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mLearning in Africa: Lessons from the m4Lit project (By Steve Vosloo)
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mLearning in Africa: Lessons from the m4Lit project (By Steve Vosloo)

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Presentation for the VII International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning: Mobile Technologies for Learning & Development. …

Presentation for the VII International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning: Mobile Technologies for Learning & Development.

In 2009, the m4Lit (mobile phones for literacy) project set out to explore the viability of using mobile phones to support reading and writing by teenagers in South Africa (SA). Two m-novels, part of a series called Kontax, were published on a mobisite www.kontax.mobi as well as on SA's most popular mobile instant messaging platform, MXit. In the seven months following launch the stories had been read over 34,000 times, users had submitted over 4,000 entries in writing competitions for the stories, and over 4,000 comments had been left by readers on chapters.

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  • 1. mLearning in Africa Lessons from the m4Lit project Steve Vosloo Presented at Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development Summit Barcelona, October 2010
  • 2. www.yoza.mobi
  • 3. A tale of two halves 1.m4Lit: The project 2.Lessons With a sprinkling of reader comments ...
  • 4. A good story, although very short. I'd like to see more on MXit because it encourages reading! Lesleigh(F)
  • 5. A gud st0ri alth0ugh vewi sh0rt id lyk 2 c m0re 0n mxit bk0z it enc0uragez readin! Lesleigh(F)
  • 6. 1. m4Lit: The project
  • 7. m4Lit (mobiles for literacy) project  South African project, launched August 2009, to explore mobile novels (m-novels) as a complement and alternative to printed literature  Goals: − To explore whether teens are interested in reading stories on their mobile phones − To see whether and how they write using their mobile phones − To better understand mobile literacies  Presented here:  Findings of pilot phase (August-December 2009)  From Jan to Sept 2010 (Kontax to Yoza)  Project ongoing, incubated by the Shuttleworth Foundation
  • 8. 60,000 reads 30,000 comments 10,000 compo entries South Africa and Kenya Statistics are for period 29 September 2009 to 22 September 2010 (mobi, MXit,YAL)
  • 9. Rationale for m4Lit
  • 10. 51% South African households that own no leisure books (TNS Research Surveys, 2006)
  • 11. 7% Public schools in South Africa that have functional libraries of any kind (Equal Education, 2009)
  • 12. The mobile revolution  South Africa has excellent mobile infrastructure  Good mobile coverage  High uptake of phones – up to 90% amongst urban youth (Kreutzer, 2009)  MXit, a mobile IM service, claims 15m registered users in South Africa  Mobile web access on the rise in the “townships” (Donner and Gitau, 2009)  Relatively low charges for mobile data (but expensive voice and SMS charges)
  • 13. Literacy and technology paradox In school Out of school Poor literacy Frequent interaction performance with written word and “Book-poor” digital technologies Low access to “Mobile-rich” computers (Walton, 2010)
  • 14. I often hear this from parents, teachers and reporters: Teens don't read enough Teens don't write enough Teens love their phones
  • 15. It's great ... for me it really hard to pick up a book to start readin but i don mind readin on my phone dotty1
  • 16. Will our teens read and write novels on their phones like in Japan?
