Closing remarks — VII International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development
Julià Minguillón, UOC.
Ismael Peña-López, lecturer and researcher
Information Society, Digital Divide, ICT4D
Eva de Lera: What about social entrepreneurship?
John Trexler: there does not seem to be a lot of activity in social entrepreneurship in the field of learning. Maybe other models, like free schools in the UK would be a better option if we are talking about education.
Matthew Kam: it depends on the definition of social entrepreneurship. If entrepreneurship is doing something that benefits your community, we may find some. And some of this deliver pretty good education.
Emma Kiselyova: Can we do more wrong than good?
Jill Attewell: I’d rather use technology enhanced learning, not e-learning. This way, what we are doing is not creating something new from scratch, but enhancing something that already existed.
Steve Vosloo: how carefully is too careful? Sometimes going “too” carefully may imply losing lots of opportunities.
John Trexler: It is OK to go as quick as possible. The problem is that reflections need their own pace, and we sometimes take decisions on flawed reflections.
Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: What are the conflicts between formal and informal education? What is the role of motivation in this apparent dichotomy? Does it have to be informal to motivate? Is that good or bad?
John Trexler: It depends on what we understand by motivation. Motivation has sometimes been “triggered” by just pouring money or free devices in the users’ hands.
Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: Indeed, motivation should come from other channels rather than — or added to — technological ones, like organizational change, institutions, etc.
[I personally wonder whether we might be “crowding out” formal education for too much focusing in informal education].
César Córcoles: How do we know which projects are successful and which a failure? And which ones are more likely to succeed and which others to fail? What is the tolerance to failure?
Matthew Kam: One of the problems is that most of the projects do not count as scholarly research, which means that many resources (especially human) are automatically kept away from being applied in many projects. On the other hand, most funding goes to successful projects, even if some failures may imply interesting lessons learnt that could be applied to following projects.
Carlos Fernández: What about one-cellphone-for-all (the style of OLPC)?
Manuel Castells: the matter is that almost everyone already has a mobile device, and thus is why many projects address mobile phones.
John Traxler: this is the story again of the ideology behind the technology.
Jill Attewell: people in poor areas want the same devices as everyone else and they want the same features.
Julià Minguillón: the OLPC project failed because it never was an educational project. It never had the educational community in its design, teachers were not trained, contents were not created, etc.
Ismael Peña-López: if industrialization — with its flaws — brought education to everyone, why do most educational projects keep on circumventing educational institutions instead of strengthening them? Why so much focus in informal education?
Matthew Kam: agreed. Nevertheless, there are many aspects of informal education, gaming, etc. that could contribute a lot to improve and bring a wind of change to institutions [which I in turn agree too].
Manuel Castells: indeed, most schools are not about education and empowering the kids, but about politics. Nevertheless, if change is to be made, institutions definitely have to be an important part of it.
Technology should address three kinds of problems, in this order:
This in part means that solutions may not be extrapolated because most problems aren’t (mainly because of their context-dependent nature).
We also have to be aware that all technologies have embedded ideologies, and in this specific case contain embedded pedagogies. This might put in danger pre-existing (to our technological landing) learning communities or learning systems, communities or systems that may be fragile compared to the steamroller power of technology. Bottom-up developments are here replaced or impersonated by outside-in developments.
A deeper look at the local context, institutions, needs should be taking place. We’re looking at the sewer and the seeds, and not at the soil.
John Traxler quickly highlights here several examples of m-learning, open and distance learning in Africa. One of these projects is about an SMS-enabled Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) [which reminds me of an exchange of tweets that some of us had long ago about creating “FrontlineSMS:Edu”].
In ancient Greece, learning was a collective activity, and a pedagogue was usually a slave that walked along with you to help you in understanding the world. These are the roots of mobile learning: collective knowledge sharing with no boundaries of time or space.
A set of projects were designed to adapt mobile learning scenarios from a user-centered design (UCD) perspective
It is very important keeping the user in mind when designing a learning initiative (at the technical and also at the non-technical levels).
The project consisted in analysing how users (UOC students) were studying online and, after that, 6 projects to adapt the learning process were designed to improve their learning experience:
Steve Vosloo: How is content processed or developed to be adapted to any format? A: If content is written in DocBook, then translation to other formats is almost straightforward. On the other hand, people’d rather have video formats for their small devices, and would rather have iPads for content, as they are more friendly that other screens.
Ismael Peña-López: Most projects here presented were about content-student interaction. Are there any projects that deal with person-to-person interaction? A: There are two ongoing projects in this line. One is called Speak Apps and it is about adapting the Tandem platform to the mobile world. The Tandem platform enables students in differents parts of the world to team up and study foreing languages, the languages being respectively foreign or their native ones. Another project is adapting the Langblog platform for mobiles.
The situation in Colombia: 85% internet access in public education, mobile market penetration of 90%, 1 computer per 21 students, techer’s e-learning uses are still low, teachers haven’t broadband access at home, the monthly income for a teacher is US$ 600 in average. So, what could be the impact of using mobile technologies in this context? How can m-learning help in overcoming these challenges?
The other part of the context is that people already use SMS to get news and WAP to access remote tools. This has boosted a positive attitude towards Information and Communication Technologies. SMS have reduced the costs of communications and advanced services have brought communities closer.
Notwithstanding, there still is the challenge on how to apply these tools and the positive attitude into the educational arena.
A strong point is converting the teachers from consumers into producers. A combination of a web authoring platform + tutorials can enable the teacher to produce their own leaning materials, make them more personal, reduce costs. The project (the platform) will work either through SMS, WAP and a web portal.
Ismael Peña-López: What has been the involvement of the education community in the project? A: Telefónica Foundation has been in constant contact with the community. Indeed, the Educared Colombia community is already very active and has been eager to participate in the design and testing of the project.
Iolanda García: Is it SMS/WAP an alternative to broadband? It may not, but it actually is in many places (e.g. rural areas) where broadband is not accessible. In these places, teachers download online materials on their phones to use them in their classrooms, where no-one (but the teacher) has access to the Internet.
Nowadays, almost everything can be mobile learning, as there are multiple devices that allow mobile connectivity, not only cellphones. Mobile learning can provide efficient, scalable and consistent training throughout all the organization.
Some corporate training applications of m-learning are: mobile content in products and services, languages, simulators, motivations process through SMS, MP4 content for pre and post sessions, authoring tools (teachme) that implements content for mobile phones, etc. Indeed, there are circa 1.5 million hours of learning every year at Telefonica, which increasingly implies that learning is part of one’s job.
When the trend is to move from a common Learning Management System towards a Personal Learning Environment, m-learning makes even more sense because it allows for higher degrees of personalization, even if this means losing some control on the whole process.
Carolina Jeux here presents several initiatives that her company has run on m-learning, some of them gorgeous as the training of 60,000 postmen of the Spanish Mail through their PDAs, the creation of ESTELA, the Escuela Ténica de Telefónica Latinoamérica, etc.
Q: What are the profiles of the people that localize or create local content? A: They are normally natives of a specific country/culture, because it is not about translating content but really about localizing.
[Here follows a debate on net neutrality, openness of corporations, open educational resources and the relationship of Telefónica with these concepts which I’m neither able nor willing to reproduce because I have strong feelings on the topic].