The Educational App Store at UNESCO Mobile Learning Week-Paris 18-19th February 2013
We use smartphones and tablets in our everyday working and social lives however, we have been rather cautious in implementing national policies that will harness the power of these technologies. Despite this, national governments are beginning to push forward this policy agenda. The Mobile Learning Week event at UNESCO in Paris this week brought together key stakeholders in Government, Industry and Academia in order to drive these initiatives and we were there as part of the industry stakeholders who want to create the technology services that will make for a rapid uptake of digital education.
The first priority of the conference was to identify a global meaning of Mobile Learning, to explain its place as a subsector of E-Learning and the ways in which we can bridge formal education with informal aspects of education to areas of educational games and apps that engage children and adults in a manner that continues to develop
Professor Agnes Kukulska-Hume of the Open University argued that the benefits of Mobile learning, from a pedagogical perspective, start with flexible collaboration in the class-room, faster feedback response times from teacher to student (and vice-versa), the creation of an on-line social space for discussion and the creation of an on-line space that encourages reflection on what is learnt. Furthermore, the ability to connect classrooms from across the world means that students can go beyond the local to the global.
Despite the benefits that mobile learning can provide, there are a number of issues that parents and teachers are still wary of. For example, what type of privacy issues need to be considered in order to protect young children? How do we make sure that children learn to work with technology but also to not become dependent on it? How do we implement a healthy balance and attitude towards the internet? Furthermore, it is important that the costs of introducing digital education into the classroom are kept low so that we do not create a a ‘digitally privileged’ society that creates a digital divide that exacerbates social inequalities and social mobility.
One of the main solutions that teachers in attendance of the conference debated was the creation of clear strategies for Teacher Development at the National levels so that they can deal with issues of privacy and in creating an appropriate balance for healthy online usage. They also argued that making digital education a priority for national governments would keep costs at more affordable levels.
Interestingly, the conference viewed the teachers as the primary ‘Learner Guide’ however; the young learners are viewed as assets to the uptake process of mobile learning. For example Luis Garibaldi, Director of Education, Ministry of Education and Culture (Uruguay) discussed that the way forward is an ‘intergenerational learning approach’ where young learners, who are the “digital natives” work with their teachers in the classroom to adopt devices and the necessary resources. In many cases digital natives are ahead of their educators in terms of the use of technology.
Back in London, we asked a number of school children (the digital natives) what their top apps are in order to get an idea of what children like to work with and we got the following responses:
Description and Learning Outcomes
|Evernote||Note/Study and Productivity Tools||This app lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders in order to improve organizational skills.|
|Magic Piano and Music Paradise||Music apps||Apps that help pupils to engage with sounds and tuning the ear.|
|GCSE English 1050 Questions||English Language and Literature||An app that helps students with their grammar and set texts for GCSE.|
|Pocket Planets||Science – Astronomy App||A very interactive app that lets you scour our galaxy and learn key facts about the universe.|
|Babbel||Modern Languages||Apps that help you to pronounce and memorise key vocabulary for the language of your choice.|
We gauged that while children are still very interested in the games aspect of smartphones and tablets, apps that are interactive and have good designs that maintain a consistent engagement will feature at the top of children’s lists too. Now, that is encouraging news!