UNESCO Mobile Learning week 2014

This is a quick overview of a few things that took place in February of 2014 at UNESCO Mobile Learning week in Paris. The presentations and post event materials are now available on the Mobile Learning Week webpage here and there is a quick post about it here detailing some of the presentations.
and post-event materials are now available on the Mobile Learning Week 2014 webpage - See more at: http://en.unesco.org/events/mobile-learning-week-2014#sthash.ikPBb9SA.dpuf
and post-event materials are now available on the Mobile Learning Week 2014 webpage - See more at: http://en.unesco.org/events/mobile-learning-week-2014#sthash.ikPBb9SA.dpuf
and post-event materials are now available on the Mobile Learning Week 2014 webpage - See more at: http://en.unesco.org/events/mobile-learning-week-2014#sthash.ikPBb9SA.dpuf

In short, there were more than 700 participants from over 60 countries, with policy makers, researchers and people from industry. The theme of the week was 'Teachers' and the aims of the week were to think about how to:

1) understand the needs of different stakeholder groups in regards to research findings and monitoring and evaluation data;

2) discuss how research can inform and support the work of teachers by improving the policy environment in which teaching takes place;

3) explore the capacity of existing research to improve policies and programmes and to identify research directions which will impact future policy formulation and programme delivery.

I participated in the research track which dealt with a number of questions:

First Discussion – pilots, projects & their data
Second Discussion – the role of research, and of researchers
Third Discussion – from evidence to priorities
Fourth Discussion - participants, stakeholders & ethics
Fifth Discussion – research-informed research funding
Sixth Discussion – programmes, monitoring & evaluation
Seventh Discussion – dissemination, publication, symposia, workshops

There were many great presentations during the week and for a detailed roundup see Mark Pegrum's excellent blog post here on the whole week. One of the keynote presentations that I thought was interesting was from Singapore. It was on learning design which Chen Keen Tan from Crescent Girls’ School described and discussed in her presentation (called 21st Century Learning by design) in which she talked a bit about the use of the Microsoft the 21CLD framework, which identifies six dimensions for 21st century learning, and can be used by teachers when they are designing learning experiences for their students.

More than 700 participants from over 60 countries
More than 700 participants from over 60 countries
Open Badges and Mobile Learning

In Paris I met Adele Botha from South Africa who is working on a fascinating project in South Africa using badges with teachers engaged in mobile learning. Adele is an academic based in Pretoria. Her project is using badges for mobile learning in South Africa, and they've managed to find ways to issue badges by SMS. This is a large scale project that rewards teachers who earn badges that show they have learned skills to use and implement technology for teaching. The teachers as a reward are given technology to use from the South African authorities. There is a nice description of this project here

A few further details on Adele Botha's work can be found here:

I was also able to talk to some representatives of UNESCO Bangkok, who have put together this app to teach kids about disaster risks and flooding in Thailand. It looks awesome! I thought they might like to think about badges for this, to complement the work they had been doing. It seems a good fit potentially. http://www.unescobkk.org/th/news/article/flood-safety-and-fun-users-review-sai-fah-educational-game/

I also met two AWESOME ladies from the Tennessee Board of Regents (who just lit up my world) who were interested in how they could use badges in their work. They were Nicole Kendall http://www.kendallcubs.org/Teachers.html and her lovely mum Ms Robbie Melton, who do this stuff http://emergingtech.tbr.edu/  they are a pair of human dynamos, really, and ran a cracking session :) 

The Web Literacy Framework

I had a chat with lots of people about Mozilla's work on creating the Web Literacy Framework. I talked to some people from the British Council about this. The British Council is involved in development work and education in many devloping countries. The British Council clearly is interested in thinking about linking English literacy and digital literacy through it's work. http://www.britishcouncil.org/partner/international-development/sector/english-development

The British Council's work in Africa is focusing particularly on livelihoods and English language training. Their projects require them to use basic smartphones that can run simple apps. I mentioned Firefox OS phones just out and talked about the kind of problems facing their organisation working across Africa in many remote locations.

One of the British Council projects involved a simple android app for geo-tagging and data collection for example. In fact I thought there were some clear links between UNESCO's work in mobile learning and the British Council's projects. Certiainly both shared questions about how they might best gear mobile learning towards employability and informal learning for young people. For example:

UNESCO was also involved in running a numbe of mobile learning projects. UNESCO seemed to be focusing on out-of-school youth, building flexible linkages between secondary and higher ed, technical and vocational education and also literacy through mobile learning particularly for women

UNESCO had carried out research on mobile learning projects that were particularly based around reading and literacy. Steve Vosloo's presentation covers it here:

There was a clear focus on literacy at the week, and UNESCO has taken a strong position on making it a key priority by supporting things like WorldReader (Steve Vosloo), and running their own pilot projects in four countries.

Mark West is at the lead at UNESCO on mobile learning now and he has been putting together two policy documents focusing on literacy particularly. Soon to be published are 'Reading Without Books: 15 projects that leverage mobile technology for literacy in developing countries' and 'Reading in the Mobile Era: a survey of mobile reading in 7 developing countries'. Mark West is working to pull together policy cohesion for work on global literacy. Check it out here: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/m4ed/unesco-mobile-learning-week/webinar/mark-west/

Webmaker discussions

I talked to people about web maker lots. In the end there was a proposal to try to run some more hackathon type hands-on sessions during the next mobile learning week. I thought it could be something that the webmaker team or appmaker could work with potentially if anyone wants to do that..

Other meetings

I also met Dave Parsons, who has put together an excellent read on the state of mobile learning http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/future-of-mlearning-inspiring-ideas.html

I was lucky to meet people from SMART who were demonstrating some aamazing work in the Philippines. I talked to them, and I thought the work was really interesting. They have some amazing ideas for using mobile tech with isolated schools on remote islands that they are piloting. As they said, if it works there then these ideas and innovations will probably work anywhere...


I also met Ilona Buchem who is in Berlin working on Digital Media and diversity. She has an excellent blog on mobile learning stuff too http://ibuchem.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/ple-and-smart-cities/

The research track panels were very good and most of it went out onto twitter with the hashtag: #mlw2014

What was clear to me from this week was that many governments and projects need help finding cheaper and more effective solutions for the delivery of mobile learning. If they can overcome barriers to cost they stand a better chance of finding ways to bridge the digital divide in developing contexts, and potentially finding solutions to policy and funding questions for education and for access to information and the internet. In many ways this is still an evolving space.

I was glad to see the diversity in the presentations, the policy space and discussions were not simply framed by the problems or interests of large corporations, but covered a wider spectrum of concerns and issues for people involved in this field and in education.

There also were many projects working more coherently to combine OER's and mobile learning, and this is a powerful vector for 'openess' in this scene and with teachers specifically. Some governments are willing to take more risks because the policy dialogue and tech companies can mitigate some of the political risks at least (for example in Thailand ) which suggests a good situation for a broader agenda.

UNESCO is doing great work to facilitate dialogue and to keep the terms of discussion as broad as possible and to keep people thinking about big picture questions like literacy. Mozilla's many projects are very relevant here, potentially enabling change in so many ways, especially FirefoxOS which certainly has a high potential to act to change the game here, and for change in how people think about ideas for mobile learning.