully able to get all the educational services they needed. What elements of distance education (what particular technologies or media, for example) could have been utilized here to help better serve this population?
A friend from school (35 years ago) contacted me recently to ask if I would support her charity.  The charity is called http://www.NewDawn-association.org.  I encourage you to visit the site.  She is well-meaning and sincere, meaning she has a fixed notion about how to solve the problem (as she has formulated it) and she has passion and determination to get funds raised.
There's a quote often attributed to Kettering:  

“ A problem well stated is a problem half solved”

 Charles F. Kettering quotes (American engineer, inventor of the electric starter, 1876-1958)

I had always assumed that my friend's charity was in the business of finding school fees for the orphans.   The problem was "lack of money."
Here's what hit me (only when I read this question):  What if my friend Jennie could reformulate the problem as a lack of access, not as a lack of fees?   She has constructed her charity as "donate funds to support orphans and in particulary, we need $400 per child per year for school fees.   What if she changed it to say, "We want to provide access to high school through a virtual school for our orphans"?  Would their access to education be improved?   Sure, since one orphan gets to go to high school and the other current 30 orphans stay on the farm.   We could raise money for each child to have access to a virtual school account, or even access to allow them to do kahnacademy problems (the students are in Kenya, where the second language for most people is english and official government business takes place in Swahili and English).   
Even if each kid had only an hour on the computer (two students sharing the hour would mean 15 hours of computer use and 15 pairs would be on the computer doing tasks), that woudl be five to seven hours per week more than they are currently getting.  According to the definition of distance learning, there has to be an institution behind the education and KhanAcademy.org is not issuing certificates -- but students could still sit for a national exam after trying the lessons on video.
In other words, this is a a story where there were problems for a particular population of potential students not being fully able to get all the educational services they needed.
To make this possibility real, I'd need to contact Jennie and 
(a) propose some sort of guidance -- perhaps a blended lesson situation where once a week a teacher at a nearby school could be paid to drop in and look at the work of the students.  The small fee, perhaps $10 a week or $500 a year, would ensure that an adult at least looks at some possible sources of errors; 
(b) see what equipment she has available and what might be needed.
A gift of $1500 (enough for one child to go to high school over 3 years) might provide enough for 30 kids to share time on the computer.
Another chapter of our reading, about culture (chapter 45), points to "What counts as sound educational practice ... presents a form of cultural bias on the part of the person promoting the educational practice" (page 604).  Great!  Just when I thought I had reformulated the problem.   How many of these orphans are the first in their families to go to high school?  (We don't know --they're orphans.  Did their parents attend high school?)  These children certainly don't have blood relatives in close proximity who might have attended high school -- and it is likely none of them have work online for extended periods.  Jamie McKenzie (an online commentator and technology-in-education trainer) is often quoted as follows:  "The purpose of education is to GRADUALLY transfer responsibility for their learning to the students."  The key point is gradually.  For this online setup to work, the equipment needs to be in place (internet line, computers in working order, informal tech support) while psychological support is given ("I know you're interested in cars.  Maybe next time you can try that math problem by thinking of an accident or do a survey of "what happens"  to a car when it is too old to run.")
It sure sounds easier just to send $400 a year and send one kid to school rather than design a complete system for 31 kids to use.   So that complexity issue is yet another source of uncertainty in this proposed "fix" of the lack of access for these students.
References
McKenzie, J.  (2009).  "Guide on the side."  http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/teacherrole.html
Gunawardena, C. & LaPointe, D.  "Cultural dynamics of online learning," in Handbook of distance education (Moore 2007 (ed.)).  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


BACK TO EDD 7007

Thanks for the very insightful post. I think that you highlight a classic problem for distance education and trying to serve underprivileged populations. It is extremely difficult to bring the type of program you describe in when you are not even sure you can have a teacher sit with the students and that the students will even be able to fully get what they need to pass national exams. These are challenges we face as we see technology grow but still so much of the world is behind us.

Rob

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