Mobile Learning can level playing fields, or so we’re told. Imagine, many kids in the world have access to mobile phones but not computers and maybe not schools – what if learning could be delivered through the technology that a student carries in his/her pocket?
Mobile Learning does not necessarily imply mobile phones/cellphones; it means different things to different people, but using mobile phones in socio-economically disadvantaged communities is what I’m interested in, with students aged 10 to 17 or older, and without general access to any other technology.
My baseline would be a connected mobile phone with camera and mp3 player, and no Internet. Barely a ‘feature phone’, and certainly not a smartphone, but probably a realistic starting point.
I get how mobile learning might succeed in the developed world but how does it work in low-tech communities with irregular power and with not an ‘app’ in sight?
With a handheld device you are mostly a consumer of information. You could, for example, consume one of Salman Kahn‘s videos, transferred from your tutor’s Internet-connected device. You could consume voice recordings, maybe delivered on pre-recorded memory cards. As a creator of information you cannot directly write a blog due to the keyboard and screen limitations, and the lack of Internet, but you could record (and maybe edit?) videos, photos and interviews and transfer them to your tutor’s device for assessment.
Long written pieces of work: essays, critiques, poetry, theses… any written demonstration of learning or creativity – they surely are not possible with a mobile phone. Paper would still be needed.
And what about the assumption that all kids carry mobile phones? Not in India they don’t! Eighteen months ago, in the disadvantaged community I was working in, no girls had mobile phones; only boys of 17 or older had them. I still can’t fathom out how they could afford to buy and run them. But maybe a group could pool their funds.
For all this to work, you would still need occasional access to a tutor or to an Internet café, and money.
I see it as a tool in a toolbox, but no Swiss Army Knife. How can it be a leveller of these playing fields?