Mobile Learning and Policy Implications


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Presented at the 9th Intel Education Summit, Stockholm, 6 November 2012

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  • Lance Armstrong, before he fell from grace, said that It’s not about the bike. A theme here is that it’s not about the technology. Mobile phones will not save education. It’s about so much more.Image: Eugene CC
  • The pedagogy of mobile learning is critical. This has come through strongly. How can tech effectively support teaching and learning?
  • Informal usage of mobiles is vastly more common than use of it in formal education. Connecting these worlds is a challenge.Image: mr-blixt CC
  • Education is 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.Image/ tomwahlin CC
  • There are examples of mobile learning – from small-scale in single classroom, to large-scale national rollouts. Turkey, Thailand, UAE. Overall it’s about an ecosystem. Infrastructure, content, pedagogy, policies, training, supportive leadership, etc. Are these rollouts thinking about that ecosystem?Image:Suzan Black, CC-BY
  • Image: CCMOBILE PHONES (from ITU or GSMA)There are an estimated 6 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. 3.2 billion mobile phone subscribers.90% of world’s population and 80% of people living in rural areas have mobile coverage.105 countries have more mobile phone subscriptions than inhabitants. Developing countries accounted for more than 80% of the 660 million new mobile subscriptions added in 2011.In 2011, 142 million mobile subscriptions were added in India alone. Mobile broadband subscriptions have grown 45% annually over the last four years. Sales of tablet computers are expected to surpass sales of PCs by 2016.Cisco: There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015 ( the first time in the history of the world, most people can be reached and can communicate with each other.
  • Currently,Africa has the lowest penetration of mobile technology of any continent on Earth. YET it is also the fastest growing mobile market.Those who do not yet own mobile technology are buying it en masse. Growth has been exponential.Data from:Grosskurth, 2010:, 2011: and IBM, 2011:
  • Within a decade mobile devices have moved from a fairly “ho-hum” technology (a sort of luxury good) to devices of tremendous functionality. For many people around the globe their mobile device is an appendage of sorts, as central to their day-to-day life as the thumbs and fingers they use to manipulate it. Today a mid-range smart phone is as powerful and likely easier to use than a state of the art desktop computer from 2005. It is also, arguably, far more useful because it is with a person most of the time and therefore more easily integrated into day-to-day tasks. For example while a computer can show you how to get from “Point A” to “Point B” a mobile device can guide you in the here-and-now.
  • The simple answer is there has been a “fortuitous convergence” Mobile devices have saturated society and they are—based on our research—increasingly relevant to education.
  • But remember: the mobile landscape is uneven. Varied: infrastructure, costs, handset features, perceptions, literacy levels, etc.Most people buy there airtime here, pre-paid in small amounts.Image: CC
  • Guiding question: How can countries best leverage mobile technologies to support EFA goals and enrich learning?All of this work has provided (and will continue to provide) essential input for the Mobile Learning Guidelines. The guidelines seek to synthesize a great deal of information into a lean document that will be useful to people like you.
  • We identified 12 unique benefits of using mobile technologies for learning.Be aware that this was, of course, an exercise in distillation. There are other benefits and even the benefits we separated out are hardly islands; there is a great deal of cross over. For example, it can be argued that a defining characteristic of personalized learning is that it can happen anytime and anywhere. And certainly learning that can happen anytime and anywhere is going to extend the reach of education. With these qualifications in mind though, I think the list is an important starting point for policy makers and others who are asking: “What’s all the fuss about mobile learning?” I think the list highlights the main benefits of mobile learning while also differentiating it from learning facilitated by other, non-mobile ICTs. I only have time to say a few words about each of these 10 benefits, but should you want additional information, the Guidelines themselves are on the internet and can be accessed… well… anytime and anywhere you have an internet connection.
  • Increased access to mobile technologiesExtend educational opportunities: BridgeIT, Colombia initiative, BBC JanalaOpen new pathways for learningMobile learning does not replace but complements existing education investments and approaches in ways that best utilize the attributes of mobile devices
  • Mobile devices are generally owned by their users, highly customizable, and carried throughout the dayIndividualize learning based on different learning styles: visual learning, audio learner
  • Long or quick learning experiencesUNECSCO Mobile Literacy ProjectSuperMemo
  • Immediate indicators of successPotential for highly targeted contentUse assessment in the way it was intended: to improve learning, NOT to rank, sort, and punishMake teachers more efficient by automating the distribution, collection, evaluation, and documentation of assessments
  • Mobiles can be used to access informational content outside of schoolsUse time in class to discuss ideas, share alternate interpretations, work collaboratively, and participate in laboratory activities
  • Yoza Cellphone StoriesPink Phone project in CambodiaMOOCsPeer-to-peer learning
  • EcoMOBILE environmental field tripsAugmented reality
  • Enabled by cloud computingMaximize advantages of different types of devices and technologies
  • Example: language learning appsHear, “speak”, flag for later review, access supplementary materials
  • Because mobile technologies can be used to access educational materials anytime and anywhere, they hold special application for learners living in areas afflicted by conflicts or disasters. In the aftermath of a war or flood, students can, in many instances, utilize educational resources and connect with teachers and peers via mobile devices, even when traditional schools and universities are closed. Research has indicated that minimizing educational disruptions in post-conflict and post-disaster areas speeds up recoveries and helps heal fragile societies. Additionally, thanks to the integration of text-enlarging, voice-transcription, location-aware, and text-to-speech technologies, mobile devices can dramatically improve the learning of students with disabilities, even in resource poor communities.
