Mobile Technologies

A recent GSM Association report defines m-education as:

“Technology-enabled learning solutions available to learners anytime, anywhere. Any portable device, such as a tablet, laptop or mobile phone,that provides access to educational content through mobile connectivity (2G, 3G, or 4G complemented by mobile-based Wi-Fi) can be a tool for mEducation.”96

The same report cites three advantages of m-education, in terms of the potential education delivery and learning outcomes:

  • M-education simplifies access to content and experts, overcoming traditional constraints of time, location and collaboration;
  • It personalizes education solutions for individual learners, helping educators customize the teaching process, using software and interactive media that adapt levels of difficulty to individual students’ understanding and pace; and
  • It addresses specific challenges that lower the efficiency of educational systems worldwide.97

There are numerous examples of how mobile networks have contributed to providing school connectivity. As part of the Schools for the Future Programme in Guatemala, for example, rural schools were supplied with wireless Internet connectivity through Telgua’s 3G network. The project included 15 schools within the regions of Alta Verapaz, Escuintla, Petén, Huehuetenango, San Marcos and Izabal. The project called for infrastructure improvements comprising 17 computers per school, high-speed 3G wireless connectivity, teaching software and training. The expanse of the project covered the country from the north to the southwest and included coastal and inland areas. 98

Many companies and countries are also using social media to enhance education among school children. Enhancing education through social networking is expected to help reduce the significant numbers of school-age children in developing countries who are not receiving any formal education. Nokia launched MoMath, a mathematics teaching tool that targets users of the instant messaging platform Mxit. Mxit is South Africa's most popular social media platform, with more than 10 million active users in the country.99

Mobile technology is increasingly helping addresslimitations of education in two areas: access and personalization. Mobile networks and devices go beyond connecting schools -- they can enableteacher and student connectivity. Mobile phones are cheaper to own and easier to run than PCs. Not surprisingly, they are gaining ground as tools for delivering teaching content. Many mobile devices are now also equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as cellular connectivity, enabling consumers to use the best (and/or cheapest) connection available to them at any given time.

Like e-education, m-education allows students and teachers to access locally and globally relevant content, and they can share that content with other students and teachers anywhere. As illustratedby 2012 ITU data, mobile networks cover almost 90 per cent of the global population today, creating an unprecedented platform to increase the availability of education. 100

Wireless bandwidth, combined with modern mobile devices such as smartphones, offer even more opportunities to schools. These devices are transforming the world in two ways: functionality and availability. As prices fall, the devices become available to more low-income users, making them interesting solutions to be considered in school connectivity plans.

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