Mobile Learning for Mathematics : Nokia project in South Africa

‘Mobile Learning for Mathematics’ project (MoMath) has been started in 2008 by Nokia Mobile & Learning Solutions under collaboration with the South African government, Nokia Siemens Networks, as well as operators and content providers. Its main focus is on active learning by delivering interactive study packages to students on low end Nokia mobile device using MXit.

The service focusses on active learning by delivering interactive study packages to students’ mobile phones and taking advantage of social networking. The content is embedded in local curriculum but provides multi-faceted learning experiences through theory, exercises, tutoring, peer-to-peer support, as well as competitions, tests and self-assessment. The result is highly motivated grade 10 pupils chatting with friends and doing maths on their mobiles, even out of school – in the evenings, weekends and holidays – testing themselves to continually improve their scores and competing with their peers.

The service is free for students through the country’s two main operators, MTN and CellC, and it is available on all phones, not just Nokia devices. With an easy interface for both learners and teachers, it allows pupils to understand and develop their own competencies. Teachers, on the other hand, can easily send ad-hoc tests to their pupils, tap onto a practically endless exercise bank and gain an understanding of the students’ competence levels and improvement areas.

Nokia’s Mobile Learning for Maths:

  • Combines formal and informal learning
  • Fuses learning and social networking
  • Provides free access and content for students
  • Improves learners’ motivation and skill levels

The results from the project are highly encouraging: 280 students in six schools participated in the first phase in October 2008 to June 2009, but this grew to 4000 students and 72 teachers in 30 schools in the second phase a year later. There were more than 180,000 visits to the service in the first four months with half of all students and two thirds of teachers participating, and those who used the service were very frequent visitors indeed. Learners whose teachers did not take part in the programme still used the service independently. Remarkably, about 70% of all usage took place outside of school hours. The outcomes suggest that the mobile learning service increases retention amongst students whilst also boosting motivation for both learners and teachers.

Furthermore, it has actually proven to improve the learners’ maths results and skill levels based on the normal end-of-term tests that students complete as part of their school curriculum. And as with so many other things in life, practice makes perfect: Tests showed that the more the pupils used the service, the more exercises they completed, and the more their results improved, which demonstrates that they retained what they learned and were not simply memorizing.

There is now great interest in the service elsewhere and the demand is high to expand the concept to other countries and beyond maths. The South African government has committed to providing the service to all schools in the North west and Western Cape provinces with a view to eventually roll it out to the whole country. The Finnish National Board of Education will start piloting the service in Finnish secondary schools this academic year. We are also further exploring possibilities of building global communities of pupils and teachers using the service and exchanging information and tips across borders.

The positive results and enthusiastic feedback from students, teachers, schools and authorities alike is certainly evidence of the huge potential for using mobile technology in formal learning. By reaching and engaging young people using their own tools and ways of communicating we can bring education out of the classroom and into the hands of students.

About MXit: It’s a free instant messaging application developed by MXit Lifestyle (Pty) Ltd. in South Africa that runs on multiple mobile and computing platforms. Along with its own standard protocol, it can connect to YahooICQGoogle TalkAIM, or Windows Live Messenger contacts as well.

[Via Nokia]