Lessons in mobile learning from international development
Brightwave's Virginia Barder shares her thoughts and some examples of how mobile technology has been successfully utilised for international development
Start with the learner
At the risk of suggesting that the Emperor's clothes are sometimes tatty to the point of non-existent, there are some mobile learning apps which might be seen as solutions looking for a requirement, rather than the other way round.
This positive and interesting story proves how useful mobile can be as a valid and indeed essential way of providing appropriate information and learning. Farmerline: An app on terra firma
Farmerline provides a toll-free helpline to farmers in Ghana. Experts use a web interface to send voice SMS responses to farmers' questions on best practice for farming. It's cheap, easy to use, fit for purpose for illiterate farmers, and genuinely uses the right technology in the right way. It's great to see something that is a really creative, imaginative and effective use of technology to help people learn.
Free white paper: Building a business case for m-learning
A recent blog from the (excellent) Center for Global Development is on a related theme - about why people adopt or don't adopt certain technologies. Simply - they will if they find them attractive and useful. Which underlines my belief that you should start with the learner - what they need - not what we want to impose on them. (After all, they should recognise that their needs, and the needs of the organisation that they work for, are aligned.) And the blog reclaims 'fit for purpose' as being something to aspire to.
Simplicity is creative - or creativity can be simple
There are many lessons to be learned about creativity and learner/user focus from the developing world. Erica Kochi, co-lead of Tech Innovation at UNICEF has some inspiring examples of how simple solutions are making a huge difference. A blog 'Why mAgriculture is Growing' points out that while there have been stories about mobile phones in agriculture in Africa and Asia throughout the 2000s, it's only now being picked up in the US. It cites also the University of Illinois's Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) project which produces educational animated videos for farmers in 80 languages that can be played back on ordinary cell phones.
The BBC and DFiD have developed the BBC Janala multi-platform service in Bangladesh to teach English through mobile phones, the internet, tv, and print. The mobile phone service provides daily 3-minute audio lessons which are accessed by dialling 3000. A deal has been done to reduce call charges, to less than half a penny per minute. Within 12 weeks of its launch, 1 million mobile lessons had been accessed, rising to 9 million by December 2011.
There are endless examples - and they all demonstrate simple approaches designed to be truly fit for purpose and truly aimed at understanding the learner/user. This can't be a bad lesson for us all.
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