February 24, 2015
It is not often that I have the opportunity to attend a conference and focus on my own learning. Too often, I am consumed by preparation for my own sessions and presentations without any time to really absorb the energy or ideas generated by the event itself. Not today. Not at MLW2015. With over 500 attendees representing over 80 countries here at this week’s Mobile Learning Week, I cannot help but sit back and be a student at this conference. Here are 3 things that I learned today that I wanted to share with you.
1. There are so many innovative and amazing projects involving mobile devices and digital content going on all around the globe. With this week’s focus on women and girls, the projects are even more interesting for their emphasis on female empowerment and equity of opportunity. I am also so impressed with the passion of the project leaders – whether that is a nonprofit/NGO, a government agency, an affiliate of the United Nations, or a company – everyone is excited and eager to share their story, what they have learned from their projects, and ask for help where needed. The spirit of partnership development is alive and well here. However, just as we see in the US conferences, too many projects are still “campfires of innovation” without any real plans or processes in place to scale, replicate or sustain their efforts. Scaling projects is tough work – and often takes a different set of skills than project implementation. I learned that this challenge is truly a universal one and that is actually good news. It means that there is a unique opportunity to share ideas and strategies beyond borders – and with a greater number of participants. Two (or two million) brains are better than one on these types of challenges!
2. Cherie Blair of the Cherie Blair Foundation forWomen was a speaker at today’s Symposium. Her foundation is doing important work supporting women’s education especially in terms of driving self-sufficiency and economic development. They are a high impact nonprofit organization that has focused on collaborative projects to extend their impact – smart. I was especially impressed with how they are engaging with technology to support their mission. Mrs. Blair gave several examples of using mobile devices and blended learning help women develop the skills they need to be successful entrepreneurs in Africa. My takeaway from her talk was some new ideas around how digital tools such as mobile devices can not only extend learning for students, but can be employed to support life-long, life-wide, life-deep learning in all kinds of communities, with all kinds of different goals. In that sense, mobile provides a way for the learning to come directly to the learner.
3. One of the day’s high profile panels was about providing equitable access to women and girls and thus, equalizing opportunity. The panel was top notch and included speakers from Intel, the Wikipedia Foundation and Mozilla amongst others. All women, all passionate about equity, opportunity and the future. I was especially impressed with Doreen Bogdan, who is the Chief of Strategic Planning and Membership for ITU, the International Telecommunications Union, a specialized agency with the United Nations. The mission of this agency is to connect the world – simple task. Her remarks focused on the need to connect more girls to technology careers and she shared some startling statistics on the decrease over the last few years in women’s interest in STEM careers. We have tracked through the Speak Up data the lack of any real movement in terms of increasing girls’ interest in STEM fields, but the idea that we are slipping backwards was frightening. ITU supports an interesting initiative called “Girls in ICT Day” which is a global event to shine a light on technology career opportunities for girls and women. This year the event will be held on April 23. As someone who has spent a career in the technology field, this hits home to me. Check this out – and let me know how you think we can work together on this with your organization, school or district.
Wednesday is the second day of the two day Mobile Learning Symposium. The Symposium includes inspiring keynotes and plenary sessions – and a myriad of small, Tedtalk like sessions on all kinds of topics related to girls, women and mobile learning. Another full day of learning! Be part of the experience by following me on Twitter (@JulieEvans_PT). I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow my insights from this event (and the people I am meeting) in our Memo #3 from Mobile Learning Week 2015!