DFID-funded technology for education Hub Inception Phase consultation retreat hosted at Royal Holloway, University of London

It was great to have hosted the DFID-funded technology for education EdTech Hub three-day Inception Phase consultation retreat from the evening of  29th July through to 1st August at Royal Holloway, University of London.  This brought together some 30 members of the core team, funders and partners from the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa, and the World Bank, as well as members of the Intellectual Leadership Team from across the world, and representation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The meeting was designed to set in motion all of the activities and processes for the Inception Phase of the eight-year Hub, focusing especially on

  • The Hub’s overall vision
  • The work of our three main spheres of activity
    • Research
    • Innovation, and
    • Engagement
  • Our governance structure
  • Our theory of change
  • Our ethical and safeguarding frameworks
  • Our communication strategy, and
  • Our use of Agile and adaptive approaches

The Hub aims to work in partnership to “galvanise a global community in pursuit of catalytic impact, focusing on evidence so we can collectively abandon what does not work and reallocate funding and effort to what does”.  Moreover, it is “committed to using rigorous evidence and innovation to improve the lives of the most marginalised”.

Above all, as the pictures below indicate, this meeting formed an essential part in helping to build the trust and good working relationships that are so essential in ensuring that this initiative, launched in June 2019, will achieve the ambitious goals that it has set.

 

Members of UNESCO Chair in ICT4D to play leading roles in DFID’s multi-country directorate for research and innovation hub on technology for education

DFID AnnouncementRichard Clarke, Director General for Policy, Research and Humanitarian at the UK’s Department for International Aid (DFID) announced today that a consortium involving Dr. David Hollow and Tim Unwin, both from our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, has been awarded the contract to lead its new £20 m research and innovation hub on technology for education.  This will explore how the world’s most marginalised children and young people can learn best through the use of new and innovative technologies.  The members of the consortium are the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa.  David will serve as Research Co-Director and Tim as Chair of the Intellectual Leadership Group.

The new Hub aims to undertake and promote the highest quality of comparative and longitudinal research at the interface between technology and education, and then share the findings widely so that everyone is better aware about how technology can best serve the learning interests of the poorest and most marginalised.  This builds in part on the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s long established experience on technology and learning, dating back to Tim’s leadership of the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo initiative (2001-2004) creating partnerships for IT in education in Africa, our DelPHE and EDULINK funded collaboration with African universities, the wider work of the World Economic Forum and UNESCO Partnership for Education initiative between 2007 and 2011, and the cohort of PhD students doing research at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D on technology and learning in Africa in the latter 2000s , including David Hollow and Marije Geldof.

We are all very excited to be a part of this new initiative, which will be the largest ever education and technology research and innovation programme designed specifically to improve teaching and learning, especially in poorer countries.  It is a clear example of the ways through which research undertaken within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is having real global impact, and is the second £20 m grant to have been awarded to consortia that include members of the Chair in the last six months, the other being the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub.

Mobile Learning and Education

Volume 3       Issue 1       January 2018

Growth of Mobile Technologies

According to the latest International Telecommunications Union (ITU) data there are still substantial differences in levels of ownership of mobile devices and access to broadband internet between the developing and the developing world. However, it is promising to note that there is a steady growth in the ownership of mobile devices and especially mobile phones across the developing world. This growth in mobile technology adoption has brought much hope for improving the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged. Education is seen as one such domain and mobile learning in particular as an instance of the application of mobile technologies to achieve improved life conditions.

Mobile Technologies in Education

Notwithstanding the rapid growth in ownership of mobile technologies and the promotion of mobile learning as a new model for delivering education, many challenges remain and need to be addressed before we can truly achieve ubiquitous and impactful education via mobile learning. Recent studies suggest that while there is an increase in the adoption of mobile technologies in higher education many problems related to their effectiveness and usage remain [1] such as mobile learning infrastructure, institutional support and design problems related to the pedagogy and content suitable for mobile delivery [2]. These challenges require systematic exploration and this is particularly important in the developing world where the stakes are higher because of resource challenges.

Mobile Learning: Research Agenda for Developing Countries

There is a tendency in the developing world to adopt technologies, practices and models from the developed contexts without due consideration to the local contexts. Our research on mobile learning in Guyana and the Caribbean more widely acknowledged at the outset potential differences and the possible effects these may have on adoption.

Our ongoing research on mobile learning has thus far been two-fold. We are working towards developing a better overview of the level of adoption of mobile technologies in formal learning at the University level in Guyana [2] and across the Caribbean [3]. Our data so far has shown mobile phones technologies are the most widely adopted for learning, that ownership of other types of mobile devices is linked to income; and that students more than lecturers are likely to explore various features on their devices for learning [2]. While we noted an increasing trend in the use of mobile technologies, it is important to understand the factors that might hinder or promote the acceptance and adoption of these technologies in our context. To this end we have assessed a number of technology acceptance models [2] [3] with the aim of determining how well these models work in our context and to help us identify the factors that may or may not be holding up. We found that the attitude towards the use of the mobile technologies for learning is the most important driver of adoption in the Guyanese context. Further, factors may vary across the developing countries context.

Next Steps

We aim to explore two aspects of mobile learning in the near future; one focus will be methodological and the other focuses on mobile computational learning. Our aim is to establish whether these categories can explain the adoption of mobile learning and mobile learning technologies. Second, our work on mobile learning will take a different turn and will explore how mobile technologies can assist the learning of computing. We will undertake a project to bring computing to students at the primary and secondary schools level using the BBC’s Micro:bit technology. This small technology fits the description of the mobile agenda and will allow us to take technology to various schools and groups not constrained by classroom settings. This view of mobile learning will allow us to reach a wider cross section of society using a small resource base.

References

[1] Pimmer, C., Mateescu, M., & Gröhbiel, U. (2016). Mobile and ubiquitous learning in higher education settings. A systematic review of empirical studies. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 490-501.

[2] Singh, L., Thomas, T.D., Gaffar, K., & Renville, D. (2016). Mobile Learning in the Developing World: Perceptions Using the UTAUT Model. In Handbook of Research on Mobile Devices and Applications in Higher Education Settings. Eds Briz-Ponce, L., Juanes-Mendez, J.A., & Garcia-Penalvo, F.J.

[3] Thomas, T.D., Singh, L., Gaffar, K., Thakur, D., Jackman, G.A., Thomas, M., Gajraj, R., Allen, C., Tooma, K. (2014). Measurement invariance of the UTAUT constructs in the Caribbean. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT), 10(4), 102-127.

 

New Internet Society report on Internet Access and Education: Key considerations for policy makers

The Internet Society has just published a new report on Internet Access and Education.  This makes interesting reading.  In summary it argues that “The Internet has immense potential to improve the quality of education, which is one of the pillars of sustainable development. This … briefing outlines ways in which policymakers can unlock that potential through an enabling framework for access to the Internet. It sets out five priorities for policymakers: infrastructure and access, vision and policy, inclusion, capacity, and content and devices. Together these represent key considerations for unlocking access to the Internet in support of education”.

They will be holding an online seminar on 6th December to discuss these issues, which we be moderated by Ben Petrazzini, IDRC, and will include the following speakers:

  • Tomi Dolenc, Academic and Research Network (ARNES), Slovenia
  • Miguel Brechner, Ceibal Plan, Uruguay
  • Dirk Hastedt, IEA, Netherlands & Germany
  • Shireen Yacoub, Edraak.org, Jordan
  • Patrick Muinda, Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda

This work follows the Internet Society’s report earlier this year entitled Internet for Education in Africa: Helping policy makers to meet the global education agenda Sustainable development Goal 4