  • 17. Kontax, a teen m-novel
  • 18. Story development workshop in Khayelitsha
  • 19. 22
  • 20. Kontax 1 Project pilot phase Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 21. >63,000 subscribers >28,000 aged 11-18 >27,000 aged 19-24 This uptake is substantial when compared to other youth brands on MXit MXit statistics are for period 31 October to 26 November
  • 22. Page view trend (Kontax 1) % of page views Chapters
  • 23. >17,200 reads >7,200 teens reads MXit statistics are for period 31 October to 26 November 2009
  • 24. It kwl an nyc nt boring. And siyafundisa. Thule
  • 25. Ag!BORING. . .:-z Thandi
  • 26. Summary of research findings  Most digital writing takes place on mobile phones (but it tends to be short, like SMS)  Most reading takes place on mobile phones or on paper  The isiXhosa version was popular, especially when considering the systematic marginalisation of the language in literacy contexts  Lots of peer to peer learning  “Data suggest a substantial amount of interest [in m- novels]” … and given the number of teens with mobile phones, there is “plenty of room for growth” (Walton, 2010) (Walton, 2010; Deumert, 2010)
  • 27. Digital lives: Peer learning (Walton, 2010)
  • 28. Mobile phones are a viable distribution platform for longer form content and for enabling reader participation
  • 29. T z a vry !ntstng stry,really attrtz da a attns f da reader.k!p t up L!hle
  • 30. Its overated and typical bt great as it show iz a local production 5 out of 10 4 me Pule
  • 31. Kontax 2, 3, 4 Yoza Young Africa Live (YAL)
  • 32. Kontax 1 Project pilot phase Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 33. m4Lit timeline Project pilot phase Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 34. m4Lit timeline Project pilot phase Kontax 2 Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 35. m4Lit timeline Project pilot phase Kontax 3 Kontax 2 Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 36. m4Lit timeline Project pilot phase Yoza Kontax 3 Kontax 2 Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 37. m4Lit timeline + Shakespeare Project pilot phase Yoza Kontax 3 Kontax 2 Planning Kontax 1 Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2009 2010
  • 38. Yoza i love your stuff your flava is hot (Anon)
  • 39. On Vodafone Live!, zero data charges (totally free) Content covers "love, sex and relationships in the time of AIDS" By Praekelt Foundation
  • 40. Estimated reads of Yoza series 22 Aug - 22 Sept 2010 (n=12289) 6000 4500 3000 1500 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1
  • 41. Estimated reads of Yoza series Over roughly the same initial period (1 month) 20000 When compared with initial Kontax launch, Yoza numbers are low 15000 10000 5000 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1 Kontax 1
  • 42. Estimated reads of Yoza series Over roughly the same initial period (1 month) 20000 But if YAL is included, then the Yoza series have done well 15000 10000 5000 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1 Kontax 1 Yoza YAL
  • 43. Competition entries of Yoza series 22 Aug - 22 Sept 2010 (n=1543) 1000 750 500 250 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1
  • 44. Competition entries of Yoza series Over roughly the same initial period (1 month) 2000 When compared with initial Kontax launch, Yoza numbers are low 1500 1000 500 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1 Kontax 1
  • 45. Competition entries of Yoza series Over roughly the same initial period (1 month) 3000 But if YAL is included, then the Yoza series have done well 2250 1500 750 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1 Kontax 1 Yoza YAL
  • 46. Comments on Yoza series 22 Aug - 22 Sept 2010 (n=8461) 5000 3750 2500 1250 0 Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1
  • 47. Word cloud of comments and competition entries on Yoza, 22 August to 22 September 2010
  • 48. Comparison of Yoza series 6000 4500 3000 1500 0 Reads Comments Competition entries Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1
  • 49. Comparison of Yoza series 6000 Teen issues Romance 4500 3000 1500 0 Reads Comments Competition entries Kontax 4 Confessions 1 Sisterz 1 Streetskillz 1
  • 50. What readers thought of Yoza series
  • 51. First nd for-most id like 2 say is, A shack is not a place we all proud of living but its what makes us who we are. I come from a shack. And believe me i have good memories in that shack. And as 4 u amanda shame on u shame on u. Latoya my sweety pie im proud of u, u dont need a atm u need a dad. High five Latoya high five.:) Brian
  • 52. If friar's plan wrks, then romeo wil b able 2 cum nd take juliet wit hm 2 liv hapily 2geda at mantua bt if it fails, sumbdy's gna b dead. Lol! Elsie
  • 53. I loved the book, wish it didnt have an ending. Shakespear please bring another one like this one. IT WAS MWAAAH!! Blessed 1
  • 54. Summary of Kontax 2, 3, 4 Yoza Young Africa Live (YAL)
  • 55. Summary  For Yoza per se:  Novelty factor is real -- number of reads not as high as for initial Kontax launch  Number of competition entries also lower  But, high number of comments  And comments are generally longer  Older crowd  For m-novels on Yoza and YAL  High number of reads, comments and competition entries
  • 56. 2. Lessons for m4Lit
  • 57. Lesson: Mobile is a content monster
  • 58. Waiting for the next chapters kills me! Suzi*
  • 59. Lesson: Mobile is instant (and we didn’t always moderate in time)
  • 60. Y0h weneva i ryt a bludi c0ment they dnt add it wat da f*** IZ GNG ON U R FLIPN WOKN ON MA NERVZ ND I TKE DA DECENSY 2 READ AL DA CHAPTERZ SO0O B0RING:e:((z) Cheeky
  • 61. Lesson: Mobile is always on
  • 62. Times of responses 400 300 200 100 0 1:00 AM 3:00 AM 5:00 AM 7:00 AM 9:00 AM 11:00 AM 1:00 PM 3:00 PM 5:00 PM 7:00 PM 9:00 PM 11:00 PM Solution: moderate constantly
  • 63. Lesson: Platform matters
  • 64. Traffic via yoza.mobi: 1%, via MXit: 99% Also: compare Confessions 1 on Yoza and on YAL (has established user base) Solution: use someone else's platform if you can.
