There is a special focus in the project on in-service education of "Licensed Teachers", teachers with only a few weeks of formal teacher education.A number of these licensed teachers are enrolled in an education program run by the Open University of Tanzania
The project is described at http://sites.google.com/site/ictbites/ and there is a demo how mobile phones are used in the project at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkf1PjvAwlw
December 3:rd of 2009 an evaluation of the pilot project was made. 15 of the 18 students who had participated in the introduction meeting in January also participated in the evaluation. Of these 15 students, nine had been supplied with mobile phones by the project. The evaluation meeting was conducted in connection to the students’ last face-to-face meeting in their teacher education, taking place at the Teacher College of Mpwapwa.
During the four hour long evaluation meeting the students discussed in groups and answered questions individually. For group discussion the students were divided into four groups.
Group discussion one
The group work focused on the use of the mobile phones as learning tools, some questions were suggested for discussions:
- What communication tools facilitated the learning process in the pilot test?
- Where did you use the mobile phones?
- Was it better to read the text on the mobile phone screen or to listen to the voice interpretation?
- What were the pros and cons with having learning material as text and voice on mobile phones?
- Did you use any alternatives to SMS for text based communication?
- Did you use any different facilities of the book-reader, such as soft scroll, bookmarks etc?
- Did you demonstrate the mobile phone material to colleagues at your schools, and in that case, what was their reaction?
Group 1 meant that the mobile phones facilitated the learning process. Phones were used for Internet searches, e-mail and sending SMS to fellow students.
Group 2 compared the text and voice interpretation of the material. In their opinion the phone screen was too small for extensive reading, but e.g. on the bus, where the study guide is too big to handle, they found it to be an attractive alternative. The voice interpretation they said worked even in a noisy environment, thanks to the earphones. Group 2 agreed with group 1 that the mobile phones facilitated the learning process.
Both group 1 and 2 considered not being able to discuss with a teacher or ask questions to be a “con” with having the course material as “voice" (listening to lectures instead of meeting them face-to-face).
Group 3 commented that they had not been able to use the Moodle system as they as students had not been provided with ID:s and passwords to the system. Regarding the course material on the mobile phones, they preferred the voice to the text. They had shown the material on their mobile phones to colleagues in their schools, and the colleagues shown great interest.
Group 4 also mentioned that the mobile phones had helped them in getting access to additional learning material from other sources, this through Bluetooth, e-mail and messengers.
The next activity was for the students to individually answer a questionnaire about what they thought could be improved in the case of a scaling up of the project. Following are the questions given to the students. The student’s suggestions are presented in italics.
1.Logistics: As we know only a small number of students have access to the type of mobile phones needed to download material, thus several practical issues in relation to this may arise: Should there be downloading stations at the university? What about the problems associated with viruses and USB’s? Do the students have access to Internet cafés? What about the expenses involved etc?
A. How should students get the learning material (in electronic form)?
- There should be downloading stations at the university and at the regional centres.
- The students should get all the learning material in electronic form. This can be done by downloading from the Internet, or through e-mail, storing on a flash memory, storing on computer laptops or on mobile phones.
- Downloading stations at the university or at Internet cafes can be used to reduce the airtime cost. Laptops are good because one can write notes, and the screen is bigger compared to phones.
B. What tools for communication should be used? Pros and cons?
- Mobile phones are easy to use and cheap, but the air-time cost is a problem.
2.Content: Another question which may be good to address is the question of the content of the support. We have discussed models whereby students could gain access to previous exam questions etc. Would this be useful? Is it realistic?
A: What would be the most important (additional) content for successful studies? List!
- More questions.
- Previous exams. The content should cover the syllabus of the courses.
- Computers to the learners.
- More courses.
3.Organisation: It seems that most of the initiative has to be on the students to organise themselves into study support groups. How do we assist in this work? What about the idea of student mentors? How do students find each other? Etc.
A. How should study groups be organised?
- Students taking similar course should form groups.
- The mentors could help the students to organize themselves into study groups.
- The groups could submit questions group wise not to give the teachers too big a workload.
- Workshops and e-mail, SMS and phones.
- Meetings at least tree times a year. Regional centres could be used.
B. What should be the role of the student mentor?
- To spread information and knowledge and to coordinate his fellow students to the source of information and knowledge.
- To help others in difficult areas in their studies.
- To assist students in the use of e-learning.
C. How should student mentors be rewarded?
- Wages/payment and/or equipment such as laptop, projector and mobile phone.
- Accommodation and transportation.
- Chance to additional studies.
- By gifts from the supported student, the gift will depend on the support capability.
Group discussion two
In a last round of focus group discussions the students got the opportunity to present their general thoughts about the project and to discuss what should be done differently in an extended ICT-BITES project? A special focus was on how interaction and communication could be improved.
- The project should be seriously conducted so not to waste money and time.
- The use of mentors should start as soon as possible.
- Face-to-face meetings should be more often.
- Frequent communication using different tools should be encouraged e.g. Yahoo groups.
- Air time should be provided at low cost.
- Bigger memory cards, e g 8 GB would make it possible to put encyclopaedias, lexicons etc. on the mobile phones.
- More courses, such as science courses.
- Other tools with bigger screens and/or higher capacity could be tested.
Evaluation of the meeting
The workshop itself was then evaluated; most students said that they felt they’d had the opportunity to present their views about the pilot project and the possible scaling up of the project. They also noted that not all involved partners in the project were present during the evaluation meeting and that meetings should have been conducted more often. The circumstance that seven of the students in the pilot were not provided with mobile phones, which they had been promised, was also commented on.
The students continued with their preparations for their final exams, Bengt and Shadrack went back to Dar.