Can SMS stories and lesson plans be used to support the teaching of English among primary-school teachers in remote rural locations?

Ms Alison Gee and Mr Purna Kumar Shrestha | Presentation (PDF)

VSO International



Does mobile phone technology offer any solutions to problems faced by teachers in remote areas?

Elementary teachers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) receive little, if any, training and their classrooms have limited resources. There are few books and so teachers have to make their own 'Big books'. Many villages are very remote and can only be accessed by small planes. Distributing books and materials is a costly process and the condition of the books deteriorates in the tropical climate. The mobile phone network has improved in PNG and many teachers have access to a mobile phone. In common with the rest of the world the popularity of the mobile phone in PNG has meant that many previously isolated communities are now able to communicate with others. 

SMS Story is a research project, funded by Australian Aid. Stories and lesson plans have been sent to Elementary School teachers in the provinces of Simbu and Madang. PNG is a diverse country with many languages and tribal communities. Madang Province is a coastal area and Simbu is in the Highlands.

In term one of the four-term year, SMS Story team assessed the children's reading level, using a simplified version of the Early Grade Reading Assessment, in 52 schools. There were equal numbers of control and active schools in each Province. In terms two and three, the active schools received a short story and a lesson plan via SMS. In term four, the team returned to the schools to retest the children's reading. 

We look forward to sharing the findings from this small, but interesting research project. Can we use SMS to improve teachers' practice and the standard of reading in remote schools?

We would like to ask workshop participants for their ideas as to how we might progress the research? What other ways can SMS be used to support teachers?



Alison Gee is a VSO volunteer who works with the Department of Education in Papua New Guinea as SMS story writer. She has volunteered with VSO as a curriculum adviser with the Ministry of Education in the Gambia for two years and as a Mental Health Trainer in Sri Lanka for three years. She was the principal lecturer of learning, technology and research at Ultralab, Anglia Ruskin University from 2000 to 2007. 

Purna Kumar Shrestha works as an Education Research and Advocacy Adviser at VSO, the world’s leading independent development organization that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. Purna, originally from Nepal, is based in London and leads VSO’s Valuing teachers’ advocacy and research initiative. Purna serves as a member of the steering committee of the International Taskforce on Teachers for EFA representing civil society organizations, the seat shared between the Global Campaign for Education and VSO. Purna is interested in using ICT for development and has been leading VSO's work in ICT in education, particularly using mobiles for improving teachers’ professional development skills. 


Twitter: @VSO_Intl

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