Breaking News From the Future: Technology Puts an End to Illiteracy

This is my tenth year of teaching and I cannot believe how much technology has changed during these years. It has gone from almost none, (2 Desktops in my first classroom) to almost all (1:1 iPads in my current classroom) and everywhere in between along the way.)

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

Of course it will! It already has. Thanks to technology, students have access to a variety of tools that enable them to access the curriculum and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. This we already know, but how can technology truly revolutionize education? I believe that with the free-flow of information and MOOCs that education has the potential (and in some cases already is) becoming widely available to all, not just those who can afford it and are in a geographical location where they can legally and safely obtain it).

  • People living at and below the poverty line will have access to a primary, secondary and higher-education.
  • People living in conflict areas could have access to education (depending on the infrastructure with regards to Internet access)
  • Women and girls who are denied an education because of their gender can safely access education.

Technology has the power to revolutionize education as we know it. 

Shai Reshef is already doing this. He has established the University of the People. The world’s first fully accredited low-cost, on-line university. His idea is simple.

UoPeople is able to offer tuition-free education because of its use of volunteers, Open Educational Resources, open-source Technology and peer-to-peer learning. More than 5,000 professionals have volunteered for the university, filling key UoPeople leadership positions including University President, Provost, Academic Deans, Course Developers, Academic Advisers and Course Instructors.

Source: - 

Thanks to technology, we have the power to make illiteracy something of the past. This map shows our planet’s current literacy rates. You can view an interactive version of this map here. My biggest take-away from this map. Low-income countries have the highest rates of illiteracy. It’s not a surprise to me that this is the case, but it is something I want to help fix.
World Literacy Map: Literacy Rate Adult Total of People Ages 15 and Above

http://Citation: World Literacy Map: Literacy Rate Adult Total of People Ages 15 and Above,, viewed 31st May, 2017, <>.

How will technology change how I teach in the next 5-20 years. My hope is to be a part of this movement that Shai Reshef has started. I hope to be able to contribute back to society by utilizing technology in a way that helps everyone who wants an education to be able to get one. Ways in which I can do this:

  • Volunteering my time with organizations that provide free or low-cost MOOCs, like the University of the People.
  • Design free web-based apps that help deliver education to the masses.
  • Educate my students about ways they can make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Linking my class with classes that do not have the same access to resources that we do and share our learning and experiences together.

Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Jennifer,
    I am so moved by your post. I live and work in a city where my international school stands in such stark contrast to the local public schools where the teachers still only use chalk and chalkboards. I feel this disparity and hate it. I have been thinking a lot about how I can be a catalyst for more exchange between our school and the local schools. I totally agree with you that as new technologies become more affordable and accessible that these local schools will take off. The key is finding affordable options and providing training for teachers. Your post has reminded me to keep brainstorming, networking and talking about this issue with other educators in our city. I participate in a monthly meeting with teachers, tech coaches and administrators from four international schools. We talk about innovation, share ideas, and network. I think this topic is a great one to bring up at one of our meetings. How can we come along side our local public schools? How can we get a few key local teachers to join our monthly meeting?
    Thanks so much, Jennifer for making me think and hopefully act.

    • Hi Michelle and Jennifer,
      @ Michelle- Being in Nepal I share a very similar experience, and like you it’s uncomfortable. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been thinking of ways to connect with the local schools, and you are spot on with the idea of networking and idea sharing. In that vein, what we’ve done in Kathmandu is create an NGO called Quality Kathmandu Schools. It consists of 25 schools, of which, only three have expats attending. While in it’s infancy, the mission of the group is to create professional development opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants as well as opportunities for students K-12. We have already had a number of job-a-like training for teachers, which have proven to be beneficial. The cost was $1 and included lunch. It’s helping to set a higher standard for the Nepali schools. We are now working on student events, not athletics, but debate, art, literacy,etc. Just being in the meeting yesterday, I watched the exchange of ideas and passion for improving the education within Nepal. Perhaps it’s a model that would work for you too. Happy to share more.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I chuckled a bit at the start of your blog because I can definitely relate to your sentiment about how much technology has impacted education and classrooms over the last decade. I feel like I’ve must have been teaching in the Stone Age since I’m pushing 20yrs in education. Anyway, I think Shai Reshef summed it up best in his TED Talk as “A new era is coming that will witness the disruption of the model of higher education as we know it, from being a privilege for few to a basic right for all…” I think the new era is here and over the next 5-10yrs we will see major changes in education at all levels. I agree with you on the value of free flow information combined with the power of connectivism will help solve or diminish the disparities which currently exist for people living below the poverty line, in conflict areas, as well as for women/girls. Speaking of which, for the last two years through Building Walls of Wisdom (I’m a founding member) I’ve applied for the Google Rise Award- which focuses on creating computer science opportunities for girls. This may be another option amongst the great list of things you would like to do to help. Additionally, you mentioned focusing on your students and the impact that they can have is a key. While we all have to get through content, things are changing in our classrooms too, and I think using more project/problem based learning can lead to solutions or at least make more privileged students aware. Again, connectivism and free flow of information. Living in Nepal, I see the disparities you’re talking about, yet things are happening fast such as (click on the “here” link on landing page) and it’s groups like these who will help level playing field. Thanks for your post!

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