  • 65. Lesson: Marketing matters
  • 66. Uptake directly linked to marketing Tradepost message: Heya! Kontax is a new mystery story about Sbu, a missing girl & a cellphone – Visit Tradepost > MXit Mix Tradepost messages > Education > Kontax now to start reading the exciting chapters, meet the characters & download awesome wallpapers. Be a part of this story… P-) (Walton, 2010)
  • 67. Lesson: It's hard to sustain interest
  • 68. 26-Aug-2010: Tradepost message (advert) increased unique visitors to Yoza by 6.9 times 10-Oct-2010: Tradepost message increased unique visitors to Yoza by 1.3 times Novelty factor?
  • 69. Lesson: General audience is fickle, fans are loyal
  • 70. Most prolific commenters on Yoza, 22 August to 22 September 2010
  • 71. Some fans left more than 50 comments on Yoza in a month. Is the drop in numbers from launch to subsequent episodes a problem? Perhaps it is just the curious onlookers drifting off, while those really interested come closer ... the shift from quantity to quality?
  • 72. Lesson: When reading becomes “snacky”, it’s hard (but not impossible) to make it sticky
  • 73. Lesson: Comments can be rich feedback or absolute rubbish
  • 74. Lesson: You might end up with something you didn’t expect
  • 75. Not all stats are in, and the age categories have changed slightly since the start of the project, but ... There is a clear increase in uptake in the 19-25 age group (we aimed for ages 11-18). Solution? Expect the unexpected.
  • 76. Lesson: For us it’s not come cheap
  • 77. Marketing: one Tradepost message = EUR3,500 Content development Hosting Software development, but that is once off and platform will be open-sourced with Praekelt Foundation (developers) Solutions? 1. Find someone with money, e.g. Nike, and get them to pay for it. 2. Formalise in the education system. 3. You can do it for free, e.g. Wordpress with mobile plugin ... but don’t expect big numbers.
  • 78. Lesson? Are we mainly reaching people who already read?
  • 79. Many user comments are by people who say they don’t read much. Majority of competition winners say they love to read. Based on the feedback we are reaching both.
  • 80. So ... mlearning in Africa
  • 81. “book poor” “mobile phone rich” e-reader of Africa HUGE potential as m4Lit has demonstrated
  • 82. The stories r interesting nd fun 2 read, they kip ma englsh gng Hlengiwe gulube
  • 83. Kontax: Coverage and awards
  • 84. Future
  • 85. Not just literacy but social messaging content Keep experimenting in this space Experiment with more interactive storytelling formats, e.g. Choose your own adventure Allowing teens to self-publish Move into formal education?
  • 86. Key sources Two research reports produced for the pilot phase: Klk cc ... Supporting Indigenous Literacies in the Digital Space By Ana Deumert, March 2010 Linguistics, University of Cape Town Mobile literacies & South African teens: Leisure reading, writing, and MXit chatting for teens in Langa and Guguletu By Marion Walton, March 2010 Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town Reports available at: m4lit.wordpress.com/reports
  • 87. m4lit.wordpress.com steve.vosloo@shuttleworthfoundation.org
  • 88. Questions 1.Effects of texting on non-English mother-tongue speakers? 2.To what extent will teens allow “us” to occupy “their” space? 3.Who is excluded from the mobile internet? (Walton, 2010) 4.When reading becomes snacky, what does it do to concentration abilities? 5.“There is a distance and conflict between mobile literacies and school literacies. This needs to be explored and better understood because mobile literacies are so pervasive in young peoples' lives” (Walton, 2010). What do we do with this?
  • 89. But isn't txtspk bad for literacy?  Various schools of thought on this (Vosloo, 2009)  "The more exposure you have to the written word [including txtspk] the more literate you become and we tend to get better at things that we do for fun" (Plester, 2009)  But, [while skills in mobile networking can be a valuable coping strategy,] “experience in chatting is unlikely to help teens produce written academic genres, or to qualify them for middle class jobs and careers” (Walton, 2010)