6. MobilED Pilot

Designing Mobile ICT for Secondary Education in
Developing Countries
1st Author
1st author's affiliation
1st line of address
2nd line of address
Telephone number, incl. country code
1st author's email address
2nd Author
2nd author's affiliation
1st line of address
2nd line of address
Telephone number, incl. country code
2nd E-mail
In this paper, we describe the concept design and prototype of mobile learning service, MobilED and its pilot experiment in a
secondary school in South Africa. The concept has been developed based on the contextual studies in several secondary schools in South
Africa in 2005. In parallel to the study in South Africa, we carried out a similar contextual study in secondary schools in Indonesia. The
results got from the studies in Indonesia are feeding the design and the development of the MobilED mobile learning services. The aim is
to design set of flexible mobile services that are easy to localize and contextualize to meet the different needs of secondary education in
different developing countries. The maturity stage of the studies in two countries differ from each other, but they share a common goal and
methods to investigate the challenges and potentials of using mobile phones as a learning tool at secondary education institutions. The
studies in both countries are beneficial for further research, design and development of mobile learning for secondary education in
developing countries.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.4.3 [Communications Applications]
General Terms
Documentation, Design, Experimentation, Human Factors.
Educational ICT, learning tool, developing countries, comparative contextual studies, mobile learning services
When used properly ICT can play an important role as a learning tool in restructuring of learning-instruction process by facilitating
students collaborative and productive wotk with knowledge. (Hakkarainen et. al. 2000). For instance Baliamoune (2002) has stated (in a
Wider Institutions policy report / vision paper for governments – what is this pape?r – it is not a study anyways?) that ICT is expected to
have a positive impact on education, because ICT users have access to the means that may enhance learning and skill.
The recent study on E-learning Nordic shows that the use of ICT has a positive impact on pupils’ learning in schools, which can be seen in
students' subject-related performance and development of reading and writing skills. However, the study also indicates that the potential of
ICT is not fully realized at all schools in Nordic countries. The ICT usage as a pedagogical development tool; knowledge-sharing,
communication and home-school co-operation is moderate. (Pedersen et. al. 2006)
The low ICT literacy (Baliamoune 2002, Setiawan 2004), the lack of awareness in using ICT as a learning tool and limited infrastructure
(Setiawan 2004) are seen as the major challenges to take ICT efficiently in use in school in developing countries. Conventionally these
challenges are tried to work out by teacher training on ICT in
education, investments to the infrastructure and deregulation of
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Two parallel research works in Indonesia and South Africa are being
carried out since 2005 to investigate challenges and potentials of
designing and developing ICT tools and systems for secondary
education that are strongly relying on mobile technologies. Some
appropriate pedagogical approaches and guidelines are also developed
during the works so that the technology adoption could be optimized.
The use of mobile technology for education is being emphasized in the project because of its significant growth and penetration in the
respective countries which has made them every day technology, but also because of mobile technologies are by nature collaborative,
networked, user and learner centered, ubiquitous and durable technology. This is seen to open up new opportunities to leverage the
educational quality in developing countries.
According to International Telecommunication Union the global Internet penetration in 2004 was 13%, while the mobile phone penetration
was 32%. Internet penetration is growing slowly, while the growth of the mobile phone subscribers does not show any sign of slowing
down in the developing countries (ITU Report 2006). For instance in Indonesia with a total population around 210 million, in 2005 the
number of phone subscribers increased from 2.8 per 100 inhabitant to 9.2 per 100 inhabitant, with mobile phones accounting 90 percent of
the growth (Asia Pacific Research Group 2004, IMF Survey 2005).
So far there has been very little systematic research and studies focusing on the usage of mobile technologies for levering educational
quality in developing countries. Though this paper we will report some early results of several contextual studies conducted in Indonesia
and South Africa. As part of the study work we have designed several user scenarios as well as a MobilED server concept and prototype
that was piloted in South Africa in spring 2006 (MobilED wiki 2006).
