Learning Maths with Mobiles: Cross-Cultural Design of Technology with Experiences in South-Africa and Finland

Learning Maths with Mobiles: Cross-Cultural Design of Technology with Experiences in South-Africa and Finland

Teija Vainio, Tanja Walsh
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8714-1.ch004
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This chapter presents an overview of our experiences on cross-cultural design of technology in the context of mobile learning focusing on supporting learners to study mathematics in two different countries. The aim of our study is to discuss design issues from the perspective of two different types of cultures and reflect culturally sensitive issues based on a longitudinal study, which included empirical data from altogether over 3500 learners of grades 9 and 10. As a result we outline two focus areas: content and concept for best design practices. Furthermore, we argue that cross-cultural design of technology can help to identify culturally sensitive areas such as attitudes towards informal and collaborative learning and recognizing the local context for the content. Cross-cultural design of technology supports development of good user experience of mobile learning services for different local learning contexts.
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During the mobile device era, it is suggested that learning can take place anywhere and anytime and learning with mobile devices is stated to be a global aim and phenomena, see e.g. UNESCO’s Education for All principle and Mobile Learning Technology Concept Development (UNESCO ICT Education development). Indeed, mobile learning is a very global phenomenon, because not only in the developed countries but also in the developing countries the spread of mobile technology has been rapid during the past ten years. Mobile technology may enhance the learning in many ways compared to the traditional class room education, where both the teacher and the learner share the same space and context. With mobile technology, learners can be in different locations and can access learning content outside the classroom. Mobile technology can also support the self-learning process outside the classroom and school hours. According Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula (2011, 87) “ A new generation of location-aware mobile phones will offer further possibilities of education services and educational media matched to the learner’s context and interests”. As mobile learning has become a global phenomenon and millions of learners are using their mobile devices every day to learn something at school or outside their school, either alone or as a member of a small or big local or global group, the design and implementation of learning services is a very important area to discuss and develop. But what is our understanding of the characteristic for the design and implementation of a good learning technology? Furthermore, if we state that learning can take place anywhere and anytime, is it culturally sensitive how we interpret anytime and anywhere, and above all, what do we mean by good learning technology in different local learning contexts? There is currently considerable globalization of markets for interactive systems such as mobile learning technology, which means that most of the products and systems are designed and targeted globally but users of these systems are always local. This means that different learners around the world have different needs and requirements for the mobile learning systems. These needs and requirements can vary locally from one country to another. We argue that to be able to support the design of good learning technology and consequently the learning with mobile technology in the best possible way, we must understand the local cultural context where learning occurs. This includes practical physical issues such as the availability of mobile network and services, mobile device penetration and access to information as well as more hidden issues such as motivations, attitudes, aims, hopes, as well as fears towards technology.

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