In tandem with the growth and ubiquity of personal digital communication devices, mobile learning will grow in popularity and importance globally and in South Africa. This according to John Traxler of the Learning Lab, in Priorslee, which is part of the University of Wolverhampton, who has spent the past two months at the Meraka Institute of the CSIR in his capacity as 'visiting scientist' to the institute.
Traxler is no stranger to South Africa - he has visited the country over the past years. He defines South Africa as a "vigorous mobile space" in terms of its fashion, its coverage and its costs. He notes, "South Africa is an interesting environment to work in with a range of diversity across the social, the geographical and the environmental domains." His role at the Meraka Institute is to provide input into the work of the emerging technologies group as well as the graduate work underway in this group.
Mobile learning in its broader sense offers several advantages in the local context, Traxler maintains. "People have the opportunity to explore challenging opportunities, ideas and discussions of interest in their own time and using personal technology under their own control." In Europe mobile learning is seen as a way to give vulnerable groups, such as travelling communities and the homeless, access to learning opportunities.
These advantages, he stresses, should be utilised in the local educational sector. "It is a way to give equitable access to opportunities for all," he comments. He points out that this should not be limited to school learners only; mobile learning has huge potential for in-service training of educators, particularly those in remote and rural areas, as well as for lifelong learning. "As people adapt to the technologies and the opportunities offered through these technologies, they find ways of achieving enhanced learning for their own individual communities.
He applauds the work done by the Meraka Institute on its innovative mobile learning instruments, MobilEd and Dr Math. "By exploiting these smartly and scaling them up, they can become more sustainable."
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