This is a very short briefing to bring the public awareness to the important series published by UNESCO last year. These key points are from those papers.
UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning comprises fourteen individual papers that were published throughout 2012. The Series is divided into two broad subsets: six papers examine mobile learning initiatives and their policy implications, and six papers examine how mobile technologies can support teachers and improve their practice.
Within the two subsets there are five geographical divisions: Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Each subset also contains a ‘Global Themes’ paper that synthesizes central findings from the five regional papers. Two additional ‘Issues’ papers round out the Series. One paper highlights characteristics shared by successful mobile learning initiatives and identifies supportive policies. A separate paper discusses how mobile technologies are likely to impact education in the future.
MOBILE LEARNING FOR TEACHERS should be the prioritized focus, since teachers are crucial to mobile learning efforts!
SITUATING THE GLOBAL TEACHER CRISIS
The need to train high-quality teachers is urgent. According to the latest data available from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the world is facing a massive teacher supply problem.
A severe deficit in teacher quantity is unfortunately not the end of the bad news: low teacher quality is a related and equally serious concern. Data from the UN indicate that a large number of teachers working in classrooms around the world are unqualified or underprepared to meet the educational demands of the twenty-first century. Despite the fact that employers increasingly require workers who are able organize, filter and use information creatively, many school instructors simply ask students to memorize information in textbooks. Also, given the exigencies of the modern workplace, educators who do not teach students how to leverage technology to improve their productivity unintentionally fail to prepare them for employment.
MOBILE LEARNING FOR TEACHERS: KEY FINDINGS
The five ‘Mobile Learning for Teachers’ papers shed light on some of the ways in which mobile technologies are currently assisting educators, either by aiding their work with students or by helping teachers improve their own pedagogical and content knowledge.
- Mobile phones can expand educational access
- Mobile phones can support instruction, administration and professional development : A number of mobile learning projects highlighted in the regional papers have sought to help teachers do a difficult job better, both by supporting their day-to-day work in classrooms and by opening up new avenues for professional development.
- First, the availability of online content, much of it accessible via mobile devices, gives teachers and students access to a vast array of educational materials to support and supplement classroom instruction.
- Second, mobile phones can facilitate improved administrative communication between schools, students, teachers and parents.
- Third, mobile phones can enhance teachers’ professional development by supporting mentoring and observation for pre-service and in-service teachers, and by allowing teachers to participate in online professional communities.
- Example: By conducting video observations and sending feedback via mobile devices, a mentor could potentially provide more frequent feedback while reducing travel time between classrooms and schools. Not only is this arrangement more convenient from a logistical perspective, but it may also improve the quality of feedback by allowing the mentor to pause and replay the video, something that is not possible in live observations. Mentoring using mobile technologies can also strengthen the level of support teachers receive by facilitating more regular communication between teachers and mentors.
- Teachers are crucial to mobile learning efforts
Educational content, software platforms and pedagogical models need improvement
To be sure, a great deal of mobile content is still quite basic: software often provides students with digital flashcards and rudimentary games with an educational twist, but not much more. To a certain extent, this is understandable: content is limited by the device through which it is accessed, and much of the content currently available was designed for use on older handsets. In general, software has had difficulty keeping up with advances in hardware.
Content has also tended to focus on subjects and concepts that are taught in a linear and, for the most part, universal way…. Although there is a degree of interactivity, this regularly amounts to little more than software informing a student whether he or she answered a given question correctly…. Finally, most educational content available on mobile devices is fixed, meaning that individual teachers do not have opportunities to build or tailor particular learning modules to meet their students’ needs. At present, the dominant model is a one-size-fits-all approach similar to that offered by physical textbooks.
In summary, while the technological environment for mobile learning is rich, the available content is still limited, not so much in quantity but in quality. It is clear that content providers have yet to fully embrace the possibilities of a truly mobile digital platform for education.
8 POLICY CONSIDERATIONS OF MOBILE LEARNING FOR TEACHERS
- Consider targeting teachers or small groups as end-users rather than individual students
- Recognize the legitimacy of online professional communities for teacher development
- Develop national curriculum standards to encourage digital content development
- Provide targeted funding for mobile learning to enable sustainability and scalability
- Choose technology appropriate to educational goals and contexts, even if it is ‘low-tech’
- Take equity issues into account when designing mobile learning initiatives
- Consider substituting smartphones for laptops to achieve 1:1 learning environments
- Look to higher education and lifelong learning for models of mobile learning projects
Check out those papers here. Lots of case studies from around the world were covered.