Cell phones: to improve access and learning quality

In this third session, the speakers presented projects based on mobile learning conducted in their countries and on the best practices that emerged from them.
Ralph Ankri, International Project Director for Orange Labs, presented Madagascar’s in-service teacher training program, a mobile-assisted learning operation. In collaboration with the Agence universitaire de la francophonie and the French Development Agency, a tutored self-training program was established, targeting 458 teachers (including 22 tutors) with an average age greater than 50 years and a low level of basic training.
The program was based on the distribution of a learning kit (audio and print) and the use of cell phones (contacts between teachers or with the tutor). It aimed to initiate students in the use of computers and the Internet. The effectiveness of the training, which also included occasional group sessions, was analyzed through multiple-choice question evaluations and tracking of the use of cell phones; despite the differences in utilization due to technical constraints (electrical power, network coverage etc.), teachers took ownership of their telephones, and their evaluation marks improved.
Fengchun Miao, a UNESCO specialist in ICT in education, reminded participants that “two-thirds of illiterate people worldwide are women” and that cell phones offer an opportunity “to overcome the barriers blocking access to education”. The first phase of a UNESCO project aimed at stimulating more actions in this field is, through documentation and dissemination of successful experiences, to advocate the use of mobile technologies to empower women and girls.
Frederico Carvalho of Intel emphasized the fact that ICT and mobile solutions facilitate access to quality education while at the same time “developing minds, stimulating local economies, and preparing for a shared digital future”.
Satu Järvinen, a Finnish expert in partnerships for education at Omnia, presented her country’s experience: innovative teaching methods are developed by teachers and schools, and subsequently sent up the line to the national education department for dissemination. For Finland, “ICT makes it possible to learn anytime and anywhere”. This country pursues both formal and informal learning. Moreover, stakeholders are involved in the reform of educational institutions, and teacher training is regarded as crucial.
The last speaker of the session, Kilemi Mwiria, a development consultant in Kenya, spoke of the role that cell phone technology can play in higher education. Citing the explosive growth of cell phone use in Africa (25 million users in 2005, more than 650 million today), he described what an investment in mobile telephones could contribute in terms of efficient improvement of access and quality in higher education.

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