The potential of Mobile Open Education resources for students in developing economies.

A Mobile Leap?

Connecting teachers and students in developing economies to open education resources through their mobiles. A huge potential.

It’s now possible for people almost anywhere to connect to quality learning materials on almost any topic. If you want to know how to grow tomatoes or to study nuclear physics, you can watch a ‘how to’ youtube video or follow a free course online, from Coursera, sometimes gaining a certificate from a world-renowned university. That is, if you know that the resources exist and have sufficient online access. Two factors often not in place for schools in developing economies.

In an effort to bridge the access to OER gap, a wealth of organisations such as the Commonwealth for Learning and Connexions are collaborating to gather, translate and share available Open Education Resources (OER) for their partners and schools in low resource contexts.

At the same time, while many teachers in developing countries are unable to further their own education, or gain access to quality learning materials, they do regularly have access to a basic handset or a feature phone. A feature phone which can perhaps access the internet and can play videos from the SD card.

Three important departure points come to mind as to how we could harness the huge potential of OER:

1. How can we alert teacher’s to this trend and connect them to relevant online resources, either for their own professional development or for use in the classroom?
This, whilst taking into account obstacles such as low bandwidth, lack of time, cost and old handsets.

2. Can departments of education curate and select curriculum specific resources and share them to school using sd cards from phone to phone for example ?

3. What is the potential for students to follow extra courses, using their phones, considering the need for sustained motivation and the usual obstacles of cost and bandwidth. Is there perhaps need for an app to connect end users to the resources most suited to their context?

In the coming months I will explore these three questions, using ‘User Scenarios’ to explore how the growing trend of online and open educational resources can be appropriated to offer new opportunities via mobile for teachers, students and education systems in developing and post conflict economies.

I will be building on my work experiences of the last 10 years at Butterfly Works, working in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Afghanistan working with multi-discipline education teams to co-create curriculum compatible, open and interactive resources. And of course inspired by the UNESCO and EFA drive – amongst other international bodies – for quality teacher’s for developing economies and the challenge of how to motivate and train so many new teacher’s.

Further my explorations will be informed by the recent Mc Kinsey report ‘How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better’, the Uncollege Manifesto, the Maker Movement, the FrameWork for 21st Century Learning, the Flipped Classroom, the Mac Arthur DML Badges project, Simon Simek, Mozilla Labs, mLearn 2012, the broader Open Education movement and more.

I’ll be glad to hear from others who are exploring similar questions.

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