During our works in Indonesia and South Africa, we employed several methodologies and methods including the human-centered design
(ISO 13407 – 1999), the Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) (Tacchi, Slater & Hearn 2003), scenario-based design (Carroll 2000) and
rapid video prototyping (Löwgren 2004).
In Indonesia, the second author visited three secondary schools in Semarang, Salatiga and Surabaya in the last quarter of 2005. In one of
the school in Semarang, she conducted some contextual inquiries (Beyer and Holtzblatt 1998) with several key informants by given them a
brief introduction about the mobile learning project. In one of the schools, she observed the daily educational activities, carried out
contextual inquiries with number of in-depth interviews, still-picture taking, field note taking, videotaping of various intra and extra
curricular activities and a distribution of cultural probe packages to teachers and students.
In South Africa, the first author visited three secondary schools in Pretoria. He conducted observation of lessons in the schools, took field
notes, made group interviews of teachers and students, and took still pictures and video of several lessons and activities of the schools. In
one of the schools the author implemented mobile learning experiment with two teachers and three classes of the school.
Some of the findings of the comparative studies include:
We observed that the use of technology, such as computer and Internet at the secondary schools in both countries is currently more
limited to the information processing at administrative level than for classroom use with student. For example, in Indonesia, computers
in schools are mainly used for the development of learning materials, for keeping records of students’ grades and for other school office
practices. In South Africa, schools differ a lot in their ways of using ICT. The pedagogical use of computers is emphasized, but the lack
of equipment and teachers’ skills to integrate computer usage in their teaching are limiting the use.
We found out that in both countries teachers and students are using ICT widely as an entertainment media. For instance in Indonesia
only a few young teachers are able to operate personal computers and use the Internet, but they use them as personal and social tools,
such as instant messaging, game, new friend meet-up and dating. Some social web sites and applications, such as Yahoo Messenger,
MSN Messenger and Friendster are very popular among them. In both countries several students mentioned that they spent a lot of
time playing computer games. In South Africa we notice, that teachers' skills of using ICT and general usage of ICT seems to depend a
lot on the availability of computers and Internet connection at homes of the teachers. The cost of the Internet connection is very high
and most teachers do not have computers and Internet connection at home. If they do they often are very into using them.
The literacy and awareness of ICT among students in both countries are mediocre, yet the level of the students’ ICT literacy is usually
higher than the teachers. Most secondary students in urban areas know how to use PCs and Internet. Many of them can get an access to
Internet through a dial-up connection service from their home telephone line or by going to an Internet cafe. However, only a few of
them use the Internet for education purposes.
During our observation, we found that the interaction with mobile phones is very extensive among teachers and students. Most
secondary school teachers and students are familiar with mobile phones, even if they do not own a phone. In Indonesia, several
teachers and students coming from high-income families may have even several multimedia / smart phones. In particular, the students
use their mobile phones to play games, listen music, take pictures and share their pictures with friends. Several students in Indonesia
have just started to use their mobile phones for Internet browsing and chatting. On the other hand, teachers and students coming from
lower income families primarily use their mobile phones only for calling and sending SMS with family and friends.
Mobile phone in formal education is a controversial issue in both Indonesia and South Africa. The schools from both countries have a
similar policy that the use of mobile phones during lessons is prohibited. Teachers often have concerns that using mobile phone in class
can be disturbing and it may lead to the possibilities for the students to cheat and not to listen seriously during lessons. However, both
teachers and students use their mobile phones frequently during any break time, before and after school lessons. In both countries
mobile phones have a “good reputation” of being easy to use and valuable tools in every-day life. In general teachers and students were
keen on to study, learn and develop usage of mobile phones for teaching and learning purposes.
