We now have a generation of students and learners that have never known a time without the mobile device. In the UK children as young as three years old are using tablets. At the other end of the spectrum, we have many in the older generations that are still using basic feature phones or who do little more on their smartphones than make calls and text. A good test to understand where someone is on this digital spectrum is to ask – Does the person wear a wristwatch or do they rely on their mobile device for the time? It is not to say that one end of the spectrum is better than the other. They are simply different ways of engaging with the world depending upon when we were born.
Given that the younger generations live and breathe mobile, it begs the question – Can we and should we engage these students through mobile devices? We could obviously ignore mobile technology, but would we be missing a trick to improving engagement and ultimately learning outcomes? Does mobile technology offer new ways of teaching and learning that simply didn’t exist before? But as previous experience shows, technology by itself has zero benefits. The benefits arise in how technology is used. However, how to incorporate mobile technology into the pedagogy is still in the very nascent stages and subject to a lot of experimentation.
Even though there are 100s and 1000s of different mobile apps available for download in the various app stores, teachers and students still often struggle to find that perfect app to support what they want to teach or learn. But to then create a good custom mobile app requires either a good knowledge of programming or deep pockets to pay the developer(s). Consequently, at KO-SU we work with teachers and students in developing and evolving a platform and tools to make mobile technology more accessible. It is about creating mobile technology that supports and is supported by an integrated community of teachers, students, parents and technologists. This can be through hands-on workshops with classrooms of students to test new functionality, or via teacher-led pilot programs that are experimenting at solving local issues in local contexts, or even the crowdfunding of new developments.
Perhaps most interesting is to see how different teachers are using the platform around the world. In Oman, teachers ran a large mobile learning pilot program of over 100 participates, using KO-SU to create and distribute intervention exercises to their students. For their innovation they were awarded second prize in their national competition. In Africa, another organisation is looking at the challenge of educating girls who are unable to physically attend schools due to climatic issues such as extreme floods. KO-SU provides the mobile learning capability that will sit on top of a wireless mesh network. Here in the UK, we often see the students themselves becoming the ‘mobile’ teacher – i.e. the students create the mobile activities that they then send to their peers. It is an extremely effective learning experience, because the students have to understand the concepts in order to create the mobile activities, rather than simply answering questions and tasks set by the teacher.
How to incorporate mobile technology into the pedagogy is an evolving area and one that is now being driven by educators’ own inspiration and innovation.
KO-SU is a graduate of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program. It makes mobile technology accessible to teachers and students allowing them to create and publish their own mobile learning activities in their own native languages without the need to program or to hire expensive developers.
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