Much lip service is paid in various quarters to the potential use of mobile phones in education in developing countries. That said, concrete examples of such use -- especially projects that have gone beyond small initial pilot stages -- remain few and far between. This is beginning to change. One interesting project can be found in Bangladesh, where the BBC World Service Trust and BBC Learning English are implementing the Janala project, an initiative that is providing English language lessons to citizens via their mobile phones as part of the wider English in Action program in Bangladesh, funded by the UK's Department for International Development (UKaid).
Some of people involved with the Janala project recently shared some information about what they have been doing -- and learning -- as part of a discussion series at USAID around 'mobile education' topics (the other project presented in the latest session was the MILLEE project, which has been profiled on this blog before). I was fortunate enough to be be able to sit in on the presentation, at the kind invitation of USAID educational technology team, and thought I'd share some brief highlights:
Much popular attention has been paid to the so-called "$100 laptop" initiative and other programs to provide "1-to-1 educational computing" to students in developing countries. Even at $100 dollars per device, however, such solutions are still much too expensive for most communities around the world. Indeed, the typical scenario for computer use in schools in developing countries, and especially in rural areas, is for multiple children to crowd around one computer while one child controls the mouse, leaving the other children as onlookers.
On March 3, 2010, the World Bank Institute (WBI) and InfoDev launched EVOKE, an online alternate reality game with the goal of supporting social innovation among young people around the world.
I’ve written previously about the EVOKE initiative here and here --and wanted to take this opportunity to share some data and reflections on the experience.
By the time the EVOKE adventure ended 19,324 people from over150 countries registered to play, far exceeding expectations.Players submitted over 23,500 blog posts (about 335 each day), 4,700 photos and over 1,500 videos. The site received over 178,000 unique visitors and 2,345,000 page views with time per visit averaging over eight minutes.For the month of March EVOKE generated just under 10% of what the World Bank’s entire external website generated with regard to page views (1.1 million versus 12.1 million).Phenomenal numbers.Below is our original pyramid of participation and our actual numbers for EVOKE.Across the board EVOKE exceeded our expectations.
The recent announcement that Amazon.com will be dropping the price of its latest Kindle e-reader to US$139 is only the latest news item from the exploding field of 'e-books', which is receiving increasing attention from education policymakers around the world.
Back in December the EduTech blog asked, rather speculatively, Can eBooks replace printed books in Africa? It turns out that this question is not only hypothetical. A number of organizations are investigating answers to questions as this -- including the World Bank, where, in response to requests from a few countries, researchers are investigating possible opportunities and potential impacts of the introduction of a variety of digital technologies (including e-readers) into learning environments in sub-Saharan Africa.
"While we often focus on highlighting successes in our field, it’s no secret that many projects just don’t work – some don’t scale, some aren’t sustainable, some can’t get around bureaucratic hoops, and many fail due to completely unanticipated barriers. At FAILFaire we want to recognize the failures: the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise."
When I started working full time exploring issues related to the use of educational technologies in developing countries about a dozen years ago, many ministries of education would express their desires for introducing computers in schools by saying things like 'We want something that can enable students and teachers to do x and y and z'.
More recently, this conversation has switched in many places, as increasing numbers of ministries (and especially their most senior officials) have initiated their related planning processes by saying that 'we need a computer that costs $___'.
The implications of this shift on planning practices in many places have actually been pretty profound.
Now, it is true that, in the 'early days', the initial rationales behind putting computers in schools were expressed in rather vague terms (e.g. 'we want children to access the world of information on the Internet'). That said, such formulations often presented a useful starting point for discussions of what the educational goals of a particular ICT program for schools might be. For the past half-dozen years or so, however, it appears to me that there has been a much greater focus in many quarters on *only* the retail prices of various devices, with discussions of what specific learning goals these devices are meant to help meet -- and how -- shunted to the side.