MobilED Concept Design and Prototype
MobilED Server is a set of mobile services targeted for mobile learners. The MobilED server was designed and developed by the research
team of the MobilED Initiative, containing designers and researchers from the Media Lab in Helsinki and Meraka Institute in South Africa
(MobilEd 2006). The first author is the main designer and project manager of the MobilED project.
The current version of the MobilED platform offers Audio Wiki. The prototype makes it possible to use MediaWiki (MediaWiki 2006)
server as the Content Management System of your audio information system. Mediawiki is a feature-rich wiki engine written primarily for
Wikipedia – the Free Encyclopedia. According to Wikipedia “wiki is a type of website that allows users to easily add, remove, or otherwise
edit all content, very quickly and easily, sometimes without the need for registration” (Wikipedia 2006).
The MobilED server installation works so that a user can make a query to the MediaWiki server by sending a search term as an SMS
message to the MobilED service number. After a while the user will receive a call back from the server and a speech synthesizer will read
him/her the content found from the MediaWiki under the search term. During the call users may navigate the article with phone’s touch
tone keys by either jumping from one section to another, or by going to the table of content and by choosing a sections from there. During
the call users may also add audio annotations to any of the sections of the article. User may push button 3 and will receive voice guidelines
how to add an audio annotation to the section.
MobilED server installation
In the MobilED initiative we try to come-up design ideas that may enhance student and group-centered learning, project-based learning,
problem-solving and inquiry learning. We are designing the services and tools for variety of mobile devices from simple GSM phones
(audio/SMS) to multimedia/smart phones and Internet tablets. From the mobile networks infrastructure are operating with GSM, 3G and
WLAN. In software we are looking for social software, such as MediaWiki, blog engines and Knowledge Building tools (e.g. Fle3), a swell
as voice interfaces, speech annf language technologies.
MobilED Kit
Besides the MobilED server we have designed a prototype of a MobilED Kit. The MobilED Kit a box with several mobile phones,
speakers that can be used with the phones, props helping teachers to set-up the leaning events and laminated paper sheets with help to get
into the learning process and to use the system.
MobilED Pilot
The first pilot was conducted with three classes of grade 11 (15-16 years). The theme of the pilot was HIV/AIDS. The project followed the
principles of Jigsaw cooperative learning technique (Aronson et. al 1978), where each student is a member in two groups. The first kind of
group is “Home group”; in our case we called them “audiocasting groups”, referring to the idea of podcasting or radio show. The second
group is “thematic expert groups”. Each thematic group consists of one member from each home group. The thematic group discussed
different aspects of HIV and used the MobilED server with the English Wikipedia content to search information related to their theme.
The results of the information seeking and discussions were then reported back to each student audiocasting groups. The home groups then
discussed the most relevant issues of HIV/AIDS for their own age groups and communicated the results to the whole school community as
a audiocasting show that was recorded back to the MobilED server’s MediaWiki. To access the audio encyclopedia and the audiocasting
service, each group of the student were given a Nokia 3230 smartphone and Nokia Music Stands MD-1 (speaker for the Nokia 3230)
(MobilEd Wiki 2006)
Students working with the MobilED Kit and the MobilED server
The pilot showed that the students learned to use mobile phones very fast in the small groups. During the first lesson, we only gave the
student groups the mobile phones and the speakers and let them to figure out how they work. One group found that there is a radio
applications and they started to play on the music with the speakers. Other group needed less than five minutes to figure out the radio in
their own phone. Students basically learned to use the main features of the phones just by trying them and following each other use.
While still getting to know the phones found the contact number of “MobilED”, which was the only number saved in the phones. The
laminated paper sheets with guideline how to use the MobilED server was all needed to make students to try the service themselves.
Students learned to use the audio encyclopedia only by reading the guidelines and by discussing with their peers how it works.
Yet, by an accident, we found out that the students were more used to interact with a mobile technology than with tape recorder. In one of
the groups the MobilED service collapsed. We decided to provide tape recorders for students to make the recordings as they already had
script written their show and where ready to record it. When doing this, we noticed that some students were not familiar with tape recorders
at all.
