TASCHA promotes mobile literacy in developing countries

As millions of people come online across the globe through mobile devices, many have leapfrogged from traditional media to digital devices that provide instant access to information.  Mobile information literacy is vital for them to learn how to find and evaluate the quality and credibility of information obtained online, understand how to create and share online information effectively, and participate safely and securely.

The Information School’s Technology & Social Change Group, along with its partners at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, has launched a new project, Mobile Information Literacy, aimed at helping people better consume, generate, and disseminate trustworthy information through both digital and traditional media. The project has produced a six-module Mobile Information Literacy Curriculum for mobile-first users that is now available for download.

The new project and curriculum are part of a larger program, Information Strategies for Societies in Transition. This program is situated in Myanmar, a country undergoing massive political, economic, and social changes, and where mobile penetration is expected to reach 80 percent by the end of 2015 from just 4 percent in 2014. With the country’s history of media censorship, Myanmar presents unique challenges for addressing people’s need to find information online and evaluate its quality and credibility, how to create and share online information effectively, and how to participate safely and securely.

The curriculum focuses on critical thinking in a digital environment of smartphones, mobile phones, and tablets, filling a critical gap in digital information literacy curricula. Existing curricular models assume people learn on a personal computer. While this has been the case historically, the next billion people coming online will most likely learn on mobile devices. This has huge implications for how people get online and how they access and experience the Internet.

For instance, research shows that in Myanmar (and many other countries) more people use Facebook than the Internet. Mobile-specific practices, such as zero-rating, mean people are coming online much more frequently through a handful of “walled garden” applications without access to the broader Internet. Also, some mobile applications and websites don’t offer the full functionality of their PC counterparts. The curriculum aims to address these differences and empower mobile Internet users to be equal participants in the online world.

The curriculum and training guide were designed to be flexible and customizable, depending on the baseline skills of those being trained, and translated into other languages. In places such as Myanmar, these training materials can be used by various organizations, such as libraries and NGOs, to both train their staff and to build knowledge, skills, and mobile information literacy within the populations they serve. In Myanmar the materials have been translated into Burmese, and master training sessions have been conducted to train library staff to further train their colleagues, as well as library patrons.

To learn more about the program and download the curriculum, please visit TASCHA’s website.