Key take aways from UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week 2017

Mobile Learning WeekUNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week 2017, in partnership with UNHCR and held in late March, intended to “examine how new and affordable technologies can reinforce education in emergency and crisis contexts and expand learning opportunities for displaced people while facilitating their inclusion in national and community settings.” ECCN members attended the event to contribute to sessions on ICT solutions for learners, teachers and systems in emergency and crisis settings. Several trends stood out:

  • Social-emotional learning in ICT solutions for learners was a key focus. Examples include; EduApp4Syria and KitKit literacy apps were designed with vulnerable populations in mind and have features that respond to specific learning needs of vulnerable populations. KVC Institute is creating guided virtual reality programs to be used in counseling sessions with displaced populations.
  • eMentoring for teachers continues to be an innovative approach to reinforce information from face-to-face trainings, share challenges and ideas for solutions. The Teachers for Teachers programs includes eMentoring for teachers through a network of ‘global mentors.’ Several presentations focused on the use of WhatsApp Messenger as a key tool to deliver eMentoring to teachers in emergency or crisis settings.
  • e-Readers and table-based gaming for basic education also featured prominently at Mobile Learning Week. War Child Holland presented the literacy apps used in their Can’t Wait to Learn project in Sudan and the XPrize for Global Learning Apps were also featured as they are being piloted with out-of-school populations in Tanzania.
  • Online or blended online-offline learning for refugee secondary or tertiary education was a feature of several key presentations by Kiron and Erasmus+.

ICT focused organizations and business were join by representatives of several governments who spoke to success they’ve had and challenges they face while implementing education programing through ICT mechanisms. One notable challenge is that, in general, most of the apps and online courses presented were not created in collaboration with Ministries of Education or accrediting institutions, and were not part of the approved curriculum.  Therefore, programs and users were struggling to find ways to accredit programs informally or formally, and had difficulty scaling up initiatives within a national structure. The government representatives highlighted the need for better collaboration at the design stage to promote formal recognition of educational initiatives.

Mobile Learning Week drew participation from businesses, including content service providers such as publishers, media design firms, and IT solutions companies; hardware and software firms like Intel, Google, HP, Microsoft, and Blupoint; as well as telecoms such as Orange.  Some attended in order to market products specific to crisis contexts, such as Blupoint’s battery or solar-powered devices for distributing content or Saltracker that is developing agile mobiles solutions for teachers in emergency settings  These business presented their funding priorities and mechanisms and Google announced it’s newest award of $50 million to fund ICT mechanisms for education initiatives.  In addition to providing direct funding, companies can also provide free or at-cost services, as in the case of telecom companies who have signed an agreement with the UN to provide free, dedicated bandwidth in emergencies, or in the case of Google providing engineering expertise as part of their funding model.

Where you able to attend Mobile Learning Week 2017? If so, what were your main takeaways?

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