Last week I took part in the Doors of Perception conference in Delhi, India. There were quite a lot of (informal) talk about using mobile devices in education in the developing world. In India there is a strong believe that the information society in India will be based on mobile devices and networks, rather than on PC’s. Also in schools the technology to enhance learning will most likely be mobile devices.
There has been a lot of hype about the need of 100 dollar laptop for the developing world. Personally I agree with Douwe Osinga, who argues that 100 dollar is too much for a computer. His proposal is a cell phone for developing world, with a larger device and keyboard for email and web with optimized bandwidth use. I am note sure if the price of this cell phone/internet terminal could actually be much less than 100 dollars, but I like the idea, because it is emphasizing the connectivity as the main feature of ICT tool. Actually I could myself be much happier person with a simple, affordable phone/internet terminal than with laptop with huge amounts of totally unused computing power.
So, what is there for education? Potentially a lot. But if the phone/internet terminal will be the ICT tool of the masses we should soon start to develop FLOSS applications for them. We need FLOSS browser, email client, rss reader (at least) for Symbian. And then we must take care that the FLOSS online learning environments will scale for small screens.
When it comes to ICT I see a lot of potential in the developing world to come up with much more clever, sustainable and economical solutions than we were never able to. There are also a possibility for some great social and pedagogical innovations. Think about it: easy to carry, highly connected mobile learning device that is always on, and you can take it where ever you want. With this specification we should be able to come up with hundreds of different kind of scenarios of clever education use of the device.