Mobile devices facilitate learning in many and often unstructured ways all over the world. Use ranges from the mobile phone’s simple inbuilt applications such as the calculator and the notebook function to more sophisticated use like broadcasting TV and radio, slide shows and streaming other media. Lectures are recorded and pictures are taken and with an internet connection it opens up for numerous possibilities. In distance learning voice and SMS are used to coordinate and cooperate and in some occasions used for oral exams. Mobile chat, mobile wikis, mobile blog, tweets, and social sites like Facebook are also efficient tools for cooperation.
The mobile phone can, if used correctly,
• be an efficient documentation tool,
• lead to an increased interaction in the class room, and
• promote cooperation
The majority of existing m-learning related applications in East Africa are of administrative nature; SMS based applications that give access to examination results or send out reminders. A few applications focus on content where access to information, sometimes through the web and/or games, is key. The Ministry of Education in Tanzania is running two projects using mobile phones and networks to increase access to learning materials and to support distance education, namely BridgeIT and ICT BITES (see Appendix 2). Another project worth mentioning is Doctor Math taking advantage of the popular instant messaging application MXit in South Africa (www.mxitlifestyle.com). MXit has become extremely popular among teenagers and the preferred social network due to cost factors and critical mass of users. The instant messaging system is also utilised for educational purposes like Dr Math, launched in early 2007 by the Meraka Institute (www.meraka.org.za) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Learners post a maths question and thereby enter into a discussion with a tutor ready to answer any question from the entire primary and secondary school mathematics syllabus. Tutors are students from the University of Pretoria who are all obliged to do 40 hours of community service work. Similar applications will be seen in East Africa too, that is if the schools do not ban the use of mobiles in class.