Worldwide, there are more than 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions. And interest is growing in the question of how the devices can be used to support education.
Mobile Learning Week (17-21 February) is an annual campaign organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). This year, the body will be running workshops at its Paris headquarters on topics such as tablet use in rural South Africa and primary maths resources in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as providing continuing professional development for teachers on mobile phones.
Developing countries are driving the growth in mobile devices, according to Unesco's 2012 report Mobile Learning and Policies. Tablet computers are also spreading rapidly, with Thailand, Turkey and Russia announcing plans to purchase hundreds of thousands of low-cost devices for schools.
In its 2012 report, Unesco suggests several ways in which mobile devices can help students, such as providing internet access to isolated schools and the possibility of immediate feedback and assessment. For example, some maths apps now show learners how to solve questions that they have answered incorrectly.
The report says that although mobile learning offers opportunities to support marginalised people, if consumers have to pay for the devices and content this could have serious implications for equity - a situation that governments should address.
1. Commonwealth of Independent States comprises: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. Source: International Telecommunication Union, 2013. www.itu.intictstatistics
2. Source: Ofcom 2013. bit.lyOfcomMobiles. 3 Source: Children's Use of Mobile Phones: an international comparison 2012, GSM Association and NTT DOCOMO. bit.lyInternationalComparison.