Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki visited President Obama at the White House on Monday to discuss regional security issues, as well as trade, energy, American investment in Iraq and education. Sadly, I was not invited, but I want to pose a question to PM Maliki about the last, and surely least, point of discussion: education.

First, a little background: As you may know, Saddam Hussein banned political and religious freedoms – and mobile phones. So my question, PM Maliki, is how you plan to use the relatively recent introduction of mobile technology to improve educational access, opportunity and outcomes.

At Blackboard, we have some ideas based on research we’re supporting in the developing world. Through a partnership with Stanford University School of Education, we’re field testing a new mobile learning approach – first in rural Argentina, which you can read about here.

Project Activate uses learning management system software, smart phones and customized hardware to improve – and, in many cases, initiate – collaborative learning in rural community schools where the information technology infrastructure is almost zero. With this unique public-private-non-profit partnership – and innovative coupling of education technology tools and services – we’re able to engage underserved students and connect them with peers around the globe in completely new ways.

How does it work? Students complete assignments on handheld mobile devices loaded with Blackboard Mobile Learn. The mobile devices connect to a small, battery-powered server that houses existing materials, as well as new student- and teacher-generated content. Cell service isn’t required and the server can even run off a car battery. This approach increases student interactivity and collaboration in the classroom by welcoming multimedia, blogs and discussion boards into the learning environment. And, together, students and teachers are producing a robust content repository and using Web 2.0 technologies to extend teaching and learning. Hear about the project from Blackboard’s Stanford University partner, Dr. Paul Kim, in this video.

So, PM Maliki, are you considering the potential impact of mobile technologies on student learning in your country? Our first round of research shows that it’s pretty powerful – perhaps more so than the F-16 fighter jets the U.S. plans to sell you.

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  • Michael Ramos Acosta

    Project Activate sounds like a real good idea and i honestly hope stanford university succeeds in their mission to bring these new programs and technologies to rural communities. People in countries with a poor educational system seem more intrigued with education but they don’t always have the resources to learn and i think this makes it easier for students to learn because we as humans are really interested in new and upcoming technologies so it makes getting an education that much more interesting.

    • Andrea Meier

      Hi Michael. Thanks for your comment and we agree! To learn more about the latest Project Activate activity, check out Neha’s post from her time in rural Tanzania. She is spending nearly two weeks introducing students to new forms of learning through technology: She’ll have a few more posts and pictures to share upon return.