Locating M-Learning in India

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“The portability of the device [Mobile Phone] makes it the most revolutionary of the latest technologies to have changed our lives”

-Milrad, 2003

It is true that the escalating use of mobile phones has even over-taken the growth rate of internet access among the people of India. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, India had 635.51 million mobile phone users at the end of June 2010, projecting a phenomenal growth in tele-density. Today, India is the second-largest wireless market in the world after China.  Kurup and Tripathy (2010) predict that India’s mobile subscriber base will grow to 993 million by 2014. Many feel that the mobile is a potent enabler for those who do not have access to any form of education particularly in the rural areas of the country. It can be used for supplementing and complementing learning. Learning at one’s convenience and pace is made possible through devices like cellular phones enabling learners to collaborate, create, and evaluate their own learning processes.

 

M-Education or M-Learning

M-Education & learning involves the use of mobile technologies and services for empowering education apparatus; transforming schools, universities and other educational institutions through interactive, personalized and distributed learning resources; providing educational services and education management systems for the rural based educational institutions. (Manzar,2010: 56) The potential of mobile value-added services (VAS) such as SMS and MMS, and wireless data services based on technologies such as WLAN, GPRS and PTT, still remain to be unleashed, especially in India. (http://www.mobilein.com/mobile_VAS.htm ). A report by IAMAI & Technology group in 2006 (Mobile Value Added Services in India) describes how various telecom operators shifted focus on marketing and tie-ups with VAS providers to innovate their VAS offerings particularly for m-education. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has been carried out in many parts of the world since 2000. MALL is available through various modes like the mobile phones, i-pods, tablet PCs, mp3 players etc. Kukluska-Hulme (2005) states that m-learning makes the whole experience of learning “engaging” efficient and effective and combines the pedagogy of e-learning and distance learning. It frees the student from the confines of the classroom and the pressures associated with face-to-face learning. The constraints of time and space do not affect learning through this very personal yet very accessible device.

The advent of m-learning has a lot to do with the paradigm shift from a teacher-centered education to a learner-centered education. Learning theories of the 2000s emphasize the growth of an autonomous learner. It incorporates Informal Learning, Contextual Learning, and Ambient Learning. According to Sharple (http://slideshare.net), m-learning leverages on the 3 C’s of Effective Learning namely Construction, Conversation, and Control. However it is imperative to educate and commission teachers into m-learning pedagogy and construct theories which would further help in the development of m-learning. (Laurillard,2007)

M-Learning in India

In India the use of mobiles in education is still in its nascent stage. Even though several telecoms have tied up with VAS providers, the potential of the technology is yet to be optimally tapped. According to Alluri (Manzar,2010: 22), India’s telecom penetration growing at a rapid rate of 15 million subscribers a month, more than half of India’s population possesses a mobile phone rather than a television set as it does not require continuous power supply. All the telecom operators and VAS providers realize that their future is within the heart of India where 70 % of it population lives. The rural population, with limited discretionary spending at their disposal, are looking at critical information about weather, markets, government policies and schemes, health care and education

English Language through M-Learning

Mobile phone manufacturers along with VAS providers are manufacturing devices that support language learning through m-learning.

‘Learn English’ program, an innovative voice-based (IVR) English mobile learning program is currently live on BSNL in nine regional languages. The user-friendly and self-paced program teaches spoken English through simple stories and daily-life situations. Daily SMSs and practice tests are a part of the learning package. A consumer feedback conducted by BSNL found that 80% respondents gained significantly from the words and phrases taught in the conversations section. ‘English Seekho’ by Tata DoCoMo uses audio clips. They are short lessons followed by interactive lessons which enable users to practice what they have learnt through the mobile’s keys or through speech recognition.

IGNOU – Nokia Collaboration

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Nokia plan to come together for the first of its kind tie-up between a telecom giant and educational institution in India to promote English language learning. The Nokia Life Tools launched in 2009 will be adapted for the same. The Education services will facilitate language learning using the bilingual method. English words of varying difficulty would be sent via periodic SMS’s to the students enrolled with IGNOU with an option of viewing the explanation in his/her mother tongue. Progress would be assessed by means of periodic quizzes. IGNOU plans to provide Nokia Life Tools (NLT) enabled phones as part of the course materials. If the students already have a Nokia phone they can subscribe to NLT application by paying a nominal fee. Nokia on the other hand plans to offer its customers an opportunity to enroll with IGNOU if they buy a phone that is NLT enabled.

M-Learning is here to stay

A technological innovation known as the Panini Keypad could enhance m-learning in a big way for ESL learners. Manzar (48) describes it as “a patented multi-lingual keypad on the mobile which enables a user to type in all the regional languages of India. Features include single-press typing, a fast input system and touch screen compatibility. Easy to learn and operate even for the aged.”  With the 3G wireless service which combines a mobile phone, laptop PC and TV, m-learning is sure to revolutionize education by making it interactive, innovative and economical. IGNOU has already begun exploring the advantages of the 3G mobile services in delivering education especially to the remote area learners.
Indeed, M-Learning asks for a shift in pedagogy which in turn would help in fostering learner autonomy by motivating the learner to perform on his/her own.

Works Cited

  1. Kukluska-Hulme, A. “Mobile Usability and User Experience.” Mobile Learning: A handbook of Educators and Trainers Ed. A.Kukluska-Hulme and J.Traxler. Oxon: Routledge, 2005. 76-83

  2. Kurup, Rajesh and Devidutta Tripathy. “Mobile users in India at 993 million in 2014: Researcher Gartner.” Daily News and Analysis. 15 Jul, 2010. Mumbai: Reuters. <http://www.dnaindia.com>  29 July 2010

  3. “Learn English – an innovative mobile learning program.” India PRwire. 17 Nov 2009. http://www.indiaprwire.com/> 29 July 2010

  4. Laurillard, D. “Pedagogical forms for mobile learning: framing research questions.” Mobile Learning: Towards a Research Agenda. Ed. Norbert Pachler. London: WLE Centre. 2007. <http://www.wlecentre.ac.uk> 27 July,2010.

  5. Manzar,O.ed. Mobile for Masses: South Asia’s Best Mobile Innovations. New Delhi: Digital Empowerment Foundation. 2010

  6. Milrad, L. “Mobile learning: challenges, perspectives, and reality.” Mobile Learning: Essays on Philosophy, Psychology and Education.  Ed. K. Nyiri. Vienna: Passagen Verlag. 2003. 151–164

  7. “Mobile Value Added Services in India”. A Report by IAMAI & eTechnology Group@IMRB December 2006. <http://www.iamai.in> 30 July 2010.

  8. Sharple, M. “A Short History of m-learning and Some Issues to Consider.” 2007 <http://slideshare.net> 28 July, 2010

  9. “What Rural Mobile Phone Users Want?” India News.  15 Apr.2010< http://www.nampblog.com> New Delhi. 28 July 2010.

Roseliz Francis is a Research and Teaching Assistant in the School of Humanities, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi.

Sapna Miranda is a Research and Teaching Assistant in the School of Humanities, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi.

* Article first published in FORTELL Sep 2010

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