Learn, and Have Fun: How Mobile Technology Will Impact Education

Qualcomm and Sesame Workshop India to spearhead education through mobile technology in India.

Tech News
4 min read
Representative image. (Photo: iStock)

There are over 7 billion mobile connections across the globe today, and this figure is expected to grow to approximately 8.7 billion by the end of 2018.

Keeping that statistic in mind, it won’t be difficult to predict that mobile technology will play a significant role in education in the future.

Qualcomm and Sesame Workshop India have recently come together with an initiative called Play ‘n’ Learn. The initiative is aimed at helping schoolchildren learn with the aid of technology.

We spoke with Monalisa Sahoo, Senior Director of Marketing at Qualcomm India & South Asia, one of the largest chip-makers for smartphones, and Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop India, a key player in the Early Childhood Development space and the organisation behind the popular show Galli Galli Sim Sim about the project.

Q. How can mobile play a pivotal role in improving access to quality education, student engagement and learning outcome?

Monalisa Sahoo: In the primary education space, there is a greater need to focus on strengthening the capacity of children beyond rote learning, and developing 21st-century skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration among children. This can be achieved by digital interventions in the education space.

Monalisa Sahoo, Senior Director of Marketing at Qualcomm India & South Asia.
Monalisa Sahoo, Senior Director of Marketing at Qualcomm India & South Asia.

The Play ‘n’ Learn initiative is an example of how technology can accelerate learning outcomes of children, wherein Sesame Workshop in India (SWI) and Qualcomm Wireless Reach combined its creative skills, market reach and cutting-edge technology to introduce educational, yet entertaining digital games loaded on smartphones and tablets to primary grade children (6 to 8 years).

Sashwati Banerjee: To understand how children will accept and have fun with technology, one needs to connect with them. Research showed that a game-based learning approach had a positive impact on children’s learning outcomes.

Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop India.
Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop India.

Children also showed a willingness to share the tablet with each other, taking turns. Attitudes of children and teachers towards using multimedia in the classroom improved, and they noticed higher attendance, especially on the tablet session days. The Play ‘n’ Learn initiative was able to reflect the huge potential of technology as a long-term, large-scale supplement to the existing educational offerings available to young children.

What are your thoughts about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – Learning on the Internet.

Sashwati Banerjee: MOOCs, are one way that people can access information over their mobile device. Use of MOOCs can be an effective way to deliver curriculum and training to students across the world.

However, their use raises some questions and new challenges for how higher education understands and assesses academic quality. For example, in a world where individuals and institutions may bring a bit of everything – from anywhere – together into a degree, should accreditation be at the institution level, the course level, or the provider level? What constitutes difference in quality of an online environment, as compared with a face-to-face one?

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

Monalisa Sahoo: One early prediction about MOOCs was that they would undermine, or even replace traditional college education. However, this hasn’t happened yet in India, and nor will it happen. The role of technology certainly is important; however for holistic learning, the role of the educator cannot be underestimated. Hence, while learning through digital tools is critical for early years, it still needs supervision and structure.

Q. Share some real life scenarios on how mobile technologies have put life-changing educational material in the hands of children who otherwise might not have access to it.

Monalisa Sahoo: The impact of the Play ‘n’ Learn initiative was guided to find whether mobile enabled game-based learning can be an innovative mechanism to address the learning deficit of primary school children. Evaluation of the program showed that use of the games not only improved learning outcomes of children, but also had a positive effect on teachers’ attitudes on using digital technology for teaching and learning.

Technology need not be high end always; to reach out to deeper communities we need look at affordable and accessible options.

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

Sashwati Banerjee: In Kenya, Wireless Reach has been working with eLimu, an e-learning social enterprise, to curate existing content. The goal isn’t to dump content from another medium into mobile; rather, the objective is to redesign content to leverage the strengths of mobile.

The Power of mLearning project utilises the eLimu model by re-purposing Kenyan curriculum from textbooks, adding interactive, engaging, and locally designed content in the form of songs, games, quizzes and animations.

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

This mobile-empowered curriculum is then delivered through 3G enabled tablet computers to make learning more interactive, interesting, fun, and locally relevant. Via this strategy, eLimu has developed a platform and educational content that seeks to achieve quality lessons for Kenyan upper primary school students, preparing to take national examinations (Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education – KCPE) by focusing on interactive engagement in the learning process through the use of mobile technology.

We observed that once a student develops a self-efficacy as a learner, they also develop higher expectations for themselves. They want to learn more, achieve more, collaborate more, and be more engaged with the learning process.

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