The potential of mobile phones to transform teacher professional development

Christopher S Walsh
Torrens University

Adelaide, Australia

Clare Woodward, Mike Solly and Prithvi Shrestha
The Open University

Milton Keynes, United Kingdom


Futures thinking is used by governments to consider long-term strategic approaches and develop policies and practices that are potentially resilient to future uncertainty. English in Action (EIA), arguably the world's largest English language teacher professional development (TPD) project, used futures thinking to author possible, probable and preferable future scenarios to solve the project's greatest technological challenge: how to deliver audio-visual TPD materials and hundreds of classroom audio resources to 75,000 teachers by 2017. Authoring future scenarios and engaging in possibility thinking (PT) provided us with a taxonomy of question-posing and question-responding that assisted the project team in being creative. This process informed the successful pilot testing of a mobile phone-based technology kit to deliver TPD resources within an open distance learning (ODL) platform. We took risks by asking of mobile phones: 'what is this and what does it do?' to 'what will I be able to do with this in the future?' Taking the risk and having the foresight to trial mobile phones in remote rural areas with teachers and students led to unforeseen innovation. As a result, EIA is currently using a mobile phone-based technology kit with 12,500 teachers to improve the English language proficiency of 700.000 students. As the project scales up in its third and final phase, we are using the new technology kit known as the 'trainer in your pocket' to foster a 'quiet revolution' in the provision of teacher professional development at scale to an additional 67,500 teachers and ten million students.