I'm sorry to be posting so sporadically. I'm a slug, that's all there is to it.
Here's where we are now along the questioning/figuring it out continuum. A heckuva lot closer to the questioning end of things, that's where. As I've mentioned here before, you have kids being sold into what amounts to a (very short) life of slavery. Let's just stipulate that their parents want something very different for them. And the parents want it badly enough that they will flee rural Indian life and form these bizarre squatter cities, which work, for all practical purposes. People become un-find-able and yet manage to live interesting, full, connected lives. On some level, I should do so well.
And yet.... the vulnerabilities are terrifying. And not just to me, who can be terrified by standing water in the basement. Should there be a disaster, there will be no access to services. And not because disaster responders refuse to serve the unacknowledged. We won't know they're there. And kids grow up with the catch-as-catch can education that the elders in the neighborhood can provide. They aren't paying taxes for anything else, after all. These same elders know that this is not good enough.
So, we started with education. It's measurable. The need is immediate, as opposed to some might-never-happen scenario. And education creates hope for the next generation. As much as I love disaster services, all we do is get things back to their previous state. Which might have been reprehensible. Yet, that's the very definition of disaster services -to return things to their pre-disaster state.
But here's the thing. Somehow the income that the child generated has to be replaced -or the need for it eliminated. And the school has to be accessible. And affordable. So, the idea becomes (and not a new one with us, of course) mobile schools. Bring the schools to the kids. They can still work; school comes to them.
Assume, for the sake of argument, that we'll figure out the details. (Further assume that you have a wild and hopeful imagination.) These mobile schools have to be on the order of tablets and books on a bicycle cart. (I think so, anyway.) What role does technology play in this kind of service delivery?
I'm stunned at how much is required. And none of it (or astoundingly little) will be available to-or needed by- the consumers of the service. What are we educating people for? Jobs? More education? (my personal favorite!) A way out of grinding poverty? The answer to that question determines what the curriculum should be. And who decides that? Who monitors that? Why monitor that at all? It can hardly be worse than what they currently have.
Once you have those answers, you get right away to the "how" bit. What technologies are reasonably available? Should the planning, in fact, work the other way? We have thus-and-such technology available. Let's let that constrain the pedagogical choices.
This is the stuff that keeps me awake at nights. Weird, but true. But it's not hard to see that if teachers (on their bicycles, with their tablets) had access to each other (social networking? cell phones?) they could coordinate, plan, mentor, collaborate. If researchers had access to the teachers, we could find out what works and what doesn't. In the unspeakable luxury of our offices, we could spare the time, in a way the providers just plain can't, to think about what's working and what's not. Technology could speed the results of that process, to the point where it might actually be useful. What a thought.
And of course, education isn't the only thing these children and families need. These biker-teachers are going to notice that. How do we get food to the kids? Do we/should we help people thrive in their rural villages so they don't have to move to these urban squatter communities? Should we muck around with these new urban communities so that they're safer, or will we just end up making things worse?
As with all good questions, one answer generates about a thousand more questions. Too bad there are actual desperate children waiting for us to figure it out. The poor dears.