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Mobile Learning: Integration in Kindergartens to Improve Education in Developing Countries

Your Name and Title: Christelle Scharff


School, Library, or Organization Name: SenMobile (startup)


Co-Presenter Name(s):


Country from Which You Will Present: Senegal


Language in Which You Will Present: English


Target Audience (such as primary school teachers, high school administrators, students, etc.): primary school teacher, technologists


Short Session Description (one line): Improving education and IT literacy through the early introduction of mobile phones in the curriculum to support teaching and learning


Full Session Description (one paragraph minimum):

In developing countries, classes are large and teachers cannot provide individual attention. Resources are scarce and pupils have rarely access to computers. At the same time, mobile phone ownership continues to grow exponentially. Their price decreases and their power increases quickly. Mobile learning has an important role to play in education, starting in kindergartens.

 

We developed a series of mobile applications for feature phones targeting kindergartens in Senegal and a model to integrate these applications in the classroom setting. The objective was to improve pupils’ learning with individual attention and provide them with an early access to technology in an innovative and entertaining way – mobile rather than desktop/laptop-oriented. The applications target math (basic geometric shapes, numbers, and additions), reading (letters, alphabets) and civic competency (hygiene and malaria awareness). They feature multiple-choice and open-ended questions, colorful art, voice recordings of the explanations and questions in French and Wolof, and instantaneous feedback on the correctness of their answers. They require the use of headsets. The content was created in accordance to the educational standards of the Senegalese school curriculum in the Case des Tout-Petits (“Huts of Toddlers”, http://www.case-toupetit.sn), a national policy program that ensures all Senegalese children have “access to adequate and integrated services provided in a participatory manner” and participate in activities such as “drawing, language instruction, numeracy, psychomotor activities, art, as well as perceptive and sports activities”.

 

The model to introduce the applications in the classroom includes initial training of the teachers and pupils. The applications are then used on a regular basis to reinforce the topics introduced by the teachers. The model is composed of the following steps: 1) engage the pupils' interest by asking them what phones represent for them and to draw pictures of phones; 2) familiarize them with the phones that will be used through handouts with photos of phones (icons, menus, trackball, keyboard); 3) acquaint them with the phone themselves; and 4) introduce them to the applications by practicing with several of them. Apps are also distributed to parents who owe compatible phones such that pupils can practice from home.

 

We ran pilots at three schools in three different cities in underprivileged neighborhoods in Senegal (around 90 pupils) using phones donated by a bank in the United States and by RIM. We interviewed the pupils and teachers, and recorded the use of the applications by the pupils. With the collected data, we then improved the applications, refined our model, and defined a deployment plan to reach out large numbers of pupils. Our deployment plan does not require kindergartens to buy phones but put in place a borrowing service from a pool of phones acquires through partnerships with phones manufacturers. Money is generated through a license mechanism for the apps, and summer and after-school programs. Our success depends largely on partnering with the education ministry for scalability and sustainability.

 

In this presentation, we will describe our model, the applications, our evaluation of the model based on the pilot, and our deployment plan.


Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session: http://senmobile.com

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This is great, I hope you can scale the project from here -- what was the response of the students if they weren't already familiar with using phones on a daily basis? I'd love to know if they developed habits quickly and how that played into their greater interest in learning a topic.

Thanks Liz for the comment.


The students were children between 4 and 6. Their parents are not always so keen in letting them use their phones. Our model is based on lending phones to schools and also on having the apps distributed in after-school programs and to the parents.

In our pilots children were very enthusiastic in using their phones and proud when they were did the exercises correctly.

We also have a video of the pilot and the educational model here: http://youtu.be/BHw9SOaOGCg

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