Battling the Sharks at the mEducation Alliance Symposium

By Jacqui Deelstra

October 25, 2013   |   0 comments

The idea for CreativeU, a global e-learning platform, was the audience favorite at the mEducation Alliance Symposium.

Gone are the days when devices such as mobile phones and tablets were seen as just a distraction in the classroom or an out-of-reach tool. Throughout the world today, educators are exploring how mobile devices can be best utilized to support learning.

Mobile devices in the classroom provide teachers with a world of resources and support, and allow for student exploration and self-paced learning. It is around this theme that the USAID-funded Mobiles for Education (mEducation) Alliance convened its third annual International Symposium on Oct. 15 and 16.

The mEducation Alliance explores the impact of mobile devices on a variety of educational areas including literacy, numeracy, youth workforce development, data collection and improving learning outcomes for students with disabilities.

It brings together stakeholders from a variety of sectors including development agencies, international organizations, private sector companies and development implementers.

Titled the “Commit Fair for Project Scaling,” this year’s symposium invited organizations to present innovations they are developing, testing and piloting and make connections with others that would commit to helping them improve their project and reach scale.

Organizations also presented their “commitments” to the mEducation field at large: German development agency GIZ  announced its role in supporting the newly formed Mobiles for Numeracy (mNumeracy) working group. French telecom company Orange committed to support and scale education technology through its foundation.

Homerun at the Pitch Fest

Creative Associates International presented its online and mobile learning platform CreativeU as part of a “Pitch Fest” for innovations for youth workforce development.

CreativeU is a user-friendly e-learning portal that connects professionals and youth in development around the world to high-quality online and mobile content that builds opportunities for lifelong learning and career improvement.

With CreativeU, users learn through a bank of online courses, connect to other users around the world and find resources that help them gain skills, knowledge and even job opportunities.

These tools are localized and contextualized for specific projects and countries to ensure a top-notch “Creative U’ser” experience and maximum impact on learning.

The Pitch Fest was reminiscent of the TV show “Shark Tank.” Presenters had five minutes to pitch their innovation to a panel of “investors.”  These investors then responded with tough questions and suggestions for how to improve upon the idea, as did members of the audience.

After hearing the pitches, attendees got to vote for their favorite idea using the SMS polling program Poll Everywhere.

CreativeU came out victorious, receiving the most votes in the audience poll.

Endless Possibilities

Overall, the Symposium provided an exciting forum for a maturing field in international development.

Organizations are still in the learning stage and it was refreshing to be able to share common struggles such as dealing with field realities like poor connectivity and the lack of electricity, and how to go about building solutions with technology that is changing so quickly.

For example, while relatively simple phones that might include a camera rule today in Africa, analysts expect that Android smartphones are going to quickly take over the market.

Once the majority of the world does have the power of a smartphone or tablet right at their fingertips the possibilities for education will be endless—from business English lessons on-demand and a world of storybooks in every elementary classroom to apps that allow children to practice multiplication.

We know this is already a reality in the US. The exciting news is that we can start imagining what this technology will do for developing nations. Through CreativeU, Creative is prepared for, and driving, this mobile learning revolution.

Jacqui is the Technology for Development Associate in Creative’s Cross-Functional Group.