UNESCO has long recognized the powerful impact mobile learning can have on the lives of people around the globe, including people living in nations where access to education and training continues to be restricted by economic, political, and social obstacles. This year’s Mobile Learning Week, UNESCO’s flagship conference on educational technologies, will be hosted in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and take place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris from March 26 to 30.
History of Mobile Learning Week
Mobile Learning Week was first hosted by UNESCO in 2011. Since then, the conference has been held annually with the aim of bringing researchers, educators, developers, and policymakers together to explore how affordable and powerful mobile technologies can be used to enhance learning, especially in developing nations were access to mobile technologies are frequently far more accessible than the access to the Internet and even printed books. As emphasized on the UNESCO website, the conference will appeal to a variety of participants and stakeholders.
This Year’s Theme: “Skills for a Connected World”
While last year’s theme sought to tackle the topic of education in emergencies and crises, this year’s theme is “Skills for a Connected world.” Specifically, UNESCO hopes to bring participants together to share knowledge about how governments and other stakeholders can use mobile learning to achieve the skills-related targets specified by UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).
The concept note for this year’s Mobile Learning Week emphasizes the world is increasingly a connected one. However, as the concept note further observes, this doesn’t mean that connectivity is even or equitable.
While the rise of the internet of things (IoT), robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) hold great potential to make learning more accessible worldwide, these shifts are also expected to increase the pace of job displacement and job creation, and there is concern that people who are already marginalized may find themselves at greater risk. Indeed, as one recent World Economic Forum study focused on 15 developed and developing countries estimated, more than 5.1 million jobs will be lost as a result of labor market shift between 2015 to 2020. Recognizing that “people without digital skills or internet access risk further social and economic exclusion” as a result of these changes, this year’s Mobile Learning Week aims to set the stage for a coordinated strategy aimed at helping individuals, especially those already at a disadvantage, reskill in preparation for the pending 4th Industry Revolution.
Highlights of UNESCO’s 2018 Mobile Learning Week
Highlights of UNESCO’s 2018 Mobile Learning Week include workshops on innovative policies, research, projects, and mobile learning solutions, a symposium featuring opening and closing remarks from UNESCO and other critical partners, more than 60 breakout sessions, a policy forum, and strategy labs.
This year’s conference will also include several related sub-events to facilitate scaling of digital skills and closing the gender divide. As stated by UNESCO on the conference website, above all else, Mobile Learning Week 2018 will highlight best practices for breaking down established barriers to access.