Randy Wang

Digital Library

ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics

USA - 2007


For founding and leading the Digital Study Hall Project, a computer systems technology based approach to creating, distributing, and collectively improving the digital teaching materials used by teachers serving the rural poor children in the third world.

Randy Wang is selected as the recipient of the ACM Eugene Lawler Award, for founding and leading the Digital Study Hall Project, which uses computer systems technology to improve the education of poor children in the rural third world. Randy's insight was to put the tools of computer science at the fingertips of the large number of local people struggling to address problems of rural education. Digital Study Hall (DSH) is a bit like YouTube meets Netflix, in a rural schoolhouse with a dirt floor. DSH provides tools to help local NGOs make videos of excellent teachers teaching the standard textbook material, which are distributed via DVD using the postal system to local schools, for the local teacher to use in the classroom. More than "just TV," but that doesn't begin to capture the rich interaction between the video, the teacher and the students. Instead of students passively watching a video, the video is of an actual classroom, showing how the topic should be taught, complete with student interaction. When a local teacher has a better idea how to teach some material, the local NGO can videotape them for distribution to other schools. In other words, the system gets better the more it is used. DSH has had an astounding success rate. Over thirty "spoke" schools are now participating in the project, clustered around "hubs" that provide the technical assistance in Lucknow, Pune, Bangalore, Calcutta, and soon, Dhaka. Over three thousand students are participating just in Lucknow alone. Students in the project, whose older brothers and sisters are barely literate even after years in school, are often progressing at a rate comparable to middle class children in urban settings.