The mSchools programme is a comprehensive mobile education initiative led by a public–private partnership between the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia), Barcelona City Hall and the GSMA.
The initiative was selected through a competitive Call for proposals process in the framework of the UNESCO-Fazheng project on Best practices in mobile learning, searching for successful mobile learning
Albert Forn, Director of the mSchools programme spoke to UNESCO about the initiative.
Could you tell us, what were the main challenges and lessons learnt during the implementation of such a large-scale project?
mSchools: All public-private partnerships inherently face challenges in delivering services, even for successful programs like mSchools. This unique collaboration has many added benefits for the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona City Hall and for the GSMA. Ultimately, this partnership has allowed for the creation of a unique ecosystem where innovative mobile technology ideas and programs can be created and delivered for the entire school system by a private company in direct collaboration with a public administration.
In order for this type of partnership to work efficiently, it is important to maintain constant and clear communication, to align objectives and to put into place mechanisms to ensure project delivery and success. These mechanisms can be anything from well-structured written yearly plans with regular follow-up meetings to the establishment of highly functional and operational teams. With clearly established joint objectives, and flexibility built-in to the joint programming, public-private partnerships can be largely successful and mutually reinforcing.
Another challenge we have encountered is involving as many schools, teachers and students in the region as possible. Although every year the participation in the mSchools program steadily increases- it still only scratches the surface of teachers in the region. Even with our partnership with the Ministry of Education, it is still hard to connect with all teachers and entice them to participate in the programme.
Sharing good practices for students, teachers and schools
mSchools is comprised of many initiatives, including: online platforms, curricular proposals, methodologies, competitions and events. An example of a best practice for students is the initiative App Education, in which 420 teachers, 390 schools and 25,000 students participated in the last academic school year (2017-2018).
App Education is offered as a pedagogical proposal for teachers to implement in computer science/technology subjects and is based on app design, prototype development and commercialization following project-based methodology. Students and teachers can receive mentoring and support from industry experts to develop their apps through the mSchools Experts initiative. App Education focuses on the identification of a problem within the students’ community in their day-to-day lives. In order to develop a solution to this problem, students work collaboratively in teams to design and build their mobile app, which teaches them key digital skills in an engaging and authentic way.
Other mSchools initiatives have been very successful at different levels of the educational system. For example, for schoolteachers there is EduHack, which is a large-scale co-creative process, based on design-thinking methodology that connects and allows the educational community to design and test innovative classroom experiences for all levels and subjects. At a systemic level, mSchools advocates for the digital transformation of schools and organizes a yearly seminar on this topic called Changing Education Together (CET) for school directors, administrators and policy-makers at the MWC Barcelona.
What are mSchools plans for the future?
mSchools: in the future, we plan to continue innovating and updating our methodologies and projects in order best serve learners, educators, schools and educational systems in Catalonia and beyond. Key to our beliefs is the importance of accompanying technologies with the creation of authentic learning experiences and innovative methodologies. Only then will we be able to truly transform education and produce future-ready students.
Could you share with us what do you think about the role of technologies in the education environment?
mSchools: Schools believes that by working collaboratively through learner-centered methodologies that focus on critical thinking skills to solve real problems, and harnessing the power of technology and mobile devices, educators can empower students to be ready for the future in the digital era. The mSchools’ vision is also substantiated on the need to empower students and young learners to be digital citizens in today’s society, leading active and creative digital lives. mSchools slogan is “Change the rules. Change the tools. Change the Future.” And for us changing the future begins with creating skills-based authentic learning experiences that incorporate innovative pedagogies and tools that teach students the 21st century skills that are key to solve the global challenges we face as a society.