Localizing mobile learning policy for maximum return on investment and stakeholder satisfaction

Mr David Parsons  | Presentation (PDF)

Massey University



Policy plays a major role in the introduction and use of ICT in schools. The use of ICT for teaching and learning is developing rapidly; it is increasingly mobile and reliant on broadband infrastructure. UNESCO’s policy guidelines for mobile learning provide a broad set of objectives, but these need to be tailored to local conditions. Policy is applied at multiple levels, from government strategy down to individual school regulations and impacts on a range of stakeholders including students, teachers, employers and service providers. Perhaps the most fundamental of UNESCO’s policy recommendations relates to the provision of robust and affordable broadband and mobile networks, since most of the other recommendations rely on having an adequate ICT infrastructure. Such networks require substantial investment, which cannot be made without a reasonable assessment of the possible return on investment (ROI). A significant element of projected ROI is often stated as ‘social surplus’, a concept that is likely to vary widely across different contexts, and will have a particular interpretation when applied to mobile and broadband use in education. 

This presentation is based on a study of mobile learning policy in New Zealand, a country worthy of study in relation to UNESCO’s policy guidelines as it has some unique characteristics that reveal how generic policies need to be adapted to local conditions. New Zealand is a developed OECD nation, yet has a strongly agrarian economy. It has a small but diverse population that is highly concentrated in a few areas. It is very geographically remote and has limited international cable connections. It has an education system that is largely self-governing at the school level, with no educational authorities at the area level, and uses a ‘decile’ rating system of schools that impacts on educational investment policy. Its broadband investment policy has in the past been characterized as ‘soft intervention’, but this may perhaps now be more realistically characterized as ‘medium intervention’, with an aggressive national programme of ultra-fast broadband rollout currently in progress. 

The main question addressed in this study is ‘how is mobile learning policy enacted in New Zealand and what policy assumptions underlie ROI projections?' In order to address this question, a range of stakeholders were interviewed, including representatives of the New Zealand Ministry of Education, ICT professional bodies, infrastructure service providers and schools. This presentation reveals some of the main drivers for mobile learning policy as enacted in New Zealand and the impacts of that policy on local implementation. 

Given the high profile given to investment in ICT infrastructure internationally, this presentation should provide policy makers with useful information that may help them contextualize and localize their own policies, within the broad framework outlined by UNESCO's policy guidelines

It is hoped that this talk will elicit from the audience contrasting experiences from different national contexts that may help to illuminate how generic policy is adapted to meet local conditions. In particular it would be interesting to find out how different territories interpret the social surplus aspects of ROI in an educational context.



Mr David Parsons is Associate Professor of Information Technology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. He holds a PhD in Information Technology and a Master’s degree in Computer Science and has wide experience in both academia and the IT industry. He is the founding editor in chief of the International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL) and author of a number of texts on computer programming, web application development and mobile learning. His work has been published in many international journals, including Computers & Education, IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies and Software Practice and Experience. He chaired the Conference on Mobile Learning Technologies and Applications in 2007 and was research track chair for the 12th International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning in 2013. He was co-editor of ‘Innovative Mobile Learning: Techniques and Technologies’ (IGI, 2009) and also edits the annual compilations of papers from IJMBL that are published as a regular series of books. He has been involved with policy formulation and implementation relating to ICT in education for several years, giving evidence to the Education & Science Select Committee Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy, and working with local schools in their implementation of mobile learning policies. He has also acted as expert adviser for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. He is a member of the International Association for Mobile Learning, a committee member for the Australia New Zealand Mobile Learning association (ANZMLearn) and a professional member of the British Computer Society.





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