Thursday, February 26, 2015

Memo #3 from Mobile Learning Week 2015

Paris, France
February 25, 2015

While all of the keynotes, plenary sessions and small group discussions at Mobile Learning Week have been fabulous, my personal favorite so far has been a panel discussion on the intersection of mobile devices, girls and literacy.  As I tweeted earlier today, it was hard to keep up with all of the insightful comments, ideas and suggestions from the rock star panel.  Speak of rock stars, check out this panel lineup – and if you don’t know these folks, I highly recommend that you Google them and connect with them on social media. That is exactly what I did today!

  • Shaheen Attiqu-Ur-Rahman (Bunyad Literacy Council)
  • Gulser Corat (UNESCO)
  • Shafika Isaacs (International Education Consultant) 
  • Matt Keller (XPrize Foundation)
  • Steve Vosloo (Pearson, South Africa) 
  • Dan Wagner (University of Pennsylvania)  

It is hard to digest the entire 70 minute panel discussion in one blog posting, but here are 5 key takeaways that 12 hours later I am still thinking about.  Remember, the topic was about how mobiles can enhance literacy for all people, especially girls.

  1. Mobile devices enable two-way communications for adults and kids to comment and discuss what they are reading.  A printed book does not allow you to give immediate feedback on the content or to facilitate a discussion with folks around the world. 
  2. The inclusion of mobiles into discussions around how to improve literacy is actually instigating new conversations about what we mean when we say literacy in 2015.  The expanded version of literacy now seems to include not just reading, but different forms of writing including commentary, ICT or technology literacy skills, and critical thinking skills. 
  3. As per Ms. Attiq-Ur-Rahman, mobiles enable women in particular to have a voice; having that voice supports greater self-confidence and efficacy; having that new self-image promote the ability to create changes that impact women’s lives.  Those changes can positively impact not only the woman, but also her children, her family, her community and her society. 
  4. Having a stake and a voice in her life empowers the woman or girl to think beyond simply being a consumer of content and technology, and instead becoming a creator of digital tools and resources. 
  5. Mobile devices, wireless technology and mobile learning resources are uniquely qualified to nurture, support and sustain changes in how all people, adults and youth, look at their world and their place within it.  The ability to tap into knowledge through your fingertips, to have tools in the palm of your hand to support learning, and to be able to conveniently and effectively follow a passion for learning or entrepreneurship may seem second nature today in the US, but in most of the developing world, these are dramatic game changers. Despite this potential, a unique refrain throughout this week has been the challenge of how to scale and sustain mobile learning projects.  Much more work is needed here in both the developed and developing world. 

Tomorrow in our 4th Memo from Mobile Learning Week I am going to discuss the issue of gender sensitivity and digital learning.  This has very direct implications for how we are going to universally tackle the sticky challenge of scale and sustainability.  Despite that, I am impressed that UNESCO in collaboration with UN-Women has taken on this big topic of women, girls and mobiles for this year’s MLW.  While there were many very thoughtful leaders talking about this topic during the Symposium, let’s be candid: too many people have misunderstandings and wrong assumptions around women and girls’ interests in mobile learning.  My goal with tomorrow’s blog posting is to demystify it a bit based upon the research that we did for this week’s workshop.  Stay tuned!