Effective deployment of mobile learning technology seems to require sufficient parental involvement and other sociometric support, according to the main finding of our recently submitted paper at the Stanford POMI in ED group.
Mobile technology, in particular, with its low cost and accessibility, has great potential to provide access to or supplement education in underdeveloped areas. Given that mobile learning devices could be effective in supplementing education particularly in a community with a poor educational infrastructure; this study selected 80 second-grade (7-8 years old) primary school students from an urban slum area and another 80 students in a rural village near the Mexico-USA border in the state of Baja California, Mexico. Both schools lack educational and technology resources and the general socio-economic status of the students is low. We examined whether mobile learning devices could have a differential effect in supporting students’ literacy learning skills in these two schools with their unique socio-economical strata.
Students in the experimental groups in both schools were equipped with a mobile learning device called TeacherMate with a headphone, preloaded with 18 mobile e-books (see Figure 1).
In contrast, the control groups were only participating in classroom lectures without the supplement of our mobile devices. A standard Spanish language literacy pretest assessed all students’ achievement scores in September 2008 and the same test was administered 16 weeks later in a posttest. In addition to these quantitative data, we interviewed parents and educators as well for qualitative purposes.
The findings suggest that students in the rural village have benefited substantially more from mobile technologies than urban school students (see Figure 2). These devices have contributed to better literacy scores and added an extra enrichment activity tool in class. Considering the fact that the availability of educational resources at the rural school was even less than at the urban slum school (i.e., books, computer, Internet access, etc.), the extra educational resources and learning opportunities served these children more effectively.
The interviews revealed that the rural school parents pay more attention to the education of their children. The number of answers reflected that 9 in 10 of the rural school parents were aware of the mobile learning project taking place at school, whereas only slightly more than 1 in 10 of the urban school parents knew about the project. Additionally, the rural school parental involvement in education is much higher with 5 hours a week spent with the children compared to the urban school average weakly less than 2 hours. Finally, the average combined income of the rural school is slightly higher (i.e., average $720/month) than that of the urban school (i.e., average $410/ month).
In contrast, there was no evidence of interaction with parental education levels (the overall education experience of the rural parents was less than that of the urban slum school parents), the experience of teachers or school principals (teacher in the rural school also had 2 years less teaching experiences than the teacher of the urban school), or the teacher’s perception or preparation of the technology (teacher in the rural school did not embrace technology in the classroom).
In summary, the programmable open design of our mobile learning technology (i.e., Linux, Flash) enables the development of other mobile learning activities to increase phonemic awareness skills of children at multiple levels and offer opportunities to practice reading through interesting content and entertaining activities.