Sugata Mitra on the role of technology in education

While looking around on the website of the Institute of International and Economic Affairs (IIEA, an Dublin-based think-tank), I discovered the following lecture by Sugata Mitra. Mitra, originally trained as a physicist, and then got into programming and technology, which has led to his present work on getting computers into schools and the ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment. Ken Robinson’s TED talk gets a lot of attention (arguably too much if you’re me and you’re arguing), and though it undoubtedly introduced many people to the debates surrounding what education is and should be, it never quite hit the spot for me. Mitra’s lecture here – which admittedly isn’t subject to the TED tyranny of 20 minutes – goes from the history of education and technology in education, to the implications of sociological research on teaching and education, to specific policy and technical suggestions. It’s an hour long, but well worth watching. Alternatively, check out his own two TED talks below (Mitra also won the TED Prize in 2013). Much cause for optimism with the future of technology in education, mercifully free of the platitudes of tech in pedagogy and ‘there’s an app for that’.

Prof Morgan Kelly on “What ever happened to Ireland” and education

Prof Morgan Kelly of University College Dublin lectures on “What ever happened to Ireland?” Discussion of the Irish education system (with some interesting observations on the PISA rankings) starts c.26 minutes in. A quote from it as a taster. He discusses the peculiarity about the Irish performance in PISA is that if you look at the number of kids who are performing very well on the test, it’s much lower than similar middle ranked economies:

In one sense that’s very good news. We’re doing pretty well, but nobody is doing extraordinarily well, which means nobody is doing extraordinarily badly either. So in terms of low-performing kids who are the ones who are hardest to teach, we’re actually doing pretty well. We’re doing the hard thing well.

But we’renot doing well by the stronger kids, and this thing gets worse as you move up to the Leaving Cert…


Rankings and other factors in US student choice, 1995 – 2012

I collected data from UCLA‘s Higher Education Research Institute‘s American Freshman Surveys (found here), and combined them all into one big spreadsheet (for download here – grey cells indicate data related to these questions were not collected for that year). 1995 is taken as the start year, as this was an exercise to look at the influence of university rankings (such as the US News & World Report, etc.) on how students make decisions about where to study, and 1995 was the first year in which information related to rankings was collected. This was done as part of my research work with Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn in Dublin Institute of Technology‘s Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU). This is intended to be indicative, rather than asserting any hard trends. I have accordingly allowed myself some flexibility. Continue reading

Overview – Irish education research funded (IRC) since 2000

This is just a quick and dirty overview of some information culled from the Irish Research Council’s website, detailing awards made since 2000. I wanted to see how many education research-related PhDs had been funded via the IRC’s Post Graduate Scholarship Scheme (PGSS). I didn’t want to do something that related the overall number of awards made how many were in the social sciences or education research, as that starts to bring us into a exercise in justification.

Approach: I used the information made available on the IRC’s “Alumni” page, going through each page for each year of PGSS awards from 2000 (i) using a keyword search (“education”, “higher education”, “university”, “learning”) on the titles of PhDs listed, then (ii) I went through each website again manually. I then excluded PhD titles that were to do with history of education topics, and I also excluded topics where research took place in a school (etc.) but where education itself was not the focus. These were fed into Excel, with pivot tables and charts doing the rest. [Link to Excel data] Continue reading