Mobile Learning Week, UNESCO’s yearly ICT in education conference, took place last week at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This year the focus was on ‘Education in emergencies and crises’, and sought to investigate and examine ways to maximize the use of cheap and widely available mobile technologies for the education of refugees and other displaced persons around the world.
We are witnessing the highest levels of displacement ever recorded. The United Nations estimates that by 2015 some 65 million people in total were displaced. This accounted for an average of 24 individuals being forced out of their homes per minute during every single day of 2015. Nearly 21.3 million of these people are refugees, and over half of these refugees are under 18 years of age.
Recognizing the fact that mobile devices are among the few possessions taken by people forced to leave their homes, and that mobile technology can also open doors to education and empowerment, Mobile Learning Week examined ways to support learners, teachers and systems.
The five-day event featured a symposium with 76 breakout sessions, exhibitions, and a mix of panel discussions and plenary addresses.
“We have to reach people where they are,” said Mark West, the UNESCO coordinator of the five-day mobile learning event. “Our work indicates that mobile technologies offer unique advantages for making education accessible to displaced people and others on-the-move. Mobile Learning Week is where solutions and cutting edge ideas are shared.”
The conference highlighted solutions that utilise technology to reach displaced learners, protect and maintain education in emergency settings and facilitate integration efforts. The overall aim is that all refugees and the communities that host them have access to accredited, quality and relevant educational opportunities which are facilitated, supported or enhanced through mobile learning. These new learning environments will prepare refugees and displaced communities to fully engage in the economic, social and cultural world of tomorrow and strengthen education and promote lifelong learning, particularly for the most vulnerable.”
Mobile Learning Week also sought to bring together relevant education ministers and governing bodies as well as leaders from private sector companies to examine how governments can foster innovation in the education sector and facilitate the acquisition of e-skills, particularly for disadvantaged or displaced learners.