Thank you to USAID, OAS, sponsors, members of the mEducation Alliance steering
committee for hosting us and making the event so fruitful.
Following is an observation of a few things that I’ve seen in the last two days …
Photo: Steve Vosloo, CC-BY
This is my third symposium and I’m amazed by the levels of enthusiasm, innovation
and passion here. The conversations and work continue to mature. The known
projects are growing. New, exciting projects are being launched. We are building an
evidence base, we are developing tools to use. There is definitely stronger thinking
around assessment and partnerships. What’s valuable here is that we are seeing a
significant number of examples being shared. Somewhere in there you’ll find a
partnership context that you can draw on for your initiative.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncalno/8538709738 CC-BY
The focus is much less on the technology --- and more on the learning and related
This is good. Although we must not leave the tech out altogether. The tech itself is
becoming more exciting, powerful, smaller than, overall, cheaprr. This is also good!
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/41894171397@N01/2494643 BY-NC-SA
Many of the sessions have spoken about the importance of good educational
content, regardless of the output device or platform.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/20645801@N00/4190886 CC-BY-NC-SA
The pedagogy of mobile learning is critical. How can teachers effectively leverage
mobile technologies for more impactful teaching and learning? The danger is that
they are teaching in the same old way, but simply using new tools that are not being
exploited to their full potential (“new wine in old skins”). The very nature and style of
teaching and learning must, where applicable, reflect mobility, connectivity, instant
access, a paradigm of learning that is “information rich” but “question poor”.
It is very good that there has been a focus on teachers at the Symposium:
• They are the single biggest success factor, or point of failure, when it comes to
• We know that teachers are busy, overworked and, often, unqualified. We cannot
just give them “yet another thing to learn”.
• Many are nervous about technology and about disruption.
This presents CHALLNGE TO US:
• We need to ensure that the mobile learning component makes the teacher’s job
more efficient, more effective.
• We need to ensure that we guide them and explain mobile learning’s benefits and
• We need to create easier to use tools and platforms.
Photo: mLearning Africa, CC
Informal usage of mobiles is vastly more common than use of it in formal education.
Connecting these two is a challenge and adaptation needs to be happen on both side
(formal ed recognising the learning that happens informally, and informal ed being
more cognisant of formal outcomes and goals). I’ve not seen much about connecting
these learning spaces over the last few days.
Photo: mr-blixt http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrblixt/4505182518/sizes/l/in/photostream/ CC
We need to develop sustainable economic models that work. I’ve not seen much
about how to do this over the last few days.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/93372608@N00/2111952075 CC-BY-NC-SA
Education is still highly resistant to change. We need to make the case for mobile
learning. Because kids have tablets, or because it’s cool, or because it’s addictive, are
not good enough reasons.
Overall it’s about an ecosystem. Infrastructure, content, pedagogy, policies, training,
supportive leadership, etc. Mobile learning seldom happens in isolation:
• Rather, in complement with existing efforts. Extending and enhancing in new ways.
• It is often a blended learning experience, where each piece of the puzzle
contributes in the way that it does best.
• This will only happen more.
Photo: Suzan Black http://www.fotopedia.com/items/jmhullot15a0e0f8c195a488a17456423648617e, CC-BY
Heavy D and the Boyz asked: “Now that we’ve found love, what are we going to do
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/acme401/9144981188/ CC-BY-SA
The question today is: “Now that we’ve found SCALE, what are we going to do with
Mobile learning is growing fast. That elusive things that we have been striving for,
SCALE, is beginning to happen. And it’s not going to slow down.
Scale happening in USA, Uruguay, Peru, Thailand, Turkey, Argentina, and more.
Mobile learning programmes by the government with hundreds of thousands of
devices. It is happening on a smaller scale, but still in the tens of thousands of
devices, in many other countries, e.g. South Africa and Mauritius. This is a very recent
phenomenon. When I started at UNESCO 2 years ago this list would have been much
Are these rollouts thinking about that ecosystem?
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/james_nash/2943502167 CC-BY-SA
Mobile will not save education. It will make a significant impact and open new
opportunities to educate, connect, assess, plan and support in ways not possible
before. But it will not save education. Mistakes will be made. And at scale, big
mistakes can be made.
Our role is to provide expertise, case studies, guidance, data, networks, partnerships,
etc. To help those going to scale. As Michael Carrier said to me: “Sometimes our role
is to slow things down”. We need to ensure that the implementation is well thought
through, that it is holistic in nature. We need to be the voice of reason. Mobile
learning is exploding. How do we ensure that it is effective, holistic, well planned and
If it is not, then we will all hit the “trough of disillusionment”.
The mobile revolution continues unabated. It is truly radical that there are 6.8 billion
mobile phones subscriptions and that 96% of the world is covered by a mobile
network. For the first time in the history of the world most people can be contacted,
communicated with and can communicate back.
We are living through a profound change in the history of the world, completely
unprecedented. We certainly have the passion to make the most of it. Let’s combine
that passion with curiosity as we leverage this new opportunity to achieve education
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/305425495/sizes/o/ CC
But remember: the mobile landscape is uneven, across and within countries. Varied
infrastructure, costs, handset features, perceptions, literacy levels, etc.
Most people buy there airtime at kiosks like this, pre-paid and in small amounts.
Our goal is to guide, research, practice, share and grow mobile learning, being
inspired by the opportunity while being sensitive to the uneven landscape.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zantinge/5467811/sizes/l/in/photostream/ CC