Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jozi college goes mobile- mLearning & Learning 2.0 w/ MobilED

IOL: Jozi college goes mobile

By Sholain Govender

While cellphone use is banned in most South African schools, a Centurion college has decided to embrace the technology and
use it to educate pupils. Cornwall Hill College, in collaboration with the Meraka Institute of the CSIR, is developing research-based models and scenarios on how cellphones could be used to empower pupils and aid teachers.

These models are being tested and evaluated in South Africa, Brazil, India, and Finland. This initiative, dubbed "MobilED", encourages teachers and pupils to use mobile devices in formal and informal learning situations.

It is also hoped that the initiative will improve scientific and technical know-how by noting how young people use mobile devices in everyday knowledge-sharing and problem-solving situations in and out of the school environment. "Cellphones are seen to be disruptive and distracting instruments and detrimental to teaching and learning in formal teaching environments," said Cornwall Hill College spokesperson Britt van der Knaap. "An alternative way of looking at this is to embrace these widely used and owned instruments.

"Even the most basic cellphones are powerful communication instruments and can be used to great advantage in the learning process to gain access to information as well as to manage, create and share content," she said. Using these microcomputers in formal learning environments can enhance and support existing learning strategies and benefit the advantaged as well as the disadvantaged pupil, Van der Knaap said.

She said Cornwall Hill College, a private school in Irene, had benefited tremendously from extended exposure to this new approach to
learning. Cornwall's executive director Leon Kunneke adopted the new initiative and encouraged the appropriate use of cellphones in the classroom
through values-based principles, instead of managing it on a rules-based system.

Cornwall Hill College is now collaborating with Irene Middle School in developing and testing mobile supported learning to determine its impact in a resource-limited environment. Teachers form Cornwall Hill recently gave a presentation at the 5th World Conference on Mobile Learning held in Banff, Canada.

This annual conference encourages critical debate on approaches, principles, and applications of mobile devices for promoting learning in formal and informal learning environments. Mobile Learning 2006 provided an opportunity for researchers, teachers, students, technologists and practitioners, as well as professionals
from industry, to share their knowledge, experience and research in the various areas where mobile learning is applied.

The MobilED initiative was the focus of three papers presented at the conference. Merryl Ford, of the Meraka Institute, presented a technical
paper on the server platform created in using cellphones to access content in Wikipedia (an online encyclopaedia) via text-to-speech technology.

Pupils of Cornwall Hill and Irene Middle School had the opportunity to address the issue of HIV/Aids among the youth and they could contribute their own perspectives to the growing body of knowledge by adding voice files to the existing Wikipedia.

Cornwall Hill College teacher Adele Botha's presentation, "When Wikis grow up and go for outings", documents the experiences of her Grade 10 science pupils in creating their own online textbook in the classroom and accessing it via their cellphones during an outing to Gold Reef City.

Fellow teacher Jacqueline Batchelor presented "Moving beyond a pilot", which focused on the implications of piloting and implementing mobile learning in a formal school environment and the catalyst for change brought about by the MobilED initiative. "It is encouraging to realise that South Africa and Cornwall Hill College in particular is on the cutting edge of developing and implementing mobile learning in formal learning scenarios," Van der Knaap said.

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