I’m attending this week the first UNESCO Mobile Learning week. This week is split in two parts:
I attended the two parts of the meeting, and gave the opening keynote today (see slides)
This initiative by UNESCO on mlearning is the consequence of a new partnership they signed with Nokia.
The major focus is on policy guidelines for mlearning, and teacher support.
I’ve to say that the two meetings were very different (tough only half of the public symposium is done at the time of writing).
The expert meeting was, from my perspective very good, with lots of active discussions. The two themes mentioned above (policy guidelines and teacher support) were discussed supported by the presentation of five papers for each theme summarizing the situation in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa & Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.
While the discussions on potential approaches were quite exhaustive, one of the weakness of the approach, imho, is the fact that these different regions are so different situation in terms of Education, of technology, and of development, that is very difficult to have a global consensus. It is very interesting to gather, for a first meeting, experts from different regions, but I tend to think that it might be helpful in the future to have also dedicated meeting per region, or concerning countries in a similar state of education and development, even if from different regions.
Despite these differences, there were lots of fruitful discussions, particularly on the importance of creating ecosystems and considering actors of the education domain (particularly teachers) as potential contributors and proactive participants instead of passive recipients. It is quite rare in my experience to have a majority of people in a room discussing mobile services that understand the need for an ecosystem, instead of focusing only of service deployment.
I was also very positively surprised to see the positive feedback of (most of) the room on the importance of involving local ICT resources in service development, deployment and support, instead of relying on developers and companies from the Western world. Obviously people representing solution providers in the room were quite opposed to such approach :).
All in one, this was for me quite a new exercise to think about policy guidelines instead of implementation, but i learnt lots of things, and got interested in this. This was definitely the first step, and I’m looking forward the next ones, and particularly following up what will happen in the field, in the four countries that UNESCO has selected (Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, Pakistan).
Concerning the public symposium, I’ve more mixed feelings after the first day. The discussion was at a completely different level. From my perspective, most of the interactions and questions were at a very high level on the potential of technology to improve education. You could have replaced mobile by ICT and you would have been back to discussions from the beginning of the century.
As few participants mentioned, it is imho pretty clear that we are no more in a situation to discuss whether mobile are good for education or not, because they are already there and that’s a fact. Not thinking how to make best use of them to improve the quality of education would be a missed opportunity. I really hope that the discussions tomorrow will move towards exploring how to best use these devices that are in the pocket of all teachers and most students.