ICTD2010 (XIII). Rarer Themes in Education

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

Paper Session: Rarer Themes in Education

Beyond Strict Illiteracy: Abstracted Learning Among Low-Literate Users
Indrani Medhi, S. Raghu Menon, Edward Cutrell, Kentaro Toyama

Text-free user interfaces increase the success of use for a given amount of time training. What else is required for non-literate uses to reach the usage level of ICTs of literate users?

Videos have no text and thus do not require reading while providing text-like information.

In order to to perform an experiment, a community of female domestic helpers were chosen, with very low literacy levels, and to test whether videos on how to use a modern vacuum cleaner had any impact in the acquisition of skills by these illiterate women. Will users benefit from diversified examples as a way to learn abstract concepts?

Variants analysed were whether the users was or was not literate, and whether the user was or was not familiar with (a) the vacuum cleaner and (b) a specific vacuum cleaner. And videos included also these variables.

Diversified video (e.g. showing more than one type of vacuum cleaner) proved to be helping literate users, but not illiterate ones.

Beyond strict illiteracy, other aspects affected comprehension of video content: cognitive skills, social standing, intimidation by technology, visual organization, efficient processing of information, language taks, self-efficacy, etc. Even for tasks that do not require reading at all and where there is the context, there seem to be cognitive barriers that impede use in non-literate users.


Q: Won’t literate people have cognitive barriers too? A: Agreed. But technology and treatment of information imply a fool range of cognitive barriers that go from technological illiteracy to abstract thinking, etc.

Technology, Teachers, and Training: Combining Theory with Macedonia’s Experience
Laura Hosman, Maja Cvetanoska

Some factors behind the ‘computers in the classroom’ concept: technology changes but human nature does not; computers in the classroom… mission accomplished; major struggle in ICT4ED projects; Education and Psychology scholars theorising and writing; policy makers not listening… and as a result, teachers blamed over and over for tech project failures. Maybe the real problem is not acknowledging that innovation is a years-long process of change, not a one-time event; that teachers are key change agents but are often not treated accordingly; and that teachers need ongoing support and must be stakeholders in the innovation-adoption process.

Now, the issue of computers in the classroom has spread from developed to developing countries, with the added problem that (a) resources in developing countries are even more scarce but, notwithstanding (b) computers in the classroom are being introduced at an imprecedented speed and level.

Macedonia Connects is a USAID-led initiative to provide one computer lab per school in Macedonia, after the country succeeded at breaking the telecom monopoly and bringing affordable broadband wireless to the entire country. Prior to the technology deployment, all teachers were provided with technology and methodology training.

As most teachers’ concerns advance predictably, most of them can be addressed as they arise by leaders/change facilitators.

Key findings:

  • 65% have not used a computer in class in previous two months
  • 86% believe that the class is the place where to learn to use a computer.
  • 72% use ICT for preparing teaching materials and tests.
  • 51% spend a few hours a day with a computer.
  • 30% use ICT for working with students.

Recommendations: set up a yearly ICT plan; involve teachers as stakeholders; recognize that change is a years-long process; don’t press for overnight success; support teachers in managing change.

SPRING: Speech and PRonunciation ImprovemeNt through Games, for Hispanic Children
Anuj Tewari, Nitesh Goyal, Matthew K. Chan, Tina Yau, John Canny and Ulrik Schroeder

MILLEE project: Mobile and immersive learning for literacy in emerging economies.

Pilot project in a school in California targeted to the Hispanic students (20 in total) with low English skills. Instead of mobile phones, it was decided that laptops would be used instead.

Challenges faced were key problems with English, issues with reading and writing, resistance to learning English, etc.

To do so, two games were designed (Zorro, based on Mario, and Voz.Guitar, based on Guitar Player) according to the needs and profiles of the students (that had previously been analysed). Movements required speech to be commanded and a speech recognizer was embedded so to tell whether the student was using the correct pronunciation.

two metrics were gathered: acoustic score gain percentages (measuring the improvement in the pronunciation of correct words) and word gain (correctly pronounced words). Score Acoustic and Word gains improved a little bit (though significantly) between control and treatment group.

Gender and pre-existing knowledge didn’t seem to play a role or be a factor.


Ismael Peña-López: why pronunciation of English words was in English standards and not Spanish standards? Why (for surprise) put ‘ser-prize’ instead or ‘sur-prais’, which would have been the Spanish transcription? A: Some of the transcriptions were added ex-post and used the acknowledge standard. But, certainly, in future editions, there is a need to adapt the transcriptions to the linguistic realities of the target community.

Q: What was the teacher proficiency in English pronunciation? Q: The project was performed in a public classroom in California and had extended English teaching experience.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (VII). Mobile Phones and Development

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

Paper Session: Mobile Phones and Development

Mobile Divides: Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Mobile Phone Use in Rwanda
Joshua Blumenstock, Nathan Eagle

Rwanda: 10M people, 165th in GDP, huge growth in mobile phones in the past decade, now with 1.5M users.

Anonymous call detail records (CDR) were complemented with a structured phone survey.

Results show disparities in access. Phone users are very different from “normal” people. in general, they are the “better off” members of society: better educated, older, larger households, wealthy (roughly twice as wealthy in average).

There are also disparities in use: rich and poor use their phones very differently. Rich ones have been using it almost twice longer than poor one, larger average lenghts of call, rich people are more central to the network, more credit used per day, etc.

Men and women spend the same amount of time on phone per day, but women receive more calls, and each call lasts longer. Women are more likely to share their phone. Same with social networks, but women make more calls to family and fewer to friends or make less business-related calls. On the other hand, though daily mobile baking patterns are similar, men send more money during holidays.


Q: Are findings consistent along time? A: There does not seem to be a huge change in major trends and characteristics. Though the research does not have panel data, in general terms the actual findings seem to apply in the past and, very likely, in the nearest future.

(NOTE: Please see Vanessa Frías-Martinez: Telco Industry Research in ICTD: Telefónica R&D, mobiles and development for more research based on CRD).

Research and Reality: Using Mobile Messages to Promote Maternal Health in Rural India
Divya Ramachandran, Vivek Goswami, John Canny

Global maternal mortality is still very high in many African and Asia countries, topping up to 0.5% in India. How can mobile phones and SMS contribute in reducing these figures?

Messages were designed with a persuasive structure to demystify some wrong believes and encourage pregnant women to follow healthy habits. Messages were accompanied with the personal assistance of a health worker.

Results show than, in comparison with a control group, text messages did have a somewhat positive impact in health workers’ work and in pregnant women. Health workers of the same caste as clients were significantly more persuasive (e.g. they succeeded in making their clients take their iron tablets).


[I would personally like to know whether the control group was a group with no supporting material or a group with alternate (e.g. brochures, television, etc.) support material? If there was not supporting material, why go SMS instead of simply paper? Was the impact, thus, the supporting material or technology? Or the intensive participation/involvement of the researchers in the field?]

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)