Transforming mobile technology into tools for reading: Findings from UNESCO’s mobile reading landscape review and implications for teachers

Ms Rebecca Kraut  | Presentation (PDF)

Independent Education Consultant



This session will provide an overview of UNESCO’s mobile reading landscape review, Transforming Mobile Technology into Tools for Reading (to be published in conjunction with Mobile Learning Week), which describes and analyses various mobile reading initiatives around the world. In keeping with the MLW theme, the presentation will highlight initiatives that employ mobile devices to improve pedagogy and enhance teacher effectiveness in formal education settings. Specifically, it will discuss three types of interventions in terms of their relation to teachers: communication, assessment and resources. 

Initiatives that use SMS technology to strengthen student-teacher communication and enable teachers to deliver content and feedback more regularly and over a longer period of time than face-to-face courses. These include the Afghan Institute of Learning’s Mobile Literacy Programme in Afghanistan and UNESCO’s Mobile-Based Literacy Programme in Pakistan, both of which add SMS mobile phone components to in-person literacy courses to improve learning and increase literacy retention after courses have concluded. Both projects target illiterate and neo-literate women and adolescent girls living in rural areas. 

Initiatives that use mobile apps to improve assessment and help teachers gather information about individual students’ learning: These include Ustad Mobile in Afghanistan and Sen Mobile in Senegal, both of which use mobile apps to improve literacy learning, ideally as a supplement to classroom instruction. Both apps have features that can track student progress and transmit the information to teachers’ phones via Bluetooth or SMS. 

Initiatives that use mobile devices to help teachers bring more (and more diverse) reading materials into their classrooms and provide them with guidance on how to use that material with students: These include FunDza in South Africa, which provides free teen-focused reading content via mobile phones in an effort to popularize reading among young people; and Worldreader, an organization that donates e-readers to classrooms in Africa and makes digital books freely available to millions of readers around the world via feature phones. FunDza’s mobile site includes a section specifically devoted to teachers, with resources for incorporating mobile books into their curricula and Worldreader trains both teachers and students to use e-readers in their classrooms. 

These initiatives address major hurdles to literacy education in the developing world: literacy skills that quickly atrophy following in-person courses, overcrowded classrooms that prevent teachers from giving students individualized attention and a profound lack of reading materials, especially those that are interesting and relevant to young people. The presentation will describe how a number of projects are using mobile technology to tackle these issues, with particular emphasis on project outcomes as well as potential for scalability and replicability. The presentation aims to be useful to MLW participants interested in replicating or building on these projects on a large or small scale: classroom teachers, mobile app developers, education researchers and representatives from donor organizations and NGOs, among others. To increase relevance for education policy-makers, the presentation will spotlight instances where partnerships with government organizations have enabled successful projects to grow. The presenter will seek feedback from the audience to direct future research.



Rebecca Kraut is an international education researcher. She is the primary author of the UNESCO publication Transforming Mobile Technology into Tools for Reading and the editor of UNESCO’s Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning. Ms Kraut recently completed a Fulbright fellowship in Georgia, where she researched teacher training and conducted a case study of a national programme to improve English-language education in public schools. Ms Kraut holds a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University and California teaching credentials in English and social studies. She has worked as a classroom teacher in the United States and abroad.



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