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Monday, January 24, 2011

Math Apps on Mobile Phones Free to Students in Denmark for 2011



I had a fascinating discussion with Stephan Stephensen, CEO of Mingoville, in South Africa this past October. Mobile learning is such an important growth area. We all wish we had laptops in the hands of our students, but the fact is that more of them have and will have mobile phones than laptops.

This generation is engaged with their mobile devices and so I was so excited to talk to Stephan about what they are doing and the agreements his company is signing with some countries and organizations to deploy mobile learning apps to children with their countries.

Mingoville is the "largest free online English lesson website for kids" but now they've developed mobile apps for math. I asked Stephan if he'd let me carry their press release in English for the US because he has partnered with the government of Denmark and several mobile companies to make their math apps free for all of 2011 for the students of Denmark. I want you to hear from his mouth what this means and what this is.

He and I talked for about an hour and the conference with most of that time him not having any idea that I was a blogger. I was impressed with his genuine energy and excitement.  Now, I have lots of friends in other companies and I rarely post press releases -- but I am fascinated with the innovative nature of this endeavor and look forward to seeing if there is an improvement in Math scores in Denmark in 2011.

Most of you know that I've advocated for the effective, well planned use of mobile phones in schools. It CAN Be done. Just because many aren't doing it yet doesn't mean it cannot be done!



"In our hyper-connected, multi-tasking, digital everyday, many of us adults consider the mobile our indispensable umbilical cord to a wwworld in constant flux - and a distraction those times it rings while we’re, after all, busy doing other things.

In Denmark it’s a learning device. For students, in schools, at home and everywhere else. And that’s no fairy tale.

While some countries have a ban on using mobile phones during school hours – as students have been prone to extracurricular excursions such as games, calls, netsurfing, facebooking, twittering and texting – Denmark adopted a “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy, and started researching how to put the device to better use in a learning context.

A number of Danish mobile learning games have been developed to that end – so far with subjects ranging from English to math. And the projects are looking to get a flying start, currently one third of all Danish students in primary and secondary school, have online access to a math or English learning programs for PC’s. These students will now also have immediate access to a mobile math app library of more than 100 small apps, teaching them everything from simple addition to the Pythagorean Theorem. These mobile games have been met with a massive positive response from both teachers and students. Teachers have found it easier to maintain student focus on assignments –

It is no longer teacher-driven, really fun to see how they students show each other what to do, I was at one time quite obsolete.  Says Mads Remvig, teacher from Danish School

Students have found it easier to comprehend difficult topics in math, with short animated videos to explain them how and what to do. First test seem to indicate that the ubiquity of the phones and the fact that they are both youth culture hotspots and communications hubs, makes students prefer this device over PCs in a learning context. Assignments can be accessed anywhere and anytime, and students can solve them in their own time – while being engaged, apparently.

CEO Stephan Stephensen from Danish e-learning company Mingoville – which incidentally is also the name of the world’s largest online English learning platform, now going mobile – says: “I want to show that it is not just about learning styles, but learning “rooms”. Future teachers will take advantage of several different learning platforms at the same time and in the same room. If learning is an experience – why not use the most influential and effective tool in this respect, since the students already know it and have it? As a bonus, students acquire 21st century skills like dealing with complex problems and finding information fast, while using their mobiles in a learning context”.

As any concerned parent would object by now, what about the squalid matter of mobile payment plans and cost of data use – potentially racking up charges for the students? To preempt any such concerns and constraints, Mingoville partnered up with the major mobile operators (covering close to 90% of the Danish market) to allow free use in 2011, of the mobile data net in connection with students using the www.Skolemat.dk’s mobile math learning apps.

Additionally, the clever Danes have of course considered the digital divide – not only between the mobile haves and the have-nots, but also between those with fancy smartphones and those with clunky clamshells. Consequently, all the learning games have firstly been designed to run on the majority of popular mobiles and platforms, backwards compatible to devices dating back up to 4-5 years.

The Danish government has made it a priority that Denmark gets in the top five best educated nations in the world, and also become a frontrunner in the use of ICT on every level of society. Using the mobile as a learning device helps achieve both goals, in a cost-effective way.

The mobile has several clear platform advantages over traditional PCs and consoles. By its very nature, it’s already a networked computer and an efficient data transmitter. Mobiles can be integrated into the natural flow of instruction more easily than their big-screen counterparts, and can create compelling educational and engaging learning environments for students. Mobiles wide level of installed base, plus low production costs of programs compared to other platforms, makes them attractive to develop on. It’s truly portable, always connected and everywhere. Both size and processing powers makes it ideal for any instructional media, and it’s not hard to envision how this technology can be harnessed on a broader scale to transform learning.

The Danish mobile e-learning experience does not substitute teachers or textbooks – it just makes learning more effective. Once integrated into the natural flow of instruction, mobiles can create compelling and engaging educational environments for learners all over the world. The notion that programs could be tailored to challenge each student according to abilities and styles, and adapt to fast as well as slow learners, opens up a world of possibilities for digital learning on the mobile.

More than 5 billion people have access to mobiles, and 90 % of the globe has mobile coverage. Mobile learning games is an idea whose time has come, and the tech is ripe. Entertainment and serious games are not opposites – but making them work right together is no fairytale but hard work. The Danes have decided to take the challenge to the next step and make it happen, big time. Mingoville is just the beginning."


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