Mobile offline networked learning for teacher Continuing Professional Development in Zambia

Gaved, Mark; Hanson, Rachel and Stutchbury, Kris (2020). Mobile offline networked learning for teacher Continuing Professional Development in Zambia. In: Proceedings of mLearn2020: the 19th World Conference on Mobile, Blended and Seamless Learning.



Networked learning enables learners to access and create digital resources and learn with peers, supporting the co-construction of knowledge (Goodyear et al. 2005). However, for many in developing countries, internet access is too expensive or unreliable. We have explored an alternative, using low-cost, battery-powered small computers as networked hubs enabling learners to work together and share resources in proximity using their own WiFi-enabled mobile devices (e.g. smartphones). This takes advantage of the mobility of the devices and users, domestication of smartphones into everyday practices, and offers network-enhanced collaborative learning independent of the internet. We call this approach ‘offline networked learning’ (Kukulska-Hulme et al. 2020). Here, we consider one collaboration supporting teacher education in Zambia. Teachers in sub-Saharan Africa can be limited in their access to effective continuing professional development training (CPD), impacting their capacity to learn from best practice and improve their teaching approaches. This is compounded by a lack of physical resources such as training guides. Internet or cellphone services are seen as an innovative way of supplying digital resources and online training, but are hindered by limited or expensive network coverage, leaving poorer-resourced and more remote educators behind. Our tools enable these teachers to work collaboratively accessing digital resources, supporting them in developing new practices where network access cannot be assured. We report on work-in-progress and the initial experiences of an ongoing pilot within the ZEST (Zambian Education School-based Training) project, where university educators have worked with local educators in CPD workshops and introduced network hubs with open educational resources for onward use by school-based teachers. Work so far suggests an offline networked learning system offers a potentially sustainable element of a practice-based approach to teacher development which supports shared knowledge co-construction in schools with limited network access, enhancing current provision; and already shows hints of appropriation to support locally owned educational purposes.

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