Mobiles Games for Education and Development: What Is the Score?

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 22, 2011

As mobile gaming explodes worldwide, the market for “games for good” (either with an educational or social-change focus) is open for growth. Mobile games provide a way to quickly pass time, an always-on-hand source of entertainment, and a way to connect with others through competing scores or sharing strategies.  Can mobile games also be used to teach, inform, and raise awareness?

Level One: The Mobile Gaming Landscape

The current mobile landscape shows that games are popular worldwide, regardless of handset type or region. A June 2011 Gartner report on the state of the gaming industry reported that mobile gaming is expected to see the largest growth percentage of any aspect of the industry (compared to consoles and PCs), estimating “its share growing from 15 percent in 2010 to 20 percent in 2015.”  Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, is quoted as saying, “As the popularity of smartphones and tablets continues to expand, gaming will remain a key component in the use of these devices. Although [mobile devices] are never used primarily for gaming, mobile games are the most downloaded application category across most application stores, […] For this reason, mobile gaming will continue to thrive as more consumers expand their use of new and innovative portable connected devices.”

The growth of mobile games can be clearly seen in US mobile trends; a July 2011 report from Nielsen says that games are the most popular kind of app for smartphone owners, with 64% of US smartphone owners using a mobile game app at least once a month. The Nielsen report also found that “the average mobile gamer plays an average of 7.8 hours a month,” and that  “those with iPhones tend to play around 14.7 hours each month while those with Android smartphones play around 9.3 hours per month.”

But mobile games aren’t just popular on smartphones; feature phone users are embracing the mobile gaming trend as well. MobiThinking’s 2011 global mobile statistic report found that among Africans who use mobile devices as their primary means of accessing the Internet, 55 percent report downloading games. OnDevice Research’s 2011 Mobile Internet Satisfaction report found that mobile games can influence handset purchase, as users want mobile devices that can support games. They report that, “89% of mobile media users in Kenya consider the quality of games they can play on their device when choosing a new phone.”

A 2009 report on India’s mobile gaming field from Vital Analytics found “approximately 120 million urban Indians used their mobile phones to play games during quarter ending July 2009, a reach of 41%. In terms of time spent playing games, 37% of the population spends less than an hour in a week playing games while on the other end of the spectrum 9% spend over 5 hours on an average.” The report also found that most popular types of mobiles games for Indian users were sports games (such as cricket) and arcade-style puzzle games.

With all these mobile gaming enthusiasts out there, where does that leave educational and social change games? Couldn’t some of this popularity be turned toward math, literacy, or advocacy games? The landscape shows that mobile games are popular regardless of handset and location, so the question now is how to make a game that provides both value and entertainment to the player.

Featherweight Multimedia for Information Dissemination

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Feb 22, 2011
Featherweight Multimedia for Information Dissemination data sheet 1657 Views
Chu, Gerry, Sambit Satpathy, Kentaro Toyama, Rikin Gandhi, Ravin Balakrishnan, and S. Raghu Menon
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Featherweight multimedia devices combine audio with non-electronic visual displays (e.g., paper). Because of their low cost, customizability, durability, storage capacity, and energy efficiency, they are well-suited for education and information dissemination among illiterate and semi-literate people.

We present a taxonomy of featherweight multimedia devices and also derive design recommendations from our experiences deploying featherweight multimedia in the agriculture and health domains in India. We found that with some initial guidance, illiterate users can quickly learn to use and enjoy the device, especially if they are taught by peers.

Learning Communities Enabled by Mobile Tech: Case Study of School-Based, In-Service Secondary Teacher Training Rural Bangladesh

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Oct 01, 2010
Learning Communities Enabled by Mobile Tech: Case Study of School-Based, In-Service Secondary Teacher Training Rural Bangladesh data sheet 1997 Views
Sarah Lucas Pouezevara and Rubina Khan
Publication Date: 
Dec 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Adapted from Executive Summary: With the aim of providing developing member countries (DMCs) with better guidance to use information and communication technology (ICT) effectively in education, the Asian
Development Bank (ADB) funded a 21-month regional technical assistance (RETA) in Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, and Samoa. The RETA researched approaches to using ICT in education in ways that succeed in improving teaching and learning and also are sustainable given the region’s development challenges.

