Expanding Students’ Career Opportunities Through Access to Mobile Technology

Students don’t clamor for textbooks the way they do for smartphones and tablets. They don’t engage with science problems on paper the way they do when using augmented reality (AR) to explore the world around them. Worldwide, children’s love of electronic media for learning is palpable. In rural Myanmar, for example, students walk a little faster to school on the days they’ll be using tablets in the classroom.

Education is vital to social and economic progress in all countries. Yet too many of the world’s children are not in school. Among the startling global statistics in “Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” a 2016 report by the secretary-general of the United Nations, 59 million children of primary school age were not in school in 2013. Additionally, of the 757 million adults who are unable to read and write, two-thirds are women. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2016 “Global Education Monitoring Report” puts the completion rate of upper secondary education in low-income countries at just 14%.

Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ is a strategic initiative that has been bringing advanced wireless technology to underserved communities over the past 10 years. With a goal of using mobile technology for social and economic development, many of our programs align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 4—quality education for all. In our view, mobile technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to achieve universal education. Fast, affordable, and prevalent, it enables access to quality educational content and resources, regardless of location or socio-economic status.

In Myanmar, where the World Bank estimates more than a quarter of the population lives in poverty and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates enrollment of children in secondary school at just above 50%, the Connect to Learn Myanmar program works to improve the literacy, numeracy, and life skills of 21,000 students, half of whom are marginalized girls. The program—a collaboration between Wireless Reach, Ericsson, the U.K. Department for International Development, UNESCO, Earth Institute, EduEval Educational Consultancy, Finja Five, Myanmar Post and Telecommunications, and Myanmar’s Ministry of Education and Technology—provides 3G-enabled laptops to teachers, Qualcomm-enabled tablets to students, wireless connectivity, and cloud-based educational content and resources to leapfrog archaic models of learning.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that one extra year of secondary school can increase girls’ future earnings 10%-20%. In addition to providing professional development for more than 150 teachers to improve teaching quality, Connect to Learn Myanmar provides scholarships to help deserving girls from impoverished backgrounds stay in school, complete their secondary education, and increase their employment opportunities. 

Preparing today’s students to become career ready is an equally important focus of Wireless Reach education programs in the United States. A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that jobs demanding skills in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) will continue to grow at a faster rate than non-STEAM-related jobs in coming years.

Our STEAMing Ahead With Mobile Learning program in San Diego, California, uses advanced wireless technology to bridge the gap between academic content and real-world learning experiences, increase student engagement in learning, and prepare students for future careers in STEAM fields. In collaboration with the San Diego Public Library Foundation, San Diego Public Library, and e3 Civic High (a charter school located within the San Diego Central Library), Qualcomm and partners designed a learning platform unique to the elements of the Central Library structure to engage students in learning about the impact of STEAM on the world around them.

Core to this learning experience was the 113 feet high steel lattice dome that graces the top of the Central Library structure. Using Qualcomm technology, the project focused on leveraging AR content that utilized mobile, context-aware 4G technologies to allow the students to interact with digital information embedded within the library’s physical environment.

This innovative program provides the school’s ninth grade students with 4G-enabled tablets and an AR application that guides them embedded within the library’s physical environment. The content teaches students STEAM concepts about the dome’s construction and includes quizzes to assess their comprehension.

The majority of students agree that using the technology increases their engagement in learning about the dome. As one student said, “This was a great experience. This could be the new way of learning for the next generation of students like me.”

At Qualcomm, we share this student’s dream, and we’re committed to expanding educational opportunities to underrepresented students globally. 

Angela Baker
Head, Corporate Responsibility, Qualcomm, Qualcomm Inc.