UNESCO Mobile Learning Week
We had an opportunity to attend the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week on Tuesday 18th February 2014. The UNESCO mobile learning week brought together officials from Ministries of Education, teachers drawn from all over the world, international experts and practitioners in mobile learning, academics, and representatives from technology companies. The symposium was opened with a video address from Ms Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, followed by speeches from UNESCO officials, panelists drawn from different education related institutions and teachers. Several issues were brought forward especially by teachers and academics concerning the use of mobile technology in schools.
According to several speeches and presentations, it is evident that there is a large gap between first world and developing nations when it comes to using mobile technology in schools. Fortunately, education Ministries, NGOs and philanthropists in developing countries, are addressing this issue.
Through presentations by panelists and mobile learning experts we learnt how some countries have developed their own approaches to mobile learning. A case in point would be that of The Philippines, which lost a lot of school material after Typhon Haiyan. The lack of infrastructure did not bring learning to a stop. NGOs and experts in mobile learning such as telephone operators have come up with mobile learning procedures accessible to the majority of school going children in The Philippines.
Another example is that of a school in Niger where most teachers are confronted with overpopulated classes and very limited learning material. In this case teachers recommended mobile learning as the only alternative to reaching and interacting with all the students. A teacher who used to teach a class of more than 30 students with only two textbooks shared his experience with us. His school was lucky to get tablets from an NGO and now he manages to control his class well with each student working on a tablet. He added that the level of concentration has improved and students are more motivated to learn through tablets than by sharing a few books.
Those are just but few examples of how mobile technologies and their implications for education have enhanced the quality of education and transformed learning processes in schools situated in different continents.
Several NGOs and educators also showcased effective and innovative ways in which mobile technologies are being utilized for teacher support and professional development. The principal of a well-equipped school in Singapore explained the difficulties she encountered in initiating the use of technology in her school. Not only did she see some disinterest in her teachers, she explained that she had also been having a hard time trying to convince her teachers that mobile learning is innovative and very crucial for students’ future. It can be difficult to enforce ICT use in classrooms especially if teachers are not technology savvy. Several education Ministries such as Turkey and China have initiated ICT training programs for teachers who in turn transfer this knowledge to their students. This year’s UNESCO Mobile Learning Week was dedicated to teachers and we are very glad to have met them and discussed with them a few issues affecting mobile learning. Teachers and NGOs in developing countries brought up the issue of lack of quality learning content for mobile devices. We are addressing this issue at eduPad by continuing to ensure the provision of affordable quality learning apps to students and teachers in more than 42 countries.