by: Brad Cameron
In his book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, David Bornstein argues that social entrepreneurship originally focused on identifying
individuals talented in addressing social problems. Social entrepreneurship evolved to building and expanding entrepreneurs’ capacities to address widespread social issues through formalized organizations that borrow from best practices in business and organizational
Today, the Internet and other forms of electronic communication connect and empower people to come together to take on local and global issues. The latest iteration of social entrepreneurship
combines the strength of social enterprises with the passion of activists, enabling professionals from a variety of fields to use technology to develop solutions for problems ranging from political underrepresentation to disparities in health care.
One area that social entrepreneurs and activists are undertaking is international education inequality. A root cause of this widespread inequality is a shortage of qualified teachers
in poor countries. Schools serving rural communities struggle most to provide adequate educational opportunities. Traditional teacher education programs require many years of expensive postsecondary education, which few aspiring teachers in academically poor
performing countries can afford to enroll in or complete. Of those able to complete these programs, many use their teaching degrees to obtain jobs outside education. Those who choose to enter the classroom are often unwilling to teach in rural communities
where unsafe drinking water, limited or no access to electricity, and lengthy commutes discourage teachers from moving from cities. Due to this teacher shortage, many schools hire unqualified teachers, with both qualified and unqualified teachers receiving
little to no formal professional support. As a result, students attending school in rural communities consistently perform below national standards.
Using Technology to Improve Teacher Preparedness in Limited-Resource Areas
I had the opportunity in the summer of 2014 to work with United Kingdom-based Limited Resource Teacher Training (LRTT), a company that sees this teacher-shortage crisis as an opportunity
to uncover how technology can improve teacher preparedness and ongoing support. LRTT provides professional development packages to teachers in the UK and United States who travel to communities around the world to learn from teachers in limited-resource areas
while sharing their expertise. Exemplifying the power of social entrepreneurship, LRTT takes an innovative approach toward training and supporting teachers, going beyond what textbooks and seminars provide and empowering teachers to borrow ideas from other
cultures while challenging how they instruct.
I worked with LRTT to pilot a program that uses battery-powered projectors to show training videos to teachers working in rural communities throughout Uganda and eventually around
the world. LRTT is creating videos specific to the contexts in which teachers work, filming speakers native to the regions in which the videos are shown, and making it easier for teachers to understand and feel more comfortable receiving instruction from people
who look and sound like them. And while it is not feasible for LRTT to make it more lucrative for qualified teachers to seek placements in these communities, this company is making it easier for qualified and unqualified teachers to provide exceptional learning
experiences. LRTT plans to sell these videos and projectors to schools at affordable prices, and provide training on how to implement the program in addition to ongoing support throughout the year.
Modern social entrepreneurship relies on the collective power of multiple organizations collaborating with each other and individuals. As such, LRTT works with teachers from different
cultures as well as a slew of partner organizations. This summer I met with directors from one of these partners, STiR Education, a nonprofit organization that brings together teachers to identify target issues their schools share and begin developing “micro-innovations.”
Teachers then try these innovative approaches and discuss how effective they are. Utilizing LRTT’s network in the community I worked in, STiR brought teachers together at the local college, where they identified parental involvement in schools as the number-one
issue they wanted to address. They then met monthly to develop, test, and discuss “micro-innovations” related to parental involvement they had applied at their schools. We worked with STiR to identify ways that we could apply this organization’s method for
collaborative, self-driven learning to the way LRTT works with teachers.
We have begun improving the video-led teacher training program, and continue to develop new partnerships and seek regions in which we can apply our program. We are aware of the importance
of monitoring and evaluating our progress each step of the way, and so we ask ourselves: How are teachers completing the program? What are teachers understanding? What are teachers applying to their classrooms? What are teachers struggling with? Working with
other organizations and passionate teachers around the world, we hope to improve 1 million teachers’ readiness to provide their students an exceptional education by 2020.
More About Limited Resource Teacher Training
Limited Resource Teacher Training (LRTT), provides low-cost, high-quality teacher training programs. The company has provided 1,235 training sessions to teachers in six countries.
LRTT employs a growing network of contributing teacher Fellows from the UK and U.S. that has grown to include 130 teachers contributing a minimum of one month working with teachers worldwide. More information is available at www.lrtt.org.
About the Author
Brad Cameron completed an evaluation of LRTT’s video-led teacher training program as part of his coursework at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. He is an
alumnus of Teach For America, and is interested in how technology can reshape the way students are prepared to work in and create the future. Cameron’s blog can be found at www.pbradc.com.
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