Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Development Powered by Education

Interactive tools could help to prepare students in developing countries for the collaborative workplace of the future.

Imagine for a moment that you have one chance to pass a driving test; if you fail, you can never reapply for a license. You ask for the material you will be tested on and are told you can see it only briefly, peering over someone else’s shoulder. No one has trained you to operate an actual car. And when it is time to take the test, you are blindfolded. The result will, of course, be catastrophic.

Illustration by Harry Campbell

This isn’t a bad analogy for the challenges facing a typical African elementary- or secondary-school student, even though most world political leaders and development specialists agree that the future of African nations lies in education. African schools teach toward set exams, which determine who passes and who leaves school. It is a system that does not foster much creative thought but in its own way ensures certain standards. Or would, if access to educational materials were equal throughout all schools.

This story is part of our September/October 2006 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

But it is not. Educational materials are expensive to print and to supply to remote rural schools. Senegal is typical: school textbooks cost two to three times what poor families can afford, so only one in five students receives them.

There is an alternative. Using digital satellite radio to connect to a content distribution network, students could download new material–as soon as it becomes available–to small handheld computers recharged with solar power or crank chargers. Then they could take it home to read at night, on a backlit screen, even in homes without electricity. That is the technology my company, EduVision, has been developing for the last two years.

Not only would such a distribution system get more, and more current, material to more students, but it would also introduce students to an important new approach to learning and working. Students who compete throughout their school years for top ranking will not be prepared for workplaces where collaboration is becoming far more important. An electronic environment for group work–a textbook wiki of sorts, in which students around the world can compare notes and share information–could teach collaboration at the same time that it teaches academic material itself.

In the future, students in schools throughout the developing world will communicate and interact to solve problems and complete assignments. They may be in the same class or school, or they may be in different countries. They may never meet in person, but they will form close connections and learn to work in teams. They will also have access to vast libraries of content where they can find solutions, answer questions, and explore the life of the mind.

Matthew Herren is founder and chief technology officer of EduVision, an e-learning company based in Zürich, Switzerland. He is also one of our TR35 winners. Here’s his TR35 profile.

Countdown to EmTech MIT 2019. Join us as we unveil the Innovators Under 35

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.