8512 is a Most Powerful Number

I recently attended Chicago Ideas Week and there was a presentation given by Toni Maraviglia, an educator who has lived in Kenya (East Africa) for over seven years. She was teaching in rural villages and observed that many students needed additional tutoring help through questions and answers to specific subjects. She began to explore how best to deliver this model and further observed that all families had basic cell phones and that this platform could be a gateway for students to receive tutoring help.


Toni set up a very common sense system that uses already established behaviors, both culturally and technologically. She addresses both the quiz and evaluation portion of the system so kids, parents and schools can benefit from Mprep, while addressing each stakeholder’s information and evaluation needs.

This is how it works after a student registers:
• MPrep will suggest quizzes for you. SMS one of those “quiz codes” to
8512, and we will send you the first question in a quiz.
• Respond with A, B, C, or D. In an SMS. Wait until MPrep responds back with an explanation.
• A quiz is over after 5 questions.
• You must finish a quiz in order to go to a new quiz.

Based on the user base of Mprep and the ground-up organic growth of the system, Toni and Mprep has enough of an installed user base to understand emerging patterns of individual student performance, but also of aggregated users by school, district and overall. This data is very important and the Kenyan government is now asking to review this data.

From a user experience standpoint, this is a powerful example of using off-the-shelf technology (which to many would be considered too restrictive to create an experience design or user experience response) and cultural behaviors to create a baseline system that is easy to use, easy to maintain, and easy to understand. SMS becomes a system of learning, just like SMS is transforming much of Africa in other ways such as farmers communicating the price of farm crops to each other and cutting out the middlemen.

There has been a lot of discussions about the technology gap with minority communities. To some, technology is kept out of reach due to the initial cost of accessing both the technology and wireless access. To others, it is lack of access to orientation and training resources. What Toni has proven from an empirical standpoint is that through basic ethnographic observation, she created a cultural construct for both learning using already embedded technology to create a very powerful system that is being embraced by Kenyan communities. No tablets or smartphones needed.

Press here to sponsor a whole school to have access to Mprep.

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Published by
5 years ago