UNESCO and Nokia are leveraging mobile technology to build the capacity of primary school teachers in Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Senegal. The project is advancing pioneering and cost-effective models of teacher development that can be emulated elsewhere, especially in developing countries where access to fixed-line ICT is nonexistent or scarce.
The project in Mexico seeks to help develop the Spanish language skills and pedagogical practice of multi-grade primary school teachers working in areas where indigenous languages are dominant. The pilot project involves 60 teachers in schools located in the state of Puebla, academically the lowest performing state in the country.
The project is effective because it: creates educational resources that are easily and effectively disseminated via mobile phones; emphasizes the social practice of language and aligns mobile content with formal Mexican curricula; strengthens teachers’ knowledge of Spanish thereby allowing them to better teach indigenous and minority-language students; promotes dialogue between local education experts and classroom teachers to improve Spanish language pedagogy in Mexican schools; and encourages collaboration, both face-to-face and virtual, between teachers.
A solid partnership is in place between UNESCO and the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, the main teacher training organization in the country. The State Department of Education has shown a keen interest in the project and will hopefully contribute to its ongoing activities and scaling up after the pilot phase. Already the department has invested almost double the finances contributed by the UNESCO-Nokia partnership.
The project in Nigeria utilizes mobile phones to help teachers improve the English language literacy skills of primary school students.
Participating teachers sign up for a service that sends them educational content and pedagogical advice in the form of richly formatted messages. The free service can be accessed from inexpensive handsets common in West Africa and represents one of the first attempts to employ mobile technology to improve the capacity of primary school teachers in Africa.
Messages, organized into thematic modules, are sent once per day and incorporate images and dynamic exercises. The project was launched on 2-3 May in Abuja, with much media coverage including from the BBC, Voice of Nigeria and various TV channels. UNESCO and Nokia trained teachers from over 50 schools in the Federal Capital Territory how to use the new service.
The project in Pakistan improves the content knowledge and pedagogical practices of female teachers working in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The project uses mobile technologies to deliver information and educational videos to instructors who live in rural areas and do not have easy access to traditional training or professional development. It also quizzes the instructors on their newly learned knowledge and enables them to share resources, tips, photos and videos from their classrooms. The project reaches 150 female teaches working in 75 different schools in four areas of Pakistan. After engagement by UNESCO, the Secretary of Education in Pakistan has shown keen interest in the project and has raised the possibility that the government will drive the scaling up of the project if it is a success.
The project in Senegal supports student learning in mathematics and science. To date, UNESCO, Nokia, and the in-country implementing partners have tailored the Nokia Mobile Mathematics application to match the national curriculum. The technology is unique because it allows students to master mathematical concepts in a dynamic digital environment that can be accessed from any internet-enabled mobile phone. Students can work on practice problems at home, in school, or from any other location at any time. Detailed information about the progress of groups of students as well as individual learners is stored on remote servers and immediately available to instructors. UNESCO and Nokia are training Senegalese teachers in over 50 schools how to use the application to gain deeper insights into the learning needs of their students and constructively respond to these needs. A partnership with a local mobile operator, Sonatel, is being established so that access to the online resource is zero-rated for participants.