  • Messages sent by mobile devices are generally faster, more reliable, more efficient, and less expensive than alternative channels of communicationDisseminate and elicit informationSupport peer-to-peer learning amongst teachers, e.g. Teaching Biology ProjectEMIS
  • Mobile learning initiatives can be cost-effectiveCan leverage the technology people already ownBUT there is still much research to be done to determine overall cost vs benefits of desktops and tablets, print and digital
  • And now with those benefits in mind…UNESCO has proposed a set of 10 policy guidelines to help perhaps maximize the traction and impact of those benefits. As before, these recommendations are by no means comprehensive and there is also a bit of blurring between them. That said, they articulate how you and your colleagues might like to approach mobile learning and relevant ICT in education policy. Let me briefly provide some explanation for each of the 10 recommendations. Please keep in mind that the actual document is available to you, so no need to scribble notes.
  • Most policies are “pre-mobile”Need to review existing ICT in education policiesExamine the unique educational potentials and challenges offered by mobile technology and, when appropriate, incorporate these into broader ICT in education policies Avoid blanket prohibitions of particular devicesProvide guidance on how new investments in technology can work in conjunction with existing educational investments and initiatives
  • Prioritise the professional development of teachersEncourage teacher training institutes to incorporate mobile learning into their programs and curriculumProvide opportunities for teachers to share strategies for effectively integrating technology in schools with similar needs and student populations
  • Ensure that, where possible, curriculum, educational resources, and lesson plans are available to teachers via mobile devicesSupport projects that explore the practicability of providing professional development via mobile technology
  • Ensure that, where possible, content, including online repositories of educational resources, is as widely accessible as possible from mobile devices OER: Support the open licensing of mobile content to ensure its widest possible use and adaptationCreate incentives to encourage software and content developers to think “mobile first”Encourage the development of platforms or software that allow classroom teachers to create or tailor mobile content. Promote the creation of local educational content in local languages for mobile accessAdvocate for standards that make mobile hardware, software, and content accessible to diverse student populations, including students with disabilities
  • Gender gap: 300 million more men than women own mobile phones in low to middle income countriesAmeliorate existing gender gaps by encouraging women and girls to use mobile phones for learning. Specifically, government officials should identify obstacles preventing women and girls from using mobile devices and propose solutions to overcome these obstaclesPromote mobile technology as a tool that creates educational opportunities for women and girls as well as men and boysIdentify culturally relevant and acceptable ways of normalizing mobile phone ownership for women and girls
  • Support the provision of robust and affordable mobile networks within and across communities, especially in educational institutions such as schools, universities, and librariesConsider providing full or partial subsidies for access to mobile data and broadband services (“m-rate”)
  • 3 common approaches 1) governments or other institutions provide devices directly; 2) BYOD; or 3) governments and institutions share provisioning responsibilities with studentsEnsure equal access for all students and teachers to mobile technology and participation in mobile learningWhen possible, allow students to “own” their mobile devicesEncourage government departments and educational institutions to negotiate with vendors and leverage the purchasing power of large numbers of students
  • Promote the “system strengthening” uses of mobile technologiesEncourage schools and individual educators to communicate with students and parents via mobile devicesExtend the reach and effectiveness of EMIS by integrating support for mobile access/technologies
  • Promote responsible use of mobile devices by teaching digital citizenship When possible, adopt RUPs instead of AUPsWhen practical and within reason, take obvious steps to safeguard online behaviour by blocking access to inappropriate material and communicationArticulate strategies to balance online interaction with offline interaction (to avoid too much “screen time”) Stay abreast of research surrounding potential health risks associated with mobile technology
  • Negative social attitudes is a major barrierHighlight and model how mobile technology can improve teaching, learning, and administrationShare research findings and evaluations of mobile learning programsEncourage dialogue among key stakeholders – including principals, teachers, learners, parents and community-based organisations – about mobile learning. Provide a coherent vision of how technology, including mobile technologies, will further learning goals
