"I did not know I could use my smartphone for learning"
Smartphones and the internet have the potential to improve education for millions of underprivileged users in the developing world. Much has been discussed about the low cost and ubiquity of a mobile phone and its utility to aid the delivery of "anytime, anywhere" education. But what do these educational practices look like in real life?
Turn the Bus (TtB) conducted a survey after their pilot program to capture the attitude of participating students towards digital learning as well as to know how Turn the Bus's content helped them. The survey data gave an insight into the grassroots reality of education in rural India. While most students agreed that it helped them prepare for their exams and understand the concepts better, around 40% of the sample of 100 students studying Intermediate Arts in Bihar board exclaimed that it was the program that helped them realize that smartphones can even be a helpful learning tool.
The survey was conducted in March 2021 to collect feedback for the pilot program of Turn the Bus that was designed to help Intermediate Arts (Class 12) students in East and West Champaran prepare for the session 2020-21. Digital content comprising video lectures, chapter questions, and practice quizzes was prepared and shared with the students via WhatsApp groups and YouTube. The survey was conducted to know whether students found it useful to be connected with Turn the Bus. Through the survey we also tried to collect information about their plans for further studies, and if they desired to be associated with TtB in the future.
It covered 100 students of Bihar board Intermediate arts, 36 girls and 64 boys sampled randomly out of a cohort of 800+ students. Some of the findings of the survey were:
- When asked about the WhatsApp groups 88% of students found the TtB WA groups useful. Lesson videos and quizzes were found to be the most helpful features in preparing for exams.
- Although girls constituted a small number of the group, more than 60% of them want to pursue higher education, college is a natural next for both girls and boys.
- Given continuing support and information, the pilot cohort of the TTB-Jeevika initiative would overwhelmingly like to remain associated for volunteering and teaching purpose
The most striking result was that the idea of using a cell phone to access educational content was new to many students. TtB's content exposed them to a whole new avenue of learning through smartphones. Mobile phones were once considered a distraction from studies and students weren't allowed to possess one. While that is thought to be true by many in the rural community, educators have slowly found that phones can be turned into useful learning tools. It is especially useful in underdeveloped regions, particularly in rural areas, where many schools are not only poorly equipped or lack well-trained teachers but also have a high school attrition rate. Mobile learning can be empowering for those children who cannot attend school regularly because they have to work to support the family, by enabling them to learn anytime, anywhere, in the convenience of their homes.
Limiting children to learning inside the boundary of four walls of a classroom is not preparing them to become the global citizens of the 21st century. To be able to work with a population that is already accustomed to using their phones to perform different tasks, these children should be encouraged to access and use smartphones. Needless to say, mobile learning brings forth new ideas and opportunities for learning, collaboration, peer-learning, accessibility of information, etc. which was not possible just a decade ago.