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.

Using Instant Messaging Over GPRS to Help with School Work

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Apr 16, 2011
Using Instant Messaging Over GPRS to Help with School Work data sheet 1292 Views
Butgereit, Laurie
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Rural Africa is in need of qualified teachers in mathematics and science for primary and secondary school. Classrooms in rural Africa are often benches under a tree. The teachers themselves often have limited education in mathematics and science. As cellular telephony services pushes deeper into rural Africa, the question we asked was whether various wireless access methods could be used to assist children and teenagers with their mathematics and science education.

One of the leaders in low cost GPRS communication over cell phones is a South African based company, MXit Lifestyle, boasting over 7 million users using their mobile instant messaging chat client, MXit. According to MXit's demographics, 45% of their users are children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18.

Dr Math is a project which Meraka Institute initiated in January, 2007. Dr Math linked up children and teenagers using MXit on their cell phones to university students (using internet based workstations) in Pretoria who acted as tutors. The tutors would help with mathematics and, depending on the individual tutors, chemistry and physics homework problems. Currently, over 3000 children and teenagers are using this service in Southern Africa.

M4Girls: Empowering Female Students

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 23, 2010
M4Girls: Empowering Female Students data sheet 5590 Views

The following is the executive summary of M4Girls, prepared by the Mindset Network and Neil Butcher and Associates, and reprinted here with permission from Mindset.


The M4girls project is a partnership between Nokia, Mindset Network, and the Department of Education (North West Province/South Africa) to test the provision of educational content on a mobile phone platform to girl learners. The project targeted the development of Mathematics competencies in Grade Ten girl learners from underserved communities, and aimed to empower girl learners in the following ways:

Access to mathematics (as a pilot subject area and driven by priority areas in education in South Africa);

Exposure to a complementary platform of curriculum-aligned Mathematics content (Mindset content) on mobile phones; and

Exposure to technology in the form of mobile phones.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project aimed to:

  • Increase female students' aptitude with mathematics
  • Expose female students to technology through mobile phones
Brief description of the project: 

The M4girls project is a partnership between Nokia, Mindset Network, and the Department of Education (North West Province) to test the provision of educational content on a mobile phone platform to girl learners. The project targeted the development of Mathematics competencies in Grade Ten girl learners from underserved communities in South Africa, and aimed to empower girl learners. 

Target audience: 

The target audience is grade 10 girls in the North West Province of South Africa. 

Detailed Information
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

Whilst learners’ reports during the focus groups point to the phones mainly being used to listen to music, other general benefits of having access to a cell phone such as Internet access and communication were noted, and this made learners more confident and technologically savvy. During the interviews, it was observed that learners displayed a sense of accomplishment as they described proficiency in using various phone functions. Thus, exposure to technology in the form of cell phones was well received by the MP group. Positive attitudes towards using technology for learning, together with the reports of high cell phone usage (by both educators and learners), indicate the potential of using cell phones for e-learning or m-learning.


What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Although changes were detected in attitudes towards technology on the part of learners during the project, the findings of this pilot was that there was no significant change in attitudes towards technology and school as a direct result of the technology used by the MP group in the project, given that post-project results for both the comparison and MP groups were generally quite similar. That, is whilst perceptions of technology were enhanced, these perceptions improved across both the MP and comparison group and the extent to which the M4girls project alone contributed to this is unclear.