Pearson talks mobile disruption in education, games and publishing
Alina Vandenberghe tells the Guardian Mobile Business Summit how devices are shaking up several industries
*Foto: Pearson’s head of mobile and gaming Alina Vandenberghe. Photo: Stuart Dredge
“The revolution in education is not something that’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s starting to happen quite a while ago, when in Nigeria and Kenya kids in schools would use their mobile phones to subscribe to information,” says Alina Vandenberghe, head of mobile and gaming at Pearson.
Vandenberghe was speaking at the Guardian Mobile Business Summit 2012 conference in London, in a talk focusing on how devices are disrupting the worlds of education, games and publishing.
“Besides loving mobile, I love in the morning when I wake up knowing that the products I’m working on impact the next generation, the children,” she said.
She also noted that in the US, more than 50% of young children have access to a touchscreen smartphone or tablet, and suggested that children are learning “by doing” rather than just by listening.
“The most interesting thing that happened in 2012 is the way content is used is changing, and this happens especially with the textbooks that are leading the way,” she said. “In some private schools, the teachers say ‘no longer with this book-filled backpacks, we’re going to make the iPad mandatory.”
But Vandenberghe came back to what’s happening in developing countries, and a product called MX Touch that works on affordable Android tablets in India, showing that educational disruption is not just a Western world / iPad thing.
Vandenberghe talked about the “pinch and swipe generation” of younger children, showing the famous video of a child trying to use a printed magazine like a touchscreen.
She offered some data, explaining that in August 2012 there were more than 78k apps in the Books category of Apple’s App Store, and more than 79k in the Education category, with 29% and 38% of those apps, respectively, free downloads – both low percentages compared to other categories.
“People do care about education and they do pay money to get to it,” she said, pointing to similar stats in the Google Play Android store. 50k and 41k apps in the Books and Education categories, although with 53% and 54% free respectively . In both stores, the average price was well over $4.50 per app.
Vandenberghe also claimed that the top-selling Education apps are those aimed at children, and talked about changing expectations from kids of their education tools.
“Kids do not like long, boring text. They like to have mini content bites, and also content that’s personalised to them,” she said.
Vandenberghe also talked about the importance of interconnected apps: children starting work on a document at school, then editing it on the bus home. Or starting to watch a Netflix film on TV then picking it up on a tablet in their rooms. “They get really curious when that concept is not prevalent,” she said.
More feedback from kids: the importance of rewards and constant, well, feedback. “They love badges, they love sounds, and to hear that they’re interacting with the content that they’re touching,” she said.
Vandenberghe also talked about the “ubiquity of education” – it doesn’t start at 9am and end at 4pm, it surrounds children throughout the day. And finally, she explained the importance of “teleporting abilities” – the ability to jump around within educational content and learn at their own pace, skipping or repeating when necessary.
“The little ones are smarter than you think,” she said. “They may outsmart you, and you better be prepared!”