Can Mobile Pave the Way for Education in the Developing World?
Children and mobile phones may sound like a bad combination, especially when used in school, but is there actually great potential in this technology to do a lot of good?
The Nepalese government would argue that mobile phones have no place in schools and have banned their use on school premises following complaints from parents that the phones hindered the performance of students.
But do phones, schools and learning necessarily have to be such a bad combination? Not according to organisations such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Commonwealth of Learning, US Aid, The Pearson Foundation, The International Youth Foundation (IYF), government bodies such as The Ministry of Education in Kenya, Department for International Development in Kenya, the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (NISMED), and mobile phone companies such as Nokia to name just a few.
That’s an impressive list of organisations behind mobile phone use in education. Are they on to something?
Mobile technology used in education (commonly known as ‘m-learning’) can, and is, being used to improve the quality of teaching, attitudes toward technology, and general education on subjects such as maths and science, and may even help to save lives!
This method of teaching and learning is perhaps having the most impact in developing countries. In a practical sense, mobile phones are cheap and widely available compared to computers, which can be expensive and more difficult to obtain in certain parts of the world.
I think one of the most important aspects of m-learning in third world countries is its potential to save lives: Commonwealth of Learning has a programme in India that uses mobile phones to teach people HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention by developing an interactive game via text messaging. Bridgeit – a partnership consisting of Nokia, the Pearson Foundation, The International Youth Foundation, and UNDP – works in Tanzania and the Philippines to aid teaching by way of m-learning and includes the education of HIV/AIDS awareness, and other diseases common in the developing world such as cholera and malaria and their prevention.
Following Bridgeit‘s success in the Philippines – where the project runs in 290 schools – it was launched in Tanzania, where it currently operates in 150 schools. Quite successful so far then! But what is so different about this method of teaching? What makes it special?
Well it might not be anything so revolutionary in first world countries, but in countries where there is less access to modern technology, it seems to be making a difference. Teachers are able to choose from a choice of videos on maths, science, and other topics including HIV/AIDS and gender awareness, and download these to a mobile phone, which is in turn connected to a television in the classroom and shown to the students. This is really something different and revolutionary for more impoverished parts of the world, as it is the first time where children have really been able to learn using visual stimulation.