The study in Bangladesh, part of the e-Teacher Training component, complements the existing ADB-funded Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project (TQI-SEP;2005–2011), which has as one of its objectives, to provide in-service professional development to all serving teachers working in secondary schools recognized by the Ministry of Education (MoE) at least once during the project period. 

The study equipped two subject trainers, a training coordinator, and a cluster of 10 schools with “smartphones”2 (with video, speakerphone, and three-way calling capabilities), for use by 20 Bangla and math teachers in 10 schools of the Barisal region in southern Bangladesh. The existing training curriculum was revised from a 2-week, face-to-face workshop to a 6-week distance-mode training based on printed materials and practical application of training content with peers. The phones were intended primarily to enhance communication, motivation, and multimedia delivery.

The objective of the study was to develop a case study on the use of mobile connectivity in support of distance education and to determine whether:

• it is an effective mode for teacher training and improvement in classroom practice
• it is a suitable mode to reach rural and remote teachers, including women and disadvantaged groups
• it presents other benefits in terms of education administration (including student assessment and costs) and pedagogy.

The study also sought to determine the costs of this model, and the features of the smartphones that would be most useful as a support to distance learning.

Uses of the Cell Phone for Education in the Philippines and Mongolia

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 23, 2010
Uses of the Cell Phone for Education in the Philippines and Mongolia data sheet 2718 Views
Librero, F., Ramos, A., Ranga, A. I., Triñona, J. & Lambert, D.
Publication Date: 
Aug 2007
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The cell phone, now the most widely used medium in Asia, has major educational implications. Most users, however, do not realize the cell phone's potential for education, nor even for the communication functions for which it was originally designed. Most educators still see the computer and the cell phone as unrelated devices, and the tiny cell phone more as a personal accessory, especially for young people.

With falling prices and increasing functionality, however, it is virtually certain that not too far in the future all of the world's students will have a cell phone. This is sufficient reason and motivation for educators to explore the possibility of making the cell phone an important tool in the educational systems of developed and developing countries.

This article describes the experience of two major projects that are studying the potential of cell phone and short message service (SMS) techniques for formal and nonformal education in the Philippines and Mongolia. The studies have yielded positive reactions from students and trainees about the potential of these techniques, and are suggesting design and logistical principles for use in educational cell phone implementation.

Let's Play Chinese Characters - Mobile Learning Approaches via Culturally Inspired Group Games

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 02, 2010
Let's Play Chinese Characters - Mobile Learning Approaches via Culturally Inspired Group Games data sheet 3119 Views
Tian, F., Lv, F., Wang, J., Wang, H., Luo, W., Kam, M., Setlur, V., Dai, G., and Canny, J.
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Apr 2010
Publication Type: 

In many developing countries such as India and China, low educational levels often hinder economic empowerment. In this paper, we argue that mobile learning games can play an important role in the Chinese literacy acquisition process. We report on the unique challenges in the learning Chinese language, especially its logographic writing system. Based on an analysis of 25 traditional Chinese games currently played by children in China, we present the design and implementation of two culturally inspired mobile group learning games, Multimedia Word and Drumming Strokes. These two mobile games are designed to match Chinese children’s understanding of everyday games. An informal evaluation reveals that these two games have the potential to enhance the intuitiveness and engagement of traditional games, and children may improve their knowledge of Chinese characters through group learning activities such as controversy, judgments and self-correction during the game play.

Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on May 18, 2010
Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia data sheet 2825 Views
John-Harmen Valk, Ahmed T. Rashid, and Laurent Elder
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Mar 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Despite improvements in educational indicators, such as enrollment, significant challenges remain with regard to the delivery of quality education in developing countries, particularly in rural and remote regions. In the attempt to find viable solutions to these challenges, much hope has been placed in new information and communication technologies (ICTs), mobile phones being one example.

