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Bridgeit: Empowering Teachers with Video via Mobile Phones

T. Ritse Erumi

While the debate on whether to ban cellphones from the classroom rages on in the developed world, the mobile phone is changing the quality of education in many developing countries by improving access to relevant content and materials. mEducation broadly characterizes the range of educational activities that involve the delivery of content via mobile technology.

Of particular note is the Tanzania-based mEducation program called Bridgeit. Locally known as Elimu kwa Teknolojia (Education Through Technology), the Bridgeit program involves an innovative process of disseminating educational programming directly to the classroom via a mobile phone.

The program is a function of a multi-sector partnership involving Tanzania’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the Pearson Foundation, the International Youth Foundation, Nokia Corporation and funded by a three-year $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).


Bridgeit’s primary objectives demonstrate a holistic approach to the educational challenges faced by the regions in which it is deployed, in that it seeks to:

  • increase student achievement in the areas of math, science and life skills at the primary school level, with a special emphasis on girls;
  • improve pedagogy and teacher performance within the classroom, by facilitating the overall learning experience through greater student-teacher interaction and participatory learning;
  • become adopted by MoEVT in order promote sustainable education reform at the national level.

Within the three-year span following its launch in September 2007, Bridgeit has made considerable progress towards the objectives outlined above. To date,

  • 150 schools have adopted the program;
  • 1,021 primary school teachers are now trained;
  • 60,540 rural and urban students have participated or are participating in the program;
  • 151 math, science & life skills videos have been created or adapted;
  • 151 learner-centered math & science lesson plans have been developed;
  • 32 life skills lessons have been adapted &
  • the project is now housed within MoEVT.

These types of results can largely be attributed to careful planning and consideration of technology solutions that were appropriate for the situation. The program implementers initially set out to replicate text2teach, a successful Bridgeit program in the Philippines, which utilized satellite technology. However, given problems with infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas, the program was modified to take advantage of leap-frogging opportunities offered by mobile technology.

Program Description

Through the Bridgeit program, teachers are provided with access to a digital catalog of educational videos that are typically 4-7 minutes in length. The teachers download the videos from the server via a mobile phone connected to a television installed in the classroom. With each video comes a lesson plan crafted to allow teachers and students interact with the ideas introduced by the video. Hence, a typical teaching period would involve a viewing of the video followed by teacher-led exercises and activities aimed at reinforcing the ideas the students have just learned.

Note that mobile phones are not the instructional medium – video is – the phones are used as a conduit to access educational content. This is quite different than the usual focus on mobile phones as the actual education device.

bridgeit technology


Program Review

In a recent TechSalon hosted by the World Bank, Christoph Derndorfer, co-editor of OLPC News, offered a set of six criteria that he thought were critical to the success of any ICT4E initiative. The Bridgeit project made a formidable showing when evaluated against the criteria:

  • Teacher Training/Capacity-Building: One of the main strengths of this program is its focus on the professional development of the teachers involved. Far from just training the teachers on how to the use the Bridgeit technology, the teachers receive support through ongoing curriculum development and adaptation and through lesson plans built around proven teaching methodologies leading to increased learning gains among students.
  • Relevant Content/Materials: Bridgeit videos are released every three months and this gives teachers the opportunity to provide feedback and participate in the curriculum development process. For instance, the involvement of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) has helped schools better meet some of the needs of its female students by providing materials that showcase positive images of women. Furthermore, content developers are continuing to develop educational materials that ultimately alleviate the need for books, given the scarcity that is prevalent in many rural schools.
  • Community Inclusion/Stakeholder Buy-In: The program was developed in consultation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). This has resulted in its being adopted as part of Tanzania’s strategic plan for providing quality and accessible education to its citizens.
  • Infrastructure: Because full deployment requires just a television and a mobile phone, Bridgeit presents a feasible, low-cost solution to bridging education gaps faced by many rural and urban schools in Tanzania. The one apparent draw-back is the need for electrical power. However, given the short length of the videos and the resourceful ways in which many people in sub-Saharan Africa keep their mobile phones charged, the program implementers would do well to source a solar-power device that can be bundled with each deployment.
  • Maintenance: While this has not been adequately addressed, the simplicity of the setup and the vast proliferation of mobile phones in many developing countries could make this criteria a non-issue. However, base-line data on how the equipment has fared over the initial phase of the project could provide insight on how to tackle this issue going forward.
  • Evaluation: The program is currently in its evaluation phase (Jan – Dec 2010) and results are expected in early 2011. However, initial findings show an increase in school attendance and improvements in the overall quality of teaching.


By equipping teachers with relevant materials and thus, improving the learning experience for students, Bridgeit is successfully utilizing technology as a means to an end and not an end itself.

Given the high failure rates of many well-intentioned ICT4E projects, this program seems to have set itself up as a model for scalable, sustainable and community-based projects that carry the potential for significantly reforming education in many under-served countries. The upcoming evaluation results should provide more information on how this program can be improved and replicated in other countries.



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