Closing Thoughts From a Monthlong Ed-Tech Tour of Asia

Kochi, India – The fishing nets along the shore of this small coastal village look like catapults, except that instead of hurling stones into the air, they slowly dip a large net into the water and back out (hopefully weighed heavily with fish).

Locals call them “Chinese” fishing nets, since that’s apparently where the design came from, and they have been used here for hundreds of years. Each net is fixed to a dock, and the system is fashioned with rope, logs, and stones–old technology that sti…


Amid Cows and Cacophony, an Online University Expands Its Global Reach

Delhi – Getting to Indira Gandhi National Open University, a series of cinderblock studios and satellite dishes set in a neighborhood where goats and dogs pick at trash piles and cows stroll through traffic, took about 200 honks of the cab horn.

This is arguably the world’s largest university, with 3.2 million students and counting. It has its own satellite in orbit to connect the campus with hundreds of TV stations across the country that broadcast its lectures. In the past few years it has mo…


On Many Campuses in India, Infrastructure Is Still a Problem

Delhi — Just as I was asking about the big technology challenges at universities in India, the power cut out.

I was visiting the suburban Birla Institute of Management Technology, on a campus here that is only six years old and boasts of state-of-the art classrooms and campuswide Wi-Fi. They can’t fix the country’s iffy power grid, but the computer labs here are equipped with generators to keep students from losing their papers when the lights go out.

This week international news media are focu…


What South Korean Schoolchildren Can Teach Colleges About E-Textbooks

Seoul, South Korea—Many textbooks at Osandaewon Elementary School here are digital, and many classrooms feature a laptop on every desk. The school is part of a major e-textbook experiment run by the South Korean government, and it offers lessons for colleges looking to replace printed class materials with electronic ones.

Last week the school invited a small group of participants from the e-Learning Week 2010 conference to see the e-textbooks in action, and I was able to tag along. After a snac…


At South Korean E-Learning Conference, Interactivity Is Big (Very Big)

Seoul—Interactive whiteboards are big in South Korea—and they’re getting bigger. One new model on display this week at an e-learning conference here stood nearly two-stories tall, towering over the woman demonstrating it by writing out equations.

It was just one of the over-the-top teaching technologies shown at this week’s eLearning Week 2010 conference and trade show, which drew some 1,000 participants from elementary and secondary schools as well as higher education. The meeting was organized…


South Korean Government May Ask Colleges to Help Fight Cyberaddiction

Kang-Tak Oh


Seoul—Some video games sold in South Korea come stamped with a health warning: Obsessive use of online games can harm your health.

That’s one thing I learned today from a long interview with Kang-Tak Oh at South Korea’s National Information Society Agency here. Mr. Oh’s full-time job is to combat cyberaddiction, as director of the government agency’s Media Addiction Prevention Department. I don’t know of any other country that has such a government official (though I hope people will share o…


Another Benefit of Robot Teachers: No ‘Moral Problems’

Seoul—Robots may not be that good at teaching—not yet, anyway—but at least you don’t have to do background checks on them.

Mun Sang Kim, director of the Center for Intelligent Robotics at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, knows where his robotic teachers have been. He and a team of more than 300 researchers are designing them from the ground up—attempting to give them realistic facial features, arms that let them gesture, and sensors so they keep their distance from students.



So Your Campus Wants to Work in China? That Could Get Complicated

Beijing—Fun-Den Wang, an emeritus professor and retired businessman, just wants to give away course materials—specifically, to translate the free courses offered by MIT and other universities in the United States into Chinese, and make them freely available online. But the Chinese-American professor has faced obstacles at every turn, and now the open-education group he started is facing its toughest challenge yet, as it tries to stay afloat once its grant money ends a few months from now.

Mr. W…


In China’s Internet Cafes, Content-Blocking Is Largely Effective

Beijing — Information does not want to be free. It doesn’t care, really. Despite the famous aphorism that the Internet inevitably drives openness, information might just as well want to be forgotten about — there’s plenty else for people to do in cyberspace that has nothing to do with news, politics, or activism.

That’s what I felt after visiting an Internet cafe near Peking University, a smoky basement where more than 50 people played video games, chatted with friends on instant messenger, or …


China’s Answer to MIT’s OpenCourseWare May Get Reboot

Beijing — The Chinese government has sunk millions of dollars into a nationwide lecture giveaway online, but a recent report found the effort deeply flawed, and some professors say it is likely to be drastically revised or completely scrapped next year.

Finding out how the program works and what might become of it has been a continuing riddle during my week of interviews here. Luckily I wasn’t alone in the quest — most of the week I traveled with The Chronicle’s local correspondent, Mary Hennock…