Learning with mobile devices

A comparison of four mobile learning pilots in Africa

For the past few years, I have been involved in several projects aimed at delivering education via mobile devices. These include providing local language (for many African languages) children’s reading books to Worldreader for distribution on feature phones, developing a bilingual maths dictionary Android app for isiXhosa learners, and supporting the Gauteng Education Department’s Paperless Classroom digital rollout by providing textbooks on tablets via the Snapplify e-reader. These projects all involved repurposing existing print material for use on a mobile device, so I was very interested in reading Shafika Isaacs, Nicky Roberts and Garth Spencer-Smith’s recent paper (in the South African Journal of Education) where they compared four mobile learning projects across Africa.

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The Development of a User-generated Digital Library

Current ICTs and mobile technology have the potential to empower communities to preserve and manage their own local knowledge. This paper looks at the development of the Ulwazi Programme, a community-generated digital library of local content, based in the eThekwini Municipality of Durban, South Africa. The programme uses crowd-sourcing and Web 2.0 technologies to enable communities served by the municipal library to contribute to a digital resource of local knowledge. By creating an online platform that inhabitants of the municipality can engage with and contribute to, the author argues that communities start participating in the global information society. Making this information more widely available can also serve to promote cross-cultural understanding and tolerance and in turn, social cohesion. Technology empowers communities to record what they feel is important in a way that makes sense and is logical to them. The Ulwazi Programme increases the capacity of the local communities of eThekwini to develop and access content in their own language. Previously technologically-marginalised communities now have online access to local knowledge, along with the prospect of participating in the global information society and developing digital literacy.

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Publication Name: IST-Africa 2013 Conference Proceedings

How to build an Indigenous Digital Library through Community Participation

African Libraries and Information Centres are poorly equipped to make a meaningful contribution to the current global digital knowledge economy. The paucity of African stories and community information on the web predicates the limited role of heritage and information practitioners in Africa. Low local content on the Web retards buy-in from local communities into digital resources, impeding ICT skills development and social transformation. These issues could be addressed successfully through provision of indigenous knowledge resources, sourced from the community, as part of public library services.
This paper describes a concept for the development of user-generated content compiled in an Indigenous digital library, making use of current mobile and web technologies. Informed by empirical practice based on a real African case-study, the innovative use of internet-based mobile applications that permits the exchange of information is explained, highlighting the interaction between the library, the community and the latest technologies. By re-aligning their services thus public libraries in Africa have the potential to reduce the digital divide an promote sustainable development.

More Info: Co-authored with Elizabeth Greyling. SCECSAL 2012 Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Published in the conference proceedings ‘Information for Sustainable Development in a Digital Environment’: 400-411.
Publication Date: 2012
Publication Name: Information for Sustainable Development in a Digital Environment