  • Mobile Learning and Policy Implications

    1. 1. Mobile Learning andPolicy ImplicationsSteve VoslooUNESCO Programme Specialist: Mobile LearningPresented at the 9th Intel Education SummitStockholm, 6 November 2012
    2. 2. A few themes from Day 1 of the summit …
    3. 3. It’s not about the bike (the tech)
    4. 4. The pedagogy of mobile learning is critical
    5. 5. Connecting formal and informal learningsettings
    6. 6. Education is highly resistant to change
    7. 7. The ecosystem of mobile learning
    8. 8. The mobile revolution
    9. 9. In Africa mobile connectivity is becomingincreasingly common 2012 Estimated 735 2005 million mobile 87 million mobile subscriptions 1995 subscriptions 600,000 mobile subscriptions
    10. 10. Vastly improved functionality Bona fide computer Large screen Multimedia smartphones and communication tablets Feature phones Seamless internet Limited internet compatibility Basic mobile compatibility phones Small screens No internet compatibility
    11. 11. Increasingly ubiquitousand powerful mobile devices Potential to benefit learners everywhere Expandingapplicabilityfor teachingand learning
    12. 12. The mobile landscape is uneven
    13. 13. UNESCO’s work in mobile learning Mobiles for Teacher Literacy Development: Working Papers Development of Four Country Series: Global Women and Girls Projects Reviews Project Issues Paper on Issue Paper on Mobile Learning the Future of Policy Guidelines Mobile Learning for Mobile Learning Policy Online Support Resources
    14. 14. Turning on Mobile Learning in …• Africa and the Middle East• Asia• Europe• Latin America• North America• Global
    15. 15. Mobile Learning for Teachers in…• Africa and the Middle East• Asia• Europe• Latin America• North America• Global Themes
    16. 16. Aims of the Guidelines:• Raise awareness and put mobile learning onto the ICT in Education agenda.• Promote value and practicability of mobile learning.• Make high-level recommendations for creating policies that enable mobile learning.Primary Audience:• Policy makers
    17. 17. Continuum of response to mobile learning Ban Ignore/observe Engage
    18. 18. UNESCO Guidelines on Mobile LearningUnique Benefits of Mobile Policy Technologies for Recommendations Learning
    19. 19. 1) Expand the reach and equity of education2) Facilitate personalized learning3) Power anytime, anywhere learning4) Provide immediate feedback and assessment5) Ensure the productive use of time spent in classrooms6) Build new communities of students7) Support situated learning8) Enhance seamless learning9) Bridge formal and informal learning10) Assist learners in unusual circumstances11) Improve communication and administration12) Maximize cost efficiency
    20. 20. Expand the reach and equity of education
    21. 21. Facilitate personalized learning
    22. 22. Power anytime, anywhere learning
    23. 23. Provide immediatefeedback and assessment
    24. 24. Ensure the productive useof time spent in classrooms
    25. 25. Build new communities of students
    26. 26. Support situated learning
    27. 27. Enhance seamless learning
    28. 28. Bridge formal and informal learning
    29. 29. Assist learners in unusual circumstances
    30. 30. Improve communication and administration
    31. 31. Maximize cost efficiency
    32. 32. UNESCO Guidelines on Mobile LearningUnique Benefits of Mobile Policy Technologies for Recommendations Learning
    33. 33. 1) Create or update policies related to mobile learning2) Train teachers to advance learning through mobiletechnologies3) Provide support and training to teachers through mobiletechnologies4) Optimize educational content for use on mobile devices5) Ensure gender equality for mobile students6) Expand and improve connectivity options while ensuringequity7) Develop strategies to provide devices for students whocannot afford them8) Use mobile technology to improve communication andeducation management9) Promote the safe, responsible, and healthy use of mobiletechnologies10) Raise awareness of mobile learning through advocacy,leadership, and dialogue
    34. 34. Create or update policiesrelated to mobile learning
    35. 35. Train teachers to advance learning through mobile technologies
    36. 36. Provide support andtraining to teachers through mobile technologies
    37. 37. Create and optimizeeducational content for use on mobile devices
    38. 38. Ensure gender equality for mobile students
    39. 39. Expand and improveconnectivity options while ensuring equity
    40. 40. Develop strategies to provide devices forstudents who cannot afford them
    41. 41. Use mobile technology toimprove communication and education management
    42. 42. Promote the safe, responsible, and healthyuse of mobile technologies
    43. 43. Raise awareness of mobilelearning through advocacy, leadership, and dialogue
    44. 44. UNESCO Mobile Learning Week 2013UNESCO Headquarters Paris, France 18-22 February
    45. 45. Thank