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Changing the education equation

Changing the education equation

Education goes hand-in-hand with economic development. The prosperity of communities and nations depends on having individuals with the talent and skills to participate and compete in the knowledge economy. A highly educated workforce has the power to drive innovation, raise productivity and stimulate growth. Take for example the economy of South Korea, where over a period of 35 years a tenfold increase in university attendance coincided with dramatic growth in gross domestic income (GDI).1

At HP, we believe we can fuel economic development and well-being by applying technology to broaden education’s reach and transform its impact. We’re harnessing technology in new ways to extend education to more people, making it more relevant, immersive and open.

Relevant to today—and vital to tomorrow

The common model for education is outdated, failing to adapt to how the world has fundamentally changed. Today, technology is ubiquitous in our lives. It is embedded into our everyday tasks, from balancing our bank account online to sharing photos. Information has exploded—news sites, blogs and social media sites are readily available as educational resources. Yet many teachers lack the training to effectively integrate technology into the classroom, leaving students unprepared to compete in today’s global economy.

What students need most are the skills to use technology to find, synthesize and apply information efficiently in solving problems and creating opportunities. To meet this requirement, classrooms must be as technologically integrated as the world around us. Making technology a seamless part of the educational experience helps students master 21st century skills as well as other core competencies, such as critical thinking and collaboration.

Building these skills is especially important in economically disadvantaged areas such as North Kansas City, Missouri, where the poverty rate is 40 percent. In an effort to break the cycle of poverty, the school district there is distributing 6,000 HP always-connected Mini PCs to its students, giving inner-city youth opportunities to build skills they will need in the workforce: using multimedia tools, conducting online research, using PCs to complete project-based lessons and using e-mail and other technology tools to communicate with teachers and other students.

In addition, technology can make education more relevant to more people. For example, at the Hope Technology School teachers are using HP TouchSmart PCs to connect with students who have developmental differences. By using the HP Voice Note program, students can record themselves and play the files back with a simple touch of the screen. This method is particularly helpful with students who have difficulty speaking because it reinforces language skills and motivates them to speak more. Students can also use their voice notes to communicate with classmates and teachers and more fully engage in the learning experience. Technology is allowing them to learn in a way that’s tailored to their needs.

Immersive and engaging learning

It’s a simple equation: When students are immersed in a subject and deeply engaged, they learn more. This is a key advantage of technology, as it can bring education to life in a way that the blackboard never could.

Consider the Mid Valley Elementary School in Oregon, where only 62 percent of third to fifth graders met state math standards in 2007. Using a 2008 grant from HP, the school employed HP tablet PCs and other mobile technologies to facilitate project- and activity- based learning. In addition, the school’s teachers received professional development to more effectively integrate technology into their lesson plans and instruction. With this new approach, the overall performance on state math standards increased by 15 percentage points. The success with students speaking limited English was even higher, increasing from 50 to 86 percent, and the number of special education students meeting state standards tripled.

The Universidad EAFIT, located in Medell├Źn, Colombia, offers another example of how technology can more deeply engage students. With an HP Innovations in Education grant, this elite academic institution has put technology at the core of the learning experience. Mobile technologies such as HP tablet PCs and iPAQs let students take the classroom wherever they go. They use blogs, e-mail and instant messaging to collaborate with each other, interact with their professors and share insights.

Technology is not only helping these university students learn the basics, but also apply what they’re learning in ways that work best for them. It’s an immersive, interactive experience, and a more effective way to prepare students to succeed beyond traditional classroom boundaries.

Making education open to all

To drive economic development worldwide, we must make education available to everyone. Technology is the key. It is a potent force for education equity, capable of freeing learning from traditional limitations and opening educational opportunity to more people in more places.

Extending educational opportunities is especially important in places where schools are few and far between. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in developing countries where access to schools is not guaranteed. In response, HP has teamed up with the Happy Hearts Fund to use technology to connect students in the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam to educational resources. By equipping classrooms with HP PCs and wireless connectivity, students who ordinarily wouldn’t have access to a computer are conducting research online and using videoconferencing to collaborate with others around the world.

Technology can also make skills-based training more easily available to those outside of the educational system, such as young entrepreneurs. In partnership with the Micro- Enterprise Acceleration Institute (MEA-I) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, HP supports the Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT (GET- IT) program, which helps 16- to 25-year-olds begin careers and launch new businesses. For example, when the Government of Ebonyi State, Nigeria, granted 25 young entrepreneurs micro-credits to start their own agricultural enterprises, GET-IT stepped in to provide training in essential business skills, including using technology for marketing and communications.

One of those entrepreneurs, Rachel Odii, was able to successfully establish her own farm business, Bridge Farms. Of her GET-IT experience, she said, “The GET-IT program has given me the potential to showcase my work to the world and has shown me how to improve my productivity. Through GET-IT I have learned how to use the Internet as a window to see what others are doing, how products are being utilized and how best to modify. We are now digital farmers.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs can enroll at one of 100 GET-IT centers in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Others can access online training courses through www.get-it-city.net, an HP-sponsored portal that offers interactive resources and tools to facilitate self-directed learning.

Technology can also contribute to economic development in emerging regions by stemming the loss of their best and brightest minds. An estimated 70,000 highly qualified people—skilled professionals, scientists, academics and researchers— leave Africa every year to seek out greater opportunities in their fields. Collaboration between HP and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is turning this “brain drain” into a “brain gain” by allowing university faculty to engage in real-time scientific collaboration from their home countries through grid and cloud computing.

For example, Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal is using their access to the European Grid (EGEE) infrastructure to tap into computing power and storage capacity. Now, their scholars can collaborate with colleagues worldwide and engage in cutting-edge projects without having to leave their home countries. Since the pilot project launched in 2006, the program has connected 20 higher education institutions throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Generation 2020

This is just the beginning. Advances in technology are transforming education for Generation 2020—giving the ninth grader who may someday work at a company like HP the technology skills she will need, or the African scholar the technology tools he will use to invent a breakthrough in science or engineering. Innovations from HP are raising the bar of educational achievement and helping more people, communities and nations participate and prosper in the knowledge economy.

  1. 1 Moyer, E.J., “An Educated View of Universities,” Research Africa, March 20, 2007, p. 20.