Sunday, April 4, 2010


These last several months have shaken my already tenuous confidence in “technology” as an answer to human problems.

  • The earthquakes that have circled the globe leaving people without basic resources for days, weeks, months
  • The war, drought and succeeding famine that continue to leave people, especially children, at major risk of early mortality
  • The governmental practices that leave segments of populations outside of educational infrastructure based on gender, ethnicity, ect

I’m trying to grasp the rightful place of technology and its promise. As long as some basic “infrastructure” is in place, mobile devices give people in these situations contact and perhaps context, but do they really solve any problems? Can they augment education?

  • How is a cell phone of great help to a Sudanese child that can’t think clearly due to lack of food.
  • How is a mobile device an educational tool to a Haitian child that still has nightmares about the walls falling in around him?
  • How can M-learning reach a child from one of China’s many ethnic minorities, who is losing her native tongue because cultural practice limits her ability to express her ethnicity?

Ultimately, it will be other people who assist and educate these at-risk populations not technology. The vehicle of technology in the right hands may make a mobile device a huge blessing to struggling students in far corners of the globe. Nonetheless, it will be the “hands” that matter and not the technology.


  1. Your absolutely right in the fact that technology isn't a solution by itself, but it is a piece to the puzzle. Technology can help people in need communicate with others and possibly reach people that can assist them in getting the help, knowledge and resources they need. It certainly is the people that make education successful; the technology is just a tool to connect those people in ways that previously were not possible.

  2. As Gavin points out, technology is not a solution to all human problems. Consider the invention of the wheel. That was technology. It solved a number of problems and made transportation much more practical. We'd have a very hard time living without it and people would possibly suffer if it went away. Your journal poses excellent questions and indicates your desire to think through some very critical issues. Technology is not at a point of stopping natural disasters such as earthquakes, but it can help mobilize relief aid very quickly. Mobile technology may not feed a hungry child. But, a very simple water purifying device (also technology) can save his life. If technology can provide quality education to children in remote areas who wouldn't otherwise get an education, perhaps it is worth deeper consideration. I love the story of one of the first young women who graduated from Greg Mortenson's school in Afghanistan. Her village had a very high maternal mortality rate. After attending the school, she went to a 2-year midwife program. She returned to her village and not one woman has died in childbirth since her return. I would challenge you in your next posts to continue asking the tough questions, then see if you can find references where someone else has tried to address these issues. It might be an interesting exercise.

    Well done.