During the contextual interviews, the students told that they found the pilot very interesting. Recording own audio was the most exciting
part of the pilot. Students searched for information, wrote scripts, played and recorded their own shows about HIV/AIDS. Several groups
came up with a “radio play” with several characters whereas some groups made a “rap” about the theme. The number and the groups’
names where then shared among all the students who took part in the experiment and this way all of them could listen each other
recordings with their own mobile phones.
From the point of view of Activity theory, learning is a complex result of tool mediated interactions (Engestrom 1996). The theory can help
to understand, for example, how a computer or a mobile phone as cultural tool, can facilitate learning and how teachers and students are
changed and transformed by the tool over time (Hardman 2005).
From our studies, we may claim that mobile phones have become more than a “call and messaging” tool for most of the students in both
countries. According to Malyn-Smith, those students are the Power Users of Information, which means that they break out the confines of
traditional learning, demographic or technological barriers by constantly using, sharing, creating, producing or changing information in
creative, innovative and/or unintended ways, so that they become force multipliers in their own environments (Malyn Smith 2002).
Mobile phone may have become a common technology denominator, due to its wide acceptance among students and teachers, in addition
to their readily available infrastructure in the developing countries. Literacy toward the use of mobile phone is high among secondary
students and teachers, which we observed during the daily use at schools and in the MobilED pilot.
Integrating mobile ICT in the traditional learning is still in its infancy, but we learn from our studies that the mobile technology possesses
some tremendous potential to enhance the education at secondary level. Brandsfords et. al (1999) suggested that technology can also
support the recently increasingly popular learner-centered approaches that emphasize on active-process and self-motivated participation of
learners, including building some understanding through collaborative construction of artifacts or shareable products (Milrad 2003). Our
study supports this opinion. We found that mobile phones with mobile learning services can be used for sharing learning artifact between
teachers and students to enhance different units of learning activities.
However, it is still challenging to use the technology as a learning tool to enhance the educational. Among many challenges, such as
limited infrastructure and low ICT literacy, the awareness of using new technology per see as a learning tool is a crucial issue. However,
MobilED services attempt to address the infrastructure issue by providing low-cost mobile learning services with minimum infrastructure
investment that is affordable for secondary schools in developing countries.
From the MobilED project, we learn that as a starting point to develop mobile learning system, we should strategically build the
stakeholders' awareness by simply understanding the trend of the young generations nowadays, integrating the current trend of using
mobile phones as entertainment and communication into learning activities. We should not make the transformation as an abrupt process.
We observed that the usage of mobile phones in this project offer a lot of potentials to empower active participation of the students and the
teachers in a learning and teaching process.
One of the challenges that need to be considered when implementing mobile learning system like MobilED services in new contexts and
countries is the common passive-learning culture, where students are expected to receive any information and assignments provided by the
teacher with out questioning or participating to the process. This challenge implies that a careful consideration of the adoption strategy for
the schools in Indonesia, South Africa or other developing countries is crucial. For instance the use of wikis, which are by nature active
and open participation environments, it is important to make rules and ways to filter possible irresponsible inputs.
The contextual inquiry in two countries and the design and development of the MobilED mobile learning prototypes have opened up
several new opportunities for further exploration and investigation on how mobile phones could be used as a learning tools. We already
have number of new services we are planning to study more.
Next we are planning to experiment a bit more with the smartphone features and the MobilED server. We are developing an interface for
adding your media (audio, pictures, video) captured with a smart phone alongside the wiki articles. However, we think that when designing
for developing countries we must make also solutions that are usable and accessible with the most simple mobile phone models.
We are also interested in to build scenarios where the mobile phones and the mobile services are primary used for collaborative knowledge
building (Scardamalia & Bereiter 2003). A possible scenario is a use of external large screens to gather and organize arguments provided to
the system with mobile phones.
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