The power of technology as a transformative tool was reiterated at the 6th Annual Mobiles for Education Alliance Symposium

November 9, 2016 | Connected Society | USA | Sarah Crampsie

Organisations from around the world gathered in Washington D.C for the 6th Annual Mobiles for Education Alliance Symposium during the month of October. The focus of the event was to convene thought leaders across industries and disciplines, to facilitate knowledge exchange, share best practices and explore opportunities for new partnerships.

The Alliance is committed to supporting the identification and applications of technologies that can be effectively leveraged to address pressing learning issues including: literacy, digital skills, appropriate education content development and dissemination plus more. Anthony Bloome, Senior Education Technology Specialist, USAID reiterated that the event was about “thought leaders in tech coming together to discuss tech and education” and to find sustainable solutions.

Charles North, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID, shared that there are currently over 250 million children unable to read or write, “the magnitude of the problem surpasses traditional teaching methods and tech must be part of the answer to closing the learning gap”.

During the two days I attended the conference, I was privileged to host a session in the ‘Gallery Walk’ on the GSMA Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT), a training toolkit developed in India, to enable practitioners to demonstrate the value of the mobile internet. Alongside me were the Kaivalya Education Foundation, who’s tag line is ‘Transform a District to Transform India’, they work with the Public Education System to strengthen the training, capabilities and capacity of teachers. Also in the room were The Mwangaza Project: Development and Extensive Evaluation of Accessible STEM tools in Kenya. To find out about the other exhibitors in the ‘Gallery Walk’, who else was speaking at the ‘Pitch Session’ (like Libraries without Borders) and what educational issues were being solved in the ‘Problem Set Workshops’ click here for the full agenda.

In her closing remarks for the day, Christie Vilsack, Senior Advisor for International Education, summed up the need of all those people without access to technology, digital skills, literacy or relevant educational materials “if you can’t communicate, you can’t activate” and people want to be able to actively access information that will support their learning opportunities, which only have a positive knock on affect to their wellbeing and livelihoods.
Day two started with a Plenary Panel: National ICT4E Partnership facilitated by the very passionate Liv Marte Nordhaug, of NORAD, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. She and her panel discussed the importance for ‘lifelong learning’, how collaboration across stakeholders must be harnessed, synergies must be captured and cultivated, and that the public and private sector must work together to establish high quality, multi discipline teams to deliver relevant content.

In the afternoon I was delighted to join Alice Cornish of PWC, Anthony Bloome, USAID and Alexandra of GIZ as mock-investors for some start-up and some established innovations for tech and education. We heard how Marymount University’s Professor of Education learnt from Ushahi, the mapping technology created in Kenya, as the basis for creating a mapping tool for students to promote place based learning and enhance geospatial awareness, whilst learning about local communities. The British Council shared ‘Taqaddam’. As we live in a world where many of the jobs our children will have are yet to be identified or defined, this partnership with HSBC is training youth for jobs of the future.

Over the course of my time at the conference, the power and reach of mobile as a transformative tool was reiterated. With mobile playing an important role in enabling efforts to provide people with educational materials. The relevance of hyper-local education content was echoed and it was clear to me that digital skills training is an important prelude and core enabler for accessing content. We must ensure people have the skills necessary to navigate the functionality of using the mobile internet to take advantage of relevant content.

The conference was great at bringing together a community of people from around the world who are doing lots of great things to ensure that as many people as possible globally, have the ability to access relevant educational materials. We found opportunities to network, learn new things, meet new people and explore the potential for new collaborations. I look forward to continuing the conversations started at this vent.

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