WHO IS MICHAEL TRUCANO?
Finding ways to empower those in need through better access to education has been a hallmark service of the development and aid community for decades. The education sector, like any other, is ripe for disruption, especially as we consider how we deliver curriculum over distance, customize education for individual needs, provide alternatives and outlets for both the gifted and those that have special needs, and much more.
Michael Trucano, my guest for the 126th Terms of Reference Podcast, has dedicated the past 18 years of his life to thinking and advising governments how they can enhance education through the use of information and communication technologies. Michael is the World Bank’s Senior Education & Technology Policy Specialist and Global Lead for Innovation in Education. He is also the principal voice behind the World Bank’s influential and widely read EduTech blog.
You can connect with Michael here:
IN TOR 126 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- How Michael approaches innovation in education within the vastness of the World Bank, finding out great initiatives around the world and looking for better ways for the Bank to intervene.
- The unassailable role of mobile connectivity in learning, as well as the unthinkable approaches of technology everywhere, beyond their initial purposes.
- How innovation requires different measuring sticks, often on a case by case scenario; and how it must include the “spillovers”: If a “lab” closes, but its alumni spread the practice, the lab was worth it.
- How lack of structure has actually helped Michael promote new ideas and connect people.
- The perils of tech, usually related to solve the problem for those who already have answered it, while leaving large groups unattended.
- The case of Uruguay, and why it’s better for innovation to flourish first where it is the most difficult.
- Whether “Digital Natives” are a myth.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- World Bank
- Amanda Watson (Researcher)
- The British Council
- Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
- International Education Agency (IEA)
- IEA’s International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS)
- Unicef Innovation
- Annual Mobiles for Education Alliance International Symposium
- Global Learning XPRIZE
- Online Self-Tutorials
- Educational Technology
- Educational Innovation
- Innovation Labs
- Innovation Metrics
- Inequality, in learning and access
- “Smart” and “Dumb” Failure
- Digital Natives
- Washington, DC
- Papua New Guinea
- Montevideo, Uruguay
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
The education guy at WB
Multi-lateral institution, part of the UN ecosystem.
And an actual bank that lends money, usually for infrastructure.
Increasingly delving into financing education intervention.
Currently exploring use of tech in education.
At the time of recording Michael was about to begin a tour: Kenya.
Kenya promised laptops to children, Michael is expectant. Kenya had an estimated 40k+ teacher deficit.
Outcomes worth sharing
WB has the responsibility to find cool things people are doing around the world, go there and support them.
Papua New Guinea has lots of remote schools. Teacher’s commute takes 1 ½ weeks.
On a given school day, 5% of teacher actually teach what they’re supposed to according to the curriculum.
Someone noticed teachers tend to have phones.
Papua New Guinea set up an SMS program helping teachers through alerts and follow-up.
“Basic, simple stuff.” After a while, the share hit 22% from 5%.
“Ideal or not, it was a five-fold increase.”
For actual figures, google Amanda Watson research.
“I’m constantly amazed about the new uses for technology people find all over the world,” way beyond their intended purpose.
“The World Bank is finished, done”
“Can you make change in a bureaucratic institution? It’s my ongoing challenge.”
Things have changed a lot recently.
Innovation lab within WB, trying things with Big Data and Design Thinking.
The challenge is going from the lab to the mainstream. Often times the lab exists so it doesn’t have to interfere with the mainstream.
“But those people haven’t disappeared.” Some moved up WB, others went elsewhere in development.
Late 90s, WorldLinks. Innovators worked within WB, it spawned many global careers.
Innovation outcomes and shelf lives need different measuring sticks.
Stephen: The development sector tends to extend the welcome to structures way after they outlived their usefulness.
Big institutions can be seen as inhibitors. “Labs” could be a true antidote.
A mindset component at play too. Innovation could happen at any org. dimension.
There is only one way to innovate best, here it is
Innovation has many facets. It has do to with becoming more efficient or ample in your reach, or it can be “doing what you could not do before.”
WB has received influence, most of them internal, hard to see from the outside. Processes have been streamlined, “people have larger rope.”
A million little things “Walk along a stream feeling the pebbles.” It could in conjunction add up to good things.
Individual innovation is important as people work in simultaneous teams, or in Michael’s case, leading simultaneous teams.
Michael’s role is to accelerate innovation in and out of WB.
“I do not have any process. I’m just genuinely curious.”
“I talk to lots of people. No question is dumb.”
He connects dots, people, ideas.
“It is such an interesting time to be doing this.”
Helping people is satisfying.
People everywhere do cool sh*t in education
Equate tech with innovation at your own peril.
Not all tech requires innovation and not all innovation requires tech.
Having said that, shrinking costs in mobile internet has revolutionized so much, learning included.
From YouTube channels, self-tutorials.
Technology tends to help those who already have it sorted out, while those without access…
No systems are completely different in Michael’s view, but some are “pointing at how they can be done.”
Singapore. As soon as they saw the new paradigm, they reduced the syllabus by 10% so teachers had more autonomous time for “re-engineering.”
Uruguay benefited from small size and powerful neighbors to try new things and “mix it up.” The Minister led and the population vouched.
“There is a lot that still has not been thought about.”
English challenge in Uruguay: they don’t have enough teachers, but all schools are connected. They work with the British Council to access co-teachers from all over the world.
This global resource tapping became widespread practice.
Uruguay was in a good place to risk and innovate
Many factors allow better risk management practice in education. Political will seems to be essential. But after the executive changed, Uruguayans were so content that the program kept going.
The program begun where it would be difficult to thrive. Then it evolved into the easy places (upscale Montevideo). “This model works more broadly” let alone considerations about equality.
Michael’s EduTech blog is about failure. “There is smart and dumb failure.”
Dumb failure = throwing tech at a problem expecting immediate results. “But kids are digital natives!”
Another good one: “If only technology replaced teachers!” Nowhere in Michael’s experience has this ever happened. This narrative is associated with the politics of unions.
Dumb failure can be counterproductive, creating a less hospitable environment for innovation.
Parental sentiment against tech is an OECD fear. In developing nations, tech is met with hope, sometimes push for more tech and innovation. “Conversations vary greatly by place.”
Adults role is critical: they must be willing to invest in benefits for other, younger generations.
Turned Standard Op
Connectivity is one of the no-brainers, but this is too broad.
“If tech is the answer, what is the question?” The question varies from place to place.
Computers, sure, but uses differ a lot.
Stephen: We will see how apps and functionality remain in the ecosystem.
A lot of assumptions do not carry over to context. Kids don’t use email anymore.
ICILS measures computer literacy. Michael fears it could be an outdated framework. Thai kids have “low email proficiency.”
In tech, when we devise a way to measure proficiency on a tool, people have moved on from that tool.
The focus should be productive use, problem solving.
“Digital Natives” is a hypothesis. But tools are always changing, might as well call them “Digital Migrants.”
Arguably there were “Laptop Natives” who failed to comprehend the form factor of smartphones.
Top of the Posts
Michael’s EduTech blog at WB.
China: WeChat influence on iOS.
Annual Mobiles for Education Alliance International Symposium.
Global Learning XPRIZE, winner and candidates.
Autonomous Vehicles, embedded tech.
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