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Mobile solutions for teachers in crisis and emergency situations

UNHCR reported that there are over 21.3 million refugees worldwide and half of it are children, badly in need of assistance, especially in terms of education. As technology can offer solutions to teachers in crisis and emergencies to better respond to children's needs, the UNESCO 2017 edition of Mobile Learning Week (20-24 March 2017) explored how technology can help meet the educational needs of refugees and other learners displaced due to emergency and crisis situations.

The International Task Force on Teachers (TTF), as a global advocate and catalyst for the advancement of the teaching profession worldwide, supported this year Mobile Learning Week by sponsoring the session "Providing mobile solution for teachers in crisis and emergencies". The TTF convened experts and actors who are actively focusing their work on developing mobile technology tools to better support teachers working in crisis and emergencies. Dr Edem Adubra, Head of the TTF Secretariat, underlined: "Teachers play a central role in education, especially those in crisis and emergency situations; therefore, providing them with solutions is of utmost importance". He added: "TTF reaches teachers, teaching and the teaching profession at all levels of formal and non-formal education, including those in crisis and emergency situations".

The first solution showcased in the session was "Golden Teacher" application. This mobile application was developed for both trained and untrained teachers in developing countries to facilitate their use of effective teaching strategies. The application takes the form of a step-by-step process of the design, delivery, and evaluation of a learning experience for an individual or for a group of teachers. It does not include any curriculum content, and is consequently applicable across the whole range of education contexts and settings.

The South Sudan Literacy App was the second solution showcased. This application helps teachers working with learners in basic literacy programme through a handheld device. To take into account the challenges related to South Sudan's context, the application provides access to a course designed in such a way to minimize users' challenges in accessing and understanding the content. By using effective and proven learning concepts, the aim is to increase the literacy level of the users and have them undergo the various tests to assess their literacy level after completing the different modules. This easy-to-use literacy application also helps teachers provide assessments remotely.

The third solution presented was developed to address teacher education needs, a distance education experience from Mozambique. The presentation "Mobile online education in post-war environment" shared an innovative strategy in providing distance education in Mozambique. The program, developed by ISCED, helps students to have their university courses in their pockets wherever they are and at whatever time. With this innovation, more and more people can access online education. Within a year, the university using the online program has seen its student population growing from 2 500 in 2015 to a total of 7 000 in 2016. According to Wisdom Machacha, the program currently has a limited number of courses, but more will be added in the near future. This is a great innovation in light of the well documented problems of electricity, communication, poor road infrastructure and many other ills associated with a post-war country such as Mozambique.

The last IT solution presented was specifically designed to help teachers in emergency and crisis situations. The EDUTrackerApp application is a "mega-app" developed to provide learners and teachers with access to high quality curricula and proficiency assessments, and to track teaching activities in key subjects and grades. The application can also track school attendance daily, online or offline, through GPS coordinates and a multi-factor authentication process. The application also enables the head teacher to report emergencies on infrastructure breakdown, school security and safety issues, school feeding, health crises and natural disasters through a ticketing system.

The session highlighted IT solutions applied to education in emergency and crisis situations and their implementation in various parts of the world. As one participant shared during the discussion part of the session, IT can surely be one of the solutions to address the need of teachers and learners in crisis and emergencies.