This post was contributed by Ferya, a participant in the TechChange course: “Global Innovations for Global Collaboration” developed for IREX for alumni of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State administered by IREX. Learn more about our online course: New Technologies for Educational Practice

Cell Phone

After going through our first class’ assigned reading “How mGive used texting to raise $40 million  for Haiti“, I realised how technology can help us do wonders. I myself have experienced a similar thing in the year 2005. Though it was not exactly the same but the main idea was closely similar.

On October 5 – 2005, Pakistan’s northern areas were hit by an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude, which left around 80,000 people dead and 100,000 injured. The earthquake is said to be the 17th deadliest earthquake the Earth has ever seen.

I was a high school student then and was very disturbed by the occurrence. It was something I had never seen in my life before and was very shaken. I wanted to do something to help my fellow citizens but really did not know what?

In Karachi, by evening everyone was texting each other to pray for the victims. But as time passed, people started exchanging ideas via messages of what can one do to help. People shared messages of possible food items, clothing stuff and medicines that can be donated. Addresses of various donation camps were exchanged throughout. A number of telethons were broadcast with celebrities asking people within the country and abroad, to help the people of the affected areas. Many mobile network companies also provided their services for donations via mobile phones.

The most famous and well organised camp of the city, which was set up by a known TV celebrity, was introduced to the people of the city via messages, that  were circulated religiously.

The word spread and soon the camp was flooded with volunteers as young as kindergarten students and as old as those KG students’ grandparents. People of all age groups, from different social strata and from different professions brought whatever they could get for the victims. The camp stayed open 24/7 for months.

The rehabilitation work was months long and was very organised and well executed. But it would not have been a huge success without the help of the young volunteers who not only contributed in material sense but were physically available all the time for any kind of assistance. And this mobilisation became possible only because everyone was connected via mobile phones.

Apart from messages with lists of needed items, messages with motivational poetry and quotes were also exchanged which helped everyone focus on their only goal – to help, no matter how.

This article is re-posted  from TechChange team member Charles Martin-Shields’s website “Espresso Politics”.  We thank him for being awesome and sharing his stories from paradise with us.  You can follow him at @cmartinshields. 

TechChange has a course coming up that breaks a little bit from the standard “ICT4D” content.  It’s titled “New Technologies for Educational Practice” and I was trying to think of how someone would put this knowledge to use.  It all seemed abstract, so wracked my brain for cases when I used technology in my own educational work, which included two years in Apia, Samoa as a Peace Corps volunteer doing English curriculum development.

While there is content related to video games, web technology and social media, in the TechChange course, I wanted to try to think of a practical example of using technology to enhance learning.

As I thought back to those wistful days in Polynesian tropical paradise, I remembered that a few teachers and I came up with a fun, elegant (IMHO), solution to the problem of Samoan secondary students texting in class.

To put it in context, this was January 2007, and Samoa had just taken their digital mobile phone system online.  Suddenly everyone had a GSM mobile phone and everyone was texting.  Mobile telephony went from 0 – 60 in Samoa almost instantaneously.  Naturally every student in grades 9-12 was texting during class, as rebellious youths are known to do.

The teachers tried the usual methods of corporal punishment, phone confiscation, and detention, but none of this seemed to deter the students from texting.  So I sat down with a few of the teachers over beers and we decided, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Our solution was to make text messaging part of the English learning process.  Students had the opportunity to text each other in class, read the texts (which were teacher approved), and were graded on the accuracy of their spelling and syntax.  The practice sentences of 140 characters or less were easier to handle for speakers of English as a second language, compared with the higher density books, and students could practice from home.

This exercise wasn’t a replacement for the more formal learning that took place in the form of longer texts and written exams, but it provided a space for students to practice using English that was accessible and fun.  While it might not have been a grand strategic shift in pedagogy, mobile technology provided a free tool to enhance the learning experience in a sustainable, enjoyable way.  Of course, I’d love to see comments about all of your experiences with technology, learning and development, since we’re always learning from each other in this space!

If you’re interested in learning more about education and technology, have a look at “The New Technologies for Educational Practice” as well as our other training programs on the TechChange site.