Tuesday, 19 February 2013

#ict4D: the complex mLearning challenges for specific ethnic groups #mlw2013


Leslie Dodson from the University of Colorado on The mobile utitly gap and literacy challenges in oral-language communities: sms use by Berber women.

These are my live blognotes coming from UNESCO's mobile learning week enriched with tweets from Ronda (@glam_mobileleo).
Leslie used an epigraphic research approach and working in the field for 8 to 9 months.

For those interested in the number of challenges that can be encountered when diving into a mLearning project with very specific target learners... this is it!

Pressing issues
conventional wisdom assumes
  • women with mobile phones can text
  • illiterate women and numeration
  • mobiles obscure gender

this is not the case
  • many women are only able to use expensive voice services
  • functions that rely on counting or nubmer sequences are confusing
  • cultural restrictions on communication between men and women extend to mobiles

These issues are bigger than a community of Berber women (approx. 500 billion women are illiterate)

Population: women and work
  • Berber communities: tribal, traditional, Muslim, conservative, rural, arid and poor.
  • Women lack formal education
  • women's livelihoods are tied to the Argan tree (oil production, or as a home lifelyhood). 
Unseco has designated Morocco's Argan forests.

The technology
  • simple, broken, secndhand, counterfeit phones
  • few smart phones
  • relatively broad network coverage and available power

the goal of the project
  • expand the use f available mobile phones for personal and instrubmental communicatoin
  • explore the challenges of moving from oral communication (speaking and calling) to texting in a non-text based community
  • avoid a  formal educational approach because of shame and fear

A complex language environment
2 spoken dialects
Darija: an amagamation of Arabic, French and Spanish words
Tachelhit: one of numerous Berber dialect

2 official written and spoken languages
Modern Standard Arabic and French

3 alphabets: Arabic, Latin script, Tifinagh script (Glyph-based, not widely used).

The texting utility gap
due to the complex literacy and language environment, women's mobile use is basic ("What is literacy when u have 2 spoken dialects?")
they are unable to benefit fro many phone features ("My phone only speaks  but I dont speak French.")
they face socio-cultural and psycho-dynamic deterrents to learning
illiterate women are paying a tech tax because they cannot text
they are forgoing service benefits

  • unable to take advantage of mobile bonuses
  • cannot access development initiatives
  • missing out on training opportunities


coping strategies: high visual literacy
  • many users identify words and numbers as visual packets of information (Berber women in  use small pieces of paper to identify words/numbers on phones)
  • they rely on pattern recognition to identify phone numbers
  • they memorize keypad sequences
  • they use paper to assist in phone use
  • they identify contacts with icons, names and numbers
  • they rely on scribes
personal communication: mobile support for literacy in the Coop
  • informal education
  • situated learning
  • adult women get to choose the literacy they want
  • highly motivated to learn latin alphabet
  • the mobile provides the alphabet at their fingertips
  • multimedia use ("Multimedia includes chalkboards, alongside other tools we use..." )
If you do not have common devices, it can be very hard to collaboratively learn. There was a lot of struggle with directions to enter letters, some mobiles have capital and small letters which felt like different alphabets to the women.