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Posted by on Apr 11, 2011

#MobiMOOC: Stakeholders, higher education, and localization


Playing around a bit with some possible project proposals as part of the #MobiMOOC discussions, bu find myself a touch torn between a scaled project for developing nations (one that is driven by stakeholders, distributed, measurable, sustainable) and a pie in the sky one, more of a proof of concept of what indeed is possible in the grander scheme of mobile learning.

I think there is room for both, as some of the discussions on #MobiMOOC have alluded to, but ultimately I will have to come down on one side of the fence on this one. However, the scoping questions still apply and offer some good guidance on creating projects of merit without trouncing on individual or collective autonomy.

Audience and Stakeholders

For whom is your mobile initiative intended? Who are your major stakeholders? Is there a champion in management that can help mobile learning?

The intended audience and the stakeholders might overlap a bit, but ultimately we are discussing proposed impact of the project (audience) and the agents that will ultimately determine the project’s success and sustainability (stakeholders). These stakeholders must be chosen wisely and they should reflect the realities of  application on the ground (in situ). Local representation must be present (indeed, embedded in the formulative stages) to be successful. I am thinking a bit to John Traxler’s comments on the #MobiMOOC discussion:

A more critical discussion is however needed because various
communities, necessary actors in facilitating successful learning
using mobile devices and technologies in Africa, each come with
considerable potential but often inappropriate contributions, partial
understandings and flawed assumptions:

The phrase inappropriate contributions jumped at me as it goes a long way towards articulating the divide between potential and realized contributions of many ICT4D projects. Impact can be inappropriate, a Western construct clumsily mapped to an African context (or any localized instance), a pedagogy that tears a bit at the fabric and cohesion of society. An inappropriate contribution. I have encountered this a bit in the past in my work (even in my own thinking of and conceptualizing of a project) and have seen even well-meaning attempts fail for lack of a real localization (I hate to call it localization; prefer something that stresses locally realized).

Mobile learning is especially subject to this inappropriateness due its ubiquity (and therefore massive potential), immediacy (both the technology and what is perceived of as being possible change rapidly), and informality (often outside formal learning constructs).

John continues with something that alludes to the inappropriate contributions of some mobile learning programs, namely the inappropriate mapping of a formal instructional pedagogy (school) to a mobile one:

The m4d, and larger ICTD, community of researchers, activists and
practitioners have currently generally only addressed learning and
education as ‘service delivery’ issues, using mobile technologies to
smooth the operations of educational institutions, and have not
engaged significantly with education processes or practices.
Mobile learning, insofar as it takes place in Africa, has been seen as
part of e-learning in Africa and as part of the rhetoric of ‘catching-
up’ and ‘leap-frogging’. The technologies of e-learning necessarily
but perhaps implicitly embody ideas and practices of teaching and
learning native to America or Western Europe. Furthermore the model
for procuring and deploying and supporting ICT for education is no
longer appropriate, being based on institutional provision rather than learner ownership.

This “service delivery” mindset is common (I fall prey to it as well), that the solution is merely a delivery issue of data at appropriate times in appropriate contexts. This negates the local capacity for active exploration of knowledge constructions (individual and regional agency in learning) and does seem to juxtapose itself against knowledge and mobile being active, even aggressively active collaborative and social events.

Using mobile technologies “to smooth the operations of educational institutions” seems misguided as well (nothing against promoting efficiency or anything), because it posits the institutions as passive recep

ients of tech (we have this iPad; maybe we can do something with it) rather than visible agents in the construction of apporpriate mobile practices (or even pedagogies).

And, and now I am rambling, it puts a whole lot of pressure on higher education (or any formal educational system) in terms of distributing learning, informalizing learning (indeed, even commericalizing learning), and empowering individuals in the construction of their own learning. Connectivism, constructivism all seem to work in the mobile context, but traditional modes of higher education do not (at least, not always).





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