At the end of the summer, I had the opportunity to join a research trip in Misiones, Argentina with a group from Stanford University and Seeds of Empowerment. We were field testing a mobile learning solution designed for the most remote parts of the developing world. The solution combines Blackboard Mobile Learn software with specialized hardware designed to be portable, durable, and able to operate off a car battery where needed.
Over the course of the 10-day trip, we worked with more than 250 kids in 10 different middle and high schools. It was great to see the power of mobile devices in education first hand. At Blackboard, we talk about the importance of making the education experience interactive and collaborative, but seeing it in action is incredibly powerful.
One of my favorite experiences was an afternoon spent at a community center in Garuhapé with a group of 6th graders. The mobile learning exercise was designed so they could design test questions, take each other’s tests and then evaluate each other’s work. The exercise was so engaging that the students were all happily working on math problems for over two hours, rather than on the soccer field, where they normally spend their Thursday afternoons.
I also learned that the “digital native” concept can be applied globally. Even in the most rural schools, where children can walk up to three hours just to get to school, and have never seen smart phone before, they seem to become experts within minutes of turning on the phone. It was fun to watch the kids exploring the apps on the phone, both educational and entertaining (and no, Angry Birds was not loaded on these devices, but if it were, I am sure they would have beaten my high score in minutes).
We are continuing to test the use of Blackboard Mobile Learn in remote parts of the world, stay tuned for information on the next field trial in early 2012.