The forgotten role of teachers in mobile education

The importance of research and participatory design appears to be kind of a theme on the site this week. I just keep running into articles like Sven Torfinn’s How teachers in Africa are failed by mobile learning. He discusses how leaving teachers out of the design process is a big risk:

My concern is that some people use the problems with education systems to justify excluding teachers from the design and development of mobile learning interventions. Teachers’ voices are marginalised. And mobile operators association GSMA (to take just one example) characterises the teaching profession in a way that divorces it from progress and innovation.

The difficulties teachers face are used as a starting point for criticism, rather than as a motivation to address systemic issues. […] It is a mistake to run down teachers’ professionalism to justify technology use in education.

The London International Development Centre puts it this way in Why mobile learning on its own won’t solve the access problem:

We need to move away from the notion that simply because mobile phones are the most available technology to those in the majority world that somehow they will in and of themselves lead to developmental learning. A more sustainable approach is to work within the formal education system, in particular to build the capacity of teachers and practitioners to design and develop mobile learning interventions in country. Only then will they be useful to those whose capability development they aim to support.

If One Laptop per Child taught us anything, it’s the dangers of designing technology without a proper understanding of the context of use. The same goes for the push into mobile education (and mobile anything, for that matter).