Mobile Learning: The classroom in your pocket

In our first blog post about the WSA-mobile winners 2012, we take a closer look at mobile learning. Find out how mobile devices empower women in India, boost student’s exam results and teach children by engaging them in fantasy gaming environments.

“When I joined the education center, I didn’t know how to write my name”, says Munni Devi from the village of Mustafabad in northern India. Analphabetism rate is high in the region, particularly among women. To tackle this situation, a regional initiative called Mahila Shakti encourages local peasants to acquire basic skills like calculating, reading and writing. The women learn in groups, making use of the single technical device they own: their mobile phones.

Thousands of kilometres further west, German university student Stephan Schmidt is preparing for his next anatomy class. Three times a day, he repeats the micro-lessons his lecturer prepared for him. While brushing teeth or sweating in the gym, Stephan’s smartphone keeps him updated about key concepts of human anatomy, turning learning into a dynamic part of his daily routine.

M-learning: A multi-faceted phenomenon

A village in the rural north of India and a European university campus are two examples that do not seem to have a lot in common at the first sight. Yet, both illustrate the global scope of a phenomenon called mobile learning. Currently, there are almost six billion mobile connections around the world – most of them in so called developing countries. At the same time, national governments, education institutes and content developers are beginning to realize the huge potential of mobile devices in the field of education. Many of them have successfully started to implement education programs, tailored to their users’ and citizens’ needs.

Potentials and pitfalls

Within the last months, UNESCO has issued a whole series of working papers on how to make use of mobile devices in different learning environments around the globe. Their central lessons: Mobile devices can contribute to make learning more efficient, inclusive and sustainable. However, it takes joint efforts of governments, content producers and education institutions to realize this potential. For instance, teachers will have to cast off their prejudices against mobiles as a mere distraction of pupils. Furthermore, it will take committed national governments, willing to implement programs that are both effective and sustainable. And both local producers and global players will have to concentrate their efforts on creating solutions that are tailored to the needs of their particular users – be it Indian women, college students or children in local primary schools.

Local content with global relevance

To provide you with an insight into the diversity and richness of global content, we have collected six products that demonstrate best practice in mobile learning. All of them have either been awarded at WSA-mobile or one of the partner awards. All of them can be considered role models for what mobile content producers around the globe are able to achieve.

Mahila Shakti (Winner at Manthan Award 2012)

The Varanasi region in India is famous for its traditionally skilled artisans and its handloom sarees. However, illiteracy is widespread among women in the area. To improve their socio economic and political situation, the Human Welfare Association supported the program Mahila Shakti – Mobile as an Education Tool for Women Empowerment. In educational centers and groups, women learn basic skills they need for their daily business, like reading, writing and calculating. Statistics prove the program’s success: 1,024 women are enrolled in the education center, developing their skills on mobile phones, making Mahila Shakti an example of how mobile technologies can be used to positively influence people’s everyday life while at the same time empowering women to gain independence and self-consciousness.

Back in Time (WSA-mobile Winner 2012)

Back in Time is an educational book app for iPad. It is a multimedia interactive journey through the defining events in the history of our Civilization and of the universe itself. The application covers a wide range of events in very different timescales: the shaping of our universe, billions of years ago: humankind first steps, several millions of years agoand the major events in the history of our Civilization, thousands of years ago. An interactive 24-hour clock is used to help contextualize the events. In this imaginary clock, the earth was formed 8 hours ago, the dinosaurs were extinct 7 minutes ago and Homo sapiens have no more than 1 second of existence.An intuitive interface allows the user to quickly navigate through time exploring any event. Each one is documented with social and historical context, several images, an illustrative timeline, and a section devoted to little-known interesting facts.

Project Noah (WSA-mobile Winner 2012)

Project Noah is a digital butterfly net for the 21st century. The platform has become a powerful tool for learning about nature and a leading technology solution for crowdsourcing ecological data collection. Users can share their nature encounters, get help with identifying species, and contribute valuable ecological data to ongoing research projects from around the world.

Knowledge Pulse (WSA-mobile Winner 2012)

KnowledgePulse is a push e-learning solution, similar to push e-mail on your BlackBerry. It allows users to integrate learning into their daily routines. The client-server system supports knowledge acquisition by a smart system of repetition; using intelligent learning cards that are well suited for mobile learning and that are presented to learners in a personalized manner. Knowledge Pulse creates value for companies and public administrations by securing their training investments and for individuals by supporting their knowledge build up even when they have little time to learn. The main focus of the solution is to make learning easy, content authoring easy and administration easy.

The Math Mage (WSA-mobile Winner 2012)

The Math Mage is a unique fantasy game that blends education with all-out action, pushing players to battle their past enemies in a bid to prove the might of their magical powers and keep the world safe. Starting off as understudies for the alchemist Sigstern in a world that has become increasingly skeptical of magic, players begin to learn the power of magic from their mentor’s mathematical formulas.

Wild Chords (WSA-mobile Winner 2012)
WildChords is a game that makes learning to play the guitar fun, motivating and addictive. It is played with a REAL guitar (acoustic or electric), and on the iPad. The microphone of the device records the played notes and chords, and the high-tech polyphonic signal processing technology evaluates the played notes and gives real time feedback to the user. The story of the game revolves around a zoo breakout, animals have to be hypnotized with guitar music.

Learn more about the fascinating world of mobile apps in our next week's blog feature about m-Entertainment!