Education Should Reach The Unreachable

Education Should Reach The UnreachableWe need to realize how education will make this country move forward and become a great country in the future. Our education is left out from other countries, including our neighbours, as education in this country fails to reach the unreachable segments of people.

M-learning (mobile learning) constitutes a breakthrough for an equal education. Many may view the proposal as a vain attempt since many kids in rural area are not ICT literate and do not have access to the Internet, not even to basic e-mail. This is not to mention that the telecom infrastructures in rural areas are almost non-existent and the nearest post office is 20-50 km away.

Actually, M-Learning should be tested and implemented for students in rural and remote area since they already had mobile phones. The use of bulk SMS (short message service) based on paperless education program is much more effective than that of materials sent via mail to students. They do not visit their rural post offices very often and this leads to many returned packages. Imagine! The success of M-Learning would make significant drop in returned packages and accompanying costs.

A research shows that using print and the postal service to distribute the necessary information to students would have been more than 20 times the cost of the bulk SMSs. While the SMSs provide immediate and JIT (just-in-time) information, the posted information would have taken between 3 to 18 days to reach all the students (Syofyan: 2011).

M-Learning via the SMS can be implemented in several categories. These include academic instructional message (regular bulk type SMS messages); IVR (interactive voice response) system for frequently asked questions [FAQs] (students phone in to a “FAQ number” and receive answers from the programmed system); SMS quizzes (multiple choice questions are send to students and a simple answer choice is replied via SMS, with answers and feedback being provided on each quiz; and SMS question-answer system (students ask questions via SMS regarding a given pre-selected topic and then they are answered automatically by the system via a comprehensive programmed matching system.

The Education Ministry and the Communication and Information Ministry may work together to carry out the significant M-Learning program. The use of a mobile internet center initiated by the Communication and Information Ministry, such as van internet, to provide free internet access for people living in remote areas is instrumental in developing M-Learning program.

It is believed that the collaboration will make integration of M-Learning with established e-learning environments. Various programs such as mobile tutoring, mobile blogging, m-assessment (e-assessment on mobile devices), and collaborative learning or discussion groups could work much more efficiently.

There is growing optimism that the M-Learning will bring e-learning to rural Indonesia, especially the students, to the level that we never imagined as e-learning learners just a few years ago. M-learning is the gateway to e-learning for most learners in Indonesia as the rapidly growing wireless infrastructure increasingly fulfils their access needs. Indonesia leapfrogging from an unwired, nonexistent e-learning infrastructure to a wireless
e-learning infrastructure.

Special attention should be paid to fundamental shift in the use of M-Learning technologies from content to communication and navigation approach. The government should move away from providing content per se to learners. We should focus on how to enable learners to find, identify, manipulate and evaluate existing knowledge, to integrate this knowledge in their world of work and life, to solve problems and to communicate this knowledge to others. Teachers and educators need to be the source of how to navigate in the ocean of available information and knowledge. They should become coaches within the knowledge economy.

Brown (2005) asserted that the real literacy of tomorrow will have more to do with being able to be our own private, personal reference librarian, one that knows how to navigate through the incredible, confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable and located in doing that. So navigation will be a new form of literacy if not the main form of literacy for the 21st century. Hence, all shareholders—government, teachers, and parents—should do the unthinkable and take the bold leap towards navigationism. We all need to continue to reach the unreachable through mobile learning.

Donny Syofyan

Donny SyofyanThe writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia, is a lecturer in the School of Cultural Sciences at Andalas University, Padang.

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