Distance Education

Using Cell Phone for Educative Purposes

Cell phone is becoming popular for learning purpose; Image credit: Newswise
Cell phone is becoming popular for learning purpose; Image credit: Newswise
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

With a view to preparing our students and teachers for the world of today technological tools can be used to enhance teaching and learning situations. Today’s students are not for passing in the examination and getting a certificate only but to gain real-life skills. Technological tools available with and around us today can easily be utilized for reaching this goal. The cell phone is the most popular and easily available device which can largely be used in teaching-learning situation. Teachers need to experience, understand the educational value, and be comfortable with technology tools before using them to enhance teaching and learning.

If we are exposing teachers to ways to incorporate cells into the classroom, we are providing that teacher and classroom with tremendous power and access and an ability to model for students how to use a cell phone as a learning tool. Millions of students in China and Japan, the Philippines, and Germany are using their mobile phones to learn English; study math, health, and spelling; and access life and archived university lectures. So, why not we? Using SMS to find definitions, currency conversion, math equations, translation, and more, using as an internet browser to access endless information, conducting research, reading news articles and current events, reading books, downloading and using education programs such as Google Maps, using as a digital or video camera to accompany school projects, publishing, educating students on appropriate and acceptable social use and using the voice technology to share engaging lectures or lessons are the ways to use a mobile phone for educative purpose.

Many countries across the developing world are also now using mobile technologies to increase and improve communication and monitoring that take place between a school and its local government. This is especially valuable for rural and isolated schools with only one teacher, but also for overcrowded urban schools facing difficulties in monitoring vulnerable children. More than one-third of the world’s adult population – most living in the developing world – has no access to printed knowledge, new skills, and technologies that could improve the quality of their lives (Dhanarajan, 2009, p. 46). Here this small device can be used to educate them.

The cell phone is the most prevalent ICT in the developing world, and the penetration rate is rising rapidly. In Asia, mobile penetration has doubled within a short span of time; in 2001, average penetration was 19.7 per 100 inhabitants while in 2005 the penetration rate rose to 40.9 (Orbicom, 2007). Also relevant is the fact that mobile phone ownership is increasingly more common in the lower socio-economic segments of society (Samrajiva & Zainudeen, 2008). Mobile phones are an especially good ‘leapfrogger’ since they use the radio spectrum. Others suggest that the benefits of mobile phones are not merely limited to increased access to educational services. Mobile Learning, they indicate, can also facilitate changes in the character of learning modalities that in turn impact educational outcomes. In this regard, MLearning represents more than a mere extension of traditional forms of education; it facilitates alternative learning processes and instructional methods that the theories of new learning identify as effective for learning.

Mobile Learning or learning through cell phone empowers students to actively participate in the learning process to make it a process of construction and not mere instruction (dela Pena-Bandalaria, 2007). Mobile phones also facilitate community-centered learning, meaning learning that the learner deems valuable because of its relevance to the surrounding social context. Mobile Learning facilitates learning that can be used to achieve socio-economic goals that respond to problems, such as problems related to health or family care confronting the surrounding community (Sharples et al., 2007, p. 223; Wagner & Kozma, 2005, pp. 83-85).

“It’s a big step in the right direction in terms of putting the possibilities in front of the GSMA’s members and raising awareness of the commercial and business opportunities education represents in the developing world,” says John Traxler, professor of m-learning at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. “Clearly it’s a small sample, covering only four countries, so it’s indicative rather than representative. But if the networks get the message, it’s a valuable piece of work. Networks don’t need to hear it’s virtuous, they need to hear it’s profitable – just enough to encourage them to get out there and do something.” One female student from rural India told the GSMA researchers: “In class, I sometimes record the lectures on my phone so I can listen to them later in case I forget or don’t understand. I can use the calculator to help me with my maths. My favorite subjects are maths, science, history, and economics. If you could get these on your mobile it would be good.”

Mobile learning by cell phone is often referred to as ‘learning on the go. ’Students can download learning materials onto their handled devices, and access them while on the move, or during‘ downtime, for example, while traveling on the train to work while waiting for a bus even while lying on the sofa after work. Typical English language learning applications include the word, grammar, and pronunciation games, or audio and video podcasts. Podcasts may be linked to social media sites where students can interact with podcast characters and practice their English. Teachers can tell their students what is available for their mobile devices, encourage them to experiment with using apps in their free time and get them to report back to the class on what they have used and how useful they have found it. Learning with mobile devices does not have to take place exclusively outside the classroom; it can happen in the class as well if teachers are sound enough to utilize this device.  Using low cost and easily available devices for upgrading teaching and learning situation is the sing smartness. Today we want smart teachers. We also want smart teachers to produce smart students. 

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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