by Coby Enteen
Mobile devices are slowly transforming the educational landscape for teachers on a global scale. In a recent trip to Africa I had the opportunity to work with local K-12 teachers on utilizing and incorporating digital tools into the classroom.
This program took place in Ghana, which is a country with approximately 20 million people, of which 90% complete primary school grades and only a very small percentage move on to finish a twelfth grade education, and even fewer achieve a post secondary education.
A majority of the schools in Ghana lack the technological resources and facilities that we have become accustomed to in the western world. In the larger cities, some schools have computer labs and teachers use their own laptops where available. Another issue is the lack of internet access and instability of the electrical system, which is often times overloaded and causes blackouts.
The one aspect “leveling the field” is the increased access to mobile devices. It is very common to see individuals walking around with two mobile devices; one for work and one for personal use. These devices offer tremendous opportunities for the advancement of the field of education, particularly as related to the ability to teach 21st century skills and to provide easy access to information commonly available to individuals throughout the western world.
A number of barriers still remain to the effective incorporation of these devices into the classroom:
- High cost of data – In many developing countries where food and health care are still a main concern, individuals are unable to afford the high cost of data, which is buoyed by little competition within the cellular communication market.
- Breaking the traditional teaching model – Although digital education has become a commonplace term throughout the western world, the concept of educational transformation and 21st century skills is still a foreign concept to a majority of educators throughout the developing world.
- Opening the eyes of educators to the possibilities of technology in education – Teachers throughout the developing world often times lack the basic skills required for utilizing the technology for teaching and for guiding student work.
Mobile devices are slowly flattening the world in terms of bringing technology into the classroom. The lack of computers and other technologies within the educational arena in the developing world is being supplemented by the widespread availability of mobile devices. We must overcome a number of obstacles in order to meet this challenge and support educational change.