Surveying the use of mobile phones in education worldwide

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image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons, sourced from Flickr user saschapohflepp, used according the terms of its Creative Commons licenseThe Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools in India has just announced a mobile phone ban, echoing similar calls in many other places (from Sri Lanka to South Korea, from the UK to the Philippines to France) to restrict student access to what are often seen as 'devices of distraction'.

Why then will the World Bank will be kicking off a study next month looking at "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries"?

While the explosive use of mobile phones in developing countries is well-documented -- and undeniable -- and evidence is emerging that phones are slowly making their way into the hands of teens, just what this might mean for the delivery of education in developing countries is a little less clear. Despite growing hype, there are still precious few widespread examples of the use of phones for education purposes inside or outside of classrooms in developing countries that have been well documented, and fewer still that have been evaluated with any sort of rigor.

This study is intended to help to raise awareness among key decisionmakers in the public, private and civil society sectors about the potential importance of the use of low cost mobile devices -- especially mobile phones -- to help benefit a variety of educational objectives. By documenting the existing landscape of initiatives in this area and emerging 'good practice', it is also hoped that this work will serve as a common base for further analytical work in this area, and inform the impending explosion of development of new hardware, software and business services occurring on mobile devices, to the benefit of these educational objectives.

Much of what has been documented to date falls into one of three categories: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic)  discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning).

This study proposes to:

  1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries.
  2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries
  3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area.
  4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

We'll be using this blog to post preliminary findings for discussion and comment as they are available.

Where are good sources to turn to learn from actual practice?  All suggestions are welcome.

More information:

Note: The image at the top of this blog posting comes courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons, sourced from Flickr user saschapohflepp, used according the terms of its Creative Commons license.

This month's on-line Educational Technology debate from infoDev and UNESCO looks at issues related to "Can eBooks Satisfy? Creating Content for ICT-enabled Classrooms". Angus Scrimgeor, the president of the International Association for Digital Publications, will be facing off against Richard Rowe, the Chair and CEO of the Open Learning Exchange (and former Associate Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education). 

Everyone is invited to join in the discussion!


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

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