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SOUTH AFRICA – Can you imagine a 16-year-old school kid who describes learning mathematics as ‘divine’, ‘amazing’ or ‘fascinating’? Or children who complete extra exercises in their spare time which their teacher had not asked them to do? These are just some of the effects of the Mobile Learning for Mathematics project run by Nokia in a public-private partnership in South Africa.

UNESCO and Nokia have signed an agreement on October 20, 2010 to promote the use of mobile technologies to further the objectives of Education For All. Initially, Nokia will contribute between five and ten million Euros.

Nokia believes in education for all and harnessing mobile technology to provide modern learning solutions for everyone. Mobile phones – now almost ubiquitous amongst secondary school pupils – provide new and exciting opportunities to support and develop learning and teaching. The Mobile Mathematics project in South Africa is a great example of the benefits mobile technology can bring to education.

Mobile and social – using their own tools
The service focuses on active learning by delivering interactive study packages to students’ mobile phones and taking advantage of social networking. The content is embedded in the local curriculum but provides different kinds of 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.

Nokia has been collaborating with the government, Nokia Siemens Networks, mobile operators, a content provider and a popular social network called Mxit since 2008, and brought this service free for students through South Africa’s two main operators, MTN and CellC, 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 skills at any time. Teachers, on the other hand, can easily send ad-hoc tests to their pupils, tap into a practically endless exercise bank and see the students’ competence levels and improvement areas.

Improved motivation and results
The results are highly encouraging: 280 students in six schools participated in the first phase in October 2008 to June 2009, and this grew to 4000 students and 72 teachers in 30 schools in three provinces last year. There were more than 180,000 visits to the service in the first four months. Remarkably, about 80% of all usage took place outside of school hours.

So it’s no wonder there’s now great interest in the service elsewhere and aspirations to expand the concept to other countries and beyond maths. How else could mobiles improve kids’ experience of school?