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WHAT IS MOBILE LEARNING?
In South Africa the use of mobile phones, tablets and other connected devices is increasing, along with the access to wireless technology. All of these are also becoming more affordable, allowing South Africans to benefit from being connected. Students are generally early adopters of technology, technology-rich activities can increase engagement… this is one of the key driving forces for mobile learning.
Mobile learning is the process of providing or obtaining educational content via mobile devices. Educational content is not limited to text and can also include video and podcasts for example. The notions of mobile learning is important for the following reasons:
- It encourages learning, regardless of location
- It can reached communities where physical resources are scarce
- It leverages current online social interactions to stimulate collaboration
- It gives students a personalized learning experience
Mobile learning has huge potential for South Africa, especially in an environment where the educator to student ratio is too high to support efficient growth in the education of South African youth.
There are however several challenges in implementing mobile learning in South Africa:
- Bandwidth costs are still expensive
- The cost of smartphones cannot always be afforded by all social-economic groups
- Software development can be costly
- Due to the rapid development of technology, it is often difficult to ensure that the software is compatible across all versions of most platforms
- Privacy of information and content security is a risk
There are however tangible results for projects that has used platforms like MXit, the South African mobile social network with over 6.5 million users and that works on over 8 000 different devices. Dr Math on Mxit is an initiative where school pupils could ask Dr Math questions who would help them with mathematical queries. Bookly is a mobile literacy app on Mxit, offering students access to a variety of books on their mobile phones. Earlier this year, the app developed into a website (www.bookly.co.za) which is also a writing platforms, allowing anyone to write a ‘bookly’ for others to read. This works on the premise that more content can be generated by peers.
Mobile learning could be the start to building a literate and educated nation, despite the challenges.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net