Nokia are doing interesting things with cellphones like providing Braille SMS on their phones.  However, the plan to teach English to poor rural children in India using cellphones seems like a bad promotional gimmick rather than an honest effort at education.

A project based at Carnegie Mellon University will study how effective games on cellphones are at teaching English to students in rural India.

Led by a professor at Carnegie Mellon, professors, graduate students and undergraduates have been working on developing games over the last six years. Now, because of financial support from Nokia, the professors will be able to lend 450 cellphones to children in villages in Andhra Pradesh, a region in the south of India. The children with games on the cellphones will be compared with children who will not play the games and will learn English in a traditional classroom setting.

Have Nokia invented a revolutionary means of communication and language learning?

Should we enroll those test students in India in “Twitter University” where the world is given context in 140 characters or less?

6 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    Thanks for writing the interesting article! The prject might work in the favor of the children, the gadget being the only attraction to stick to “education”.
    I agree, apparently the project sounds like a gimmick but I originally belong to a village so I am aware of the infrastructure of the education there.
    I think, the objective is to empower these kids with the basics of the “developed world” for a better survival, not to provide an indepth study of English literature – in that case, this might succeed.

  2. David,
    There are two distinct forces are in play – the private sector (corporate, to be precise) and the public (government).
    Now a days you will get cellular coverage even a remote area in India as the market is covered mostly by the private players.
    But things are different in education sector as the major plyaer here is the govt. and govt. doesn’t have enough money (at least it claims such) to offer proper/ quality education to the mass. The schools/ institution run by the private organizations are way beyond reach for these kids.
    I just came across a very relevant article written by Dr. Mukerjee, posting here to clarify the discussion more –
    http://thoughtshoppe.blogspot.com/2009/11/recursive-meta-incompetence-of-indian.html

  3. It’s a bit sad that the private sector can find a reason for being in the cellular niche; but can’t seem to fathom the need for the same sort of investment in the priming of young minds through a substantial and sustained educational system.
    So many “developed countries” mess up the education of their children through the poof of religion and political dogma while the minds of the young rot beneath their filthy feet.
    Thanks for that fascinating blog link read, Katha!

  4. I can’t help but think it’s a bad idea, David. Mobile service serves the good of the wealthy few but education serves everyone and so of course the money flows one way and not the other.

  5. I am concerned that “Nokia’s Noble Effort” is entirely limiting for those trying to be uplifted. You have a tiny screen, no real ability to type something cogent or even communicate in a sustained writing environment. The idea is sound, but the physical execution of the idea fails.