This article reviews the evidence of the role of mobile phone-facilitated mLearning in contributing to improved educational outcomes in the developing countries of Asia by exploring the results of six mLearning pilot projects that took place in the Philippines, Mongolia, Thailand, India, and Bangladesh. In particular, this article examines the extent to which the use of mobile phones helped to improve educational outcomes in two specific ways: 1) in improving access to education, and 2) in promoting new learning. Analysis of the projects indicates that while there is important evidence of mobile phones facilitating increased access, much less evidence exists as to how mobiles promote new learning.


Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC

Posted by admin on Dec 03, 2009

This guest post was written by Joshua Haynes who is studying for his Masters of International Business, at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Reposted with Hayes' permission.

Projet Alphabétisation de Base par Cellulaire (ABC), conceived of and spearheaded by Tufts University professor Jenny Aker, uses mobiles phones as tools to aid in adult literacy acquisition in rural Niger. 

Adult literacy in rural areas faces an inherent problem.  In Niger, for example, there are no novels, newspapers, or journals in native languages like Hausa or Zarma.  The 20% of Nigériens who are literate are literate in French.  The vast majority of rural villagers have struggled to maintain their livelihoods since time immemorial without ever knowing how to read a single word. What’s the point of literacy if there is no need for written materials?

Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC data sheet 5164 Views
Countries: Niger


Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 09, 2009
Wannigame data sheet 1972 Views
Organization that developed the Tool: 
Main Contact: 
Tamsir Diop
Problem or Need: 

Mobile phones are prevalent, but have not been widely adapted for educational uses. Wannigame engages pupils in active and team learning in classrooms of more than 40 students in Senegal.

Main Contact Email : 
Brief Description: 

Wannigame is a mobile application that allows teachers to supervise the learning of numbers by children between the age of 3 to 6 in Senegal. With Wannigame, children learn how to recognize numbers and how to count.

Tool Category: 
App resides and runs on a mobile phone
Key Features : 


  • Teaches students to count numbers 1 to 20
  • Scores can be sent to parents
  • Allows students to count images on the screen


Main Services: 
Stand-alone Application
Tool Maturity: 
Under development/pre-launch
Java ME
Current Version: 
Program/Code Language: 
Number of Current End Users: 
None/not deployed yet
Number of current beneficiaries: 
Under 100
Languages supported: 
Handsets/devices supported: 
Tested on Nokia 6300 MIDP 2.0 CLDC 1.1
Is the Tool's Code Available?: 
Is an API available to interface with your tool?: 
Global Regions: 

World Bank to study "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education"

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Aug 10, 2009

There is a hot debate about whether the mobile phone or the computer is the tool of choice in education, especially in developing countries. And as valid that conversation is right now, we know, as a field, precious little about how mobiles are being used for education in developing countries.

A new World Bank landscape analysis of this emerging field of m-education is now trying to shed light on the question:  How are phones used for education purposes inside or outside of classrooms in developing countries? How well are these projects faring?

Spearheaded by Michael Trucano, an education specialist within the Bank, and supported by the Korean ICT Trust Fund, the study hopes to provide:

"guidance for World Bank technical assistance and investment activities related to the much-hyped potential for the use of mobile phones in education."

Literacy and Community Empowerment with Mobiles: The Jokko Initiative

Posted by LeighJaschke on Aug 06, 2009

The number of women in Tostan villages that have abandoned the practice of female genital cutting is powerful testimony of the organization's impact. The tradition is centuries old. “Since 1997, 3,792 communities in Senegal, 364 in Guinea, and 23 in Burkina Faso, as well as villages from three other African countries, have joined other women [who have participated in Tostan's basic education program] in abandoning this harmful practice,” notes the Tostan website.

Things We Like: M-Learning with Abhishek Bachchan

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Aug 03, 2009

Abhishek Bachchan, the popular Bollywood actor, promotes m-learning in his newest advert for Idea Cellular, India's up-and-coming mobile operator, known for its catchy marketing campaigns. It's a cute way to get the point across.  We like it.

Nota Bene: