Claudia Aparicio, Fundación Telefónica, Colombia
Requirements and opportunities for the development of a mobile learning strategy in emergent countries
ABSTRACT: In Colombia, most schools (85%) have computers connected to broadband (in average 1 computer per 24 students). Nonetheless, only a small group of teachers of public education have computers with Internet access at their own homes. The availability of these technologies in teachers’ homes is critical to ensure and accelerate the implementation of ICT in schools and hence, improve the quality of education. Teachers need appropriate tools to prepare classes from home, participate and collaborate in communities and completely acquire digital literacy. In 2008, the Ministry of Education created an initiative called “Computers for XXI Century Teachers”, to subsidize computers for teachers. However, despite the available budget and the low cost of services and equipments, the group of beneficiaries is still very small (almost 15.000) compared with the total head count of teachers in public education (330.000 teachers).
Mobile phones are an important alternative tool to improve teacher access to educational content and promote peer collaboration. Moreover, teachers are familiarized with mobile technology. In Colombia most teachers have one or two mobile phones of their own (71% of them pay-as-you-go). Nevertheless, they do not use this important tool in their work. As other countries in Latin America, Colombian mobile market penetration is almost 90%, but only a 10%1 of population uses the mobile phone to access the Internet or check their email. Teachers are not the exception, and as average citizens tend to use mobile phones only to call and send text messages. However, the use of mobile phones can facilitate access to educational contents; can be an important teaching aid and a powerful tool to collaborate. Could mobile technology help close this gap of the use ICT technologies among teachers? What are the conditions and opportunities for achieving this purpose?
This presentation will emphasize on the basic conditions, according to our understanding, that are needed in order to take advantage of the mobile phone as an educational tool. Our experience has had two major stages. The first stage was the creation of tools that make possible the creation of basic mobile-phone-community. The second was the expansion of the community and the improvement of the relevance for teachers.
The first stage consisted of the launching of a free mobile messaging club which gave information to teachers through text messages (SMS). Texts promoted that teachers visited the WAP version of our website (Educared). As a complement, we developed a platform called Libro vivo (Live book) that facilitates the collective construction of stories based on text and internet messages sent by multiple participants. With these tools, we created our first version of a mobile community. This experience taught us the way to structure the contents in order to create active the communities. In 2008 we had 880 subscribers that viewed 2.300 pages in the WAP site. By December 2009, we had 20% less members that viewed 7 times the number of pages (15.000).
Our second stage started on the last quarter of 2009. Having created a small community, our new goal was to make it bigger and relevant for its members. To achieve our new goal we began working with a business partners, and decided to open two lines of work:
Firstly, we decided to create a
Secondly, we engaged in what we call “connecting the mobile community with specific education goals”. Last year, Nokia, Pearson Foundation, Telefónica Movistar, Fundacion Telefónica and the Asociación Chilena de Municipios launched the project Bridges IT in 300 schools of 5 regions in Chile. The main goal of this project is to improve the student achievements in math and science. The project is developed in rural zones and promotes that teachers use audiovisual content that they can download from the mobile phones in areas with limited Internet access. This initiative is being adapted for Colombia where it will be complemented with elements mentioned above. It is hoped to be launched the first semester of 2011.