By Jacqui Deelstra
From February 17 to 21, more than 500 people representing NGOs, governments, private companies and donors gathered in Paris for Mobile Learning Week—an annual conference held by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss how mobile technologies can advance the international goal of Education for All.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Empowering Teachers with Technology.” It focused on exploring how mobile technologies can help teachers work more effectively and, as a result, improve learning outcomes.
As part of Mobile Learning Week, Creative presented a demo of CreativeU, the online and mobile learning platform we’ll launch this spring.
CreativeU will allow Creative to provide high-quality and interactive education and training content to international development professionals, teachers and youth in developing countries.
The platform features three main components: “Learn,” which houses self-paced courses and allows learners to earn badges for completing courses; “Connect,” which allows them to network with others who have similar interests; and “Find,” which provides a library of useful education and training resources.
The idea for CreativeU, and UNESCO’s focus on mobile technologies as a tool for education, springs from the fact that mobile phones are present in parts of the world today where there are few, if any, books or other educational resources.
By contrast, a mobile signal now covers between 90 and 95 percent of the global population.
Traditional teacher training, too, has been out of reach for many; since it requires educators to travel and miss school days, it is also very costly.
With mobile technology, they can instead use handheld devices to access pre-loaded or internet-accessible training videos.
Learning and retention from teacher training also can be reinforced through simple tips and reminders they receive via SMS. Additional mobile solutions assist teachers with student data collection and assessment.
Other projects presented at UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week confirmed that mobile devices can be especially useful for providing teachers with training, on-going support and mentoring, and resources for classroom instruction and lesson planning.
A recent study by Pew Research looked at internet and mobile use in 24 emerging nations and found high levels of mobile phone ownership; 81 percent of respondents in Senegal and Bolivia and 78 percent of respondents in Nigeria and Indonesia, for example.
Mobile phones are therefore a huge opportunity to provide much needed education content to teachers, students and parents by using a tool and technology that is already in their community if not in their hands.
With mobile devices being nearly omnipresent, the key challenge now is for governments, corporations and NGOs to work together to find ways to improve the quality and quantity of relevant, mobile-accessible content available for teachers and learners in developing countries.
This includes the creation of content for the most basic of mobile phones, in addition to smartphones and tablets. Smartphone ownership is growing, but Pew Research found that in Ghana, for example, while 79 percent of the population owns a mobile phone, only 15 percent own a smartphone.
Discussion at the UNESCO conference also made it clear that there is an especially great need for more educational and reading content in mother tongue languages.
Massive education and training needs remain throughout the world. UNESCO estimates that in around a third of countries, less than 75 percent of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards.
Creative is excited to be part of the global effort to make online and mobile education and training more accessible and effective, in order fill the skills gaps that cannot feasibly be addressed through traditional, in-person training alone.
Jacqui is the Technology for Development Associate in Creative’s Cross-Functional Group.