Changing Planet

Wireless Learning: How Mobile Technology is Transforming Classrooms and Empowering Young Women in Jordan

Technology in classrooms often seems like an add-on, an extra luxury for developed education systems. But, as Edith Saldivar explains in today’s Digital Diversity, IT can help students all over the world learn in entirely new ways. The company Edith works for, Qualcomm, has been helping students in Jordan use IT to transform their education – in particular young women. This work is carried out through their Wireless Reach™ initiative, a program that brings wireless technology to underserved communities globally. To date, Wireless Reach has 64 projects in 27 countries. Edith explains the surprising effects it has had in Jordan’s schools, below.

Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from about the way mobile phones and other appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives. This edition was curated by our Media and Research Assistant, Olivia O’Sullivan.

By Edith Saldivar, Staff Analyst, Qualcomm Wireless Reach

Aya, a 9th-grade student at the all-girls Um Abhara School in Baiader Wadi Al-Sier, a village nestled among olive trees in the hilly outskirts of Amman, Jordan, has the traits of a budding teacher. One of the school’s 8th-10th graders who are using mobile technology as an essential tool to enhance their education, Aya shares the benefits of her Internet-connected netbook with younger students. In cooperation with 1st and 2nd grade teachers, she’s creating digital lessons that help the younger children learn math, science and languages.

Good things are also happening through the use of mobile technology at the all-girls Balqees School in the Citadel neighborhood in Amman.7th, 8th and 9th graders are using netbooks, the Internet and online educational resources to research projects, develop PowerPoint presentations and create and share videos on YouTube.

It’s all part of a pilot project providing 32 teachers and 223 students with a netbook and 24/7 Internet connectivity to demonstrate how students can use advanced mobile technology in and out of the classroom to gain valuable skills that will better prepare them for the future. Having access to online educational resources at all times nurtures and maximizes each student’s opportunity for learning. It also makes school work more engaging by encouraging personalized, self-initiated learning.  The overall objective of this project is to create a model for mobile learning programs throughout Jordan and the region.


Students in Jordan working with their new educational technology. (Photo: Qualcomm)


The project was launched in December 2011 by the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), one of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah’s nonprofit educational organizations, and Qualcomm’s Wireless ReachTM initiative, a program that brings wireless technology to underserved communities globally.

At first, parents were uneasy about the program. What if their child lost or broke their netbook? What if they went to inappropriate websites? JEI addressed everyone’s questions and concerns during intensive training workshops and worked with teachers to help them understand how to integrate the technology into their curriculum. Skepticism gave way to excitement, particularly as parents realized how they too could use the technology to find employment, community resources and other helpful information.

The technology has transformed the educational model inside the participating classrooms. Gone are the lecture-based lesson plans – with their new ability to research, collaborate and communicate online anytime and anywhere, teachers now create project-based lessons that require students to use their new tools to complete assignments.


Edith with students. New forms of IT transform the classroom experience. (Photo: Qualcomm)


A 7th-grade religion teacher at Balquees School describes the change as such: “I’m no longer standing in front of a room, putting information on a blackboard and lecturing. Instead, I put a question on the board, and the students search several websites for the answer. Through this research approach, the learning process and its impact are more focused, impressive and interactive.”

With students taking on so much responsibility for their own learning, more classroom time is given to mentoring, presentations and discussions. According to Mrs. Eman Hamdan, the science teacher at Balqees School, “Teachers’ instructional styles have moved away from the ‘sage on the stage’ model and more towards the ‘guide on the side’ approach.” This new way of teaching encourages the development of critical thinking skills.

Teachers and students now produce PowerPoint presentations and use social media for project-based work. Both schools created YouTube channels where teachers and students can upload videos.

The use of technology integration has been unexpectedly creative. Mrs. Ahed, an English teacher at Balqees School, had been using her netbook as a voice recorder for personal use when she had the idea that the students could use their devices to improve their English language skills. Once students were able to record and then hear themselves reading, they became more engaged, motivated and invested in their own learning. Soon after, students’ progress exceeded twice the rate that used to be considered normal for that period of time.

For students with disabilities, the arrival of the netbook has improved their lives and prospects. Sulafa, a 7th-grader with a hearing impairment, felt isolated, finding it difficult to understand subjects, especially her favorite, Arabic. Her teachers were frustrated by their inability to help her. With netbooks in hand, Sulafa’s teachers are accessing educational software and resources online that help them teach Sulafa more effectively. And Sulafa now loves school, excels in class and no longer feels alone.

One remarkable aspects of this project is how the students use their netbooks as a teaching or demonstration tool for their parents, younger siblings and others. The portability of the tools has allowed for impromptu training sessions by students as they share their technical knowledge beyond school walls.


Edith working with students in Jordan. (Photo: Qualcomm)


On my last visit to Jordan, as our car bumped along toward the Um Abhara School, past the olive trees dotting the hillsides and the villagers selling fruit by the side of the road, the rural setting took me back to the small farming community in Mexico where I spent part of my childhood.

I’m the daughter of migrant workers and the first in my family to have attended school in the United States. When I see the girls in Jordan, I see my family members who are still in Mexico and who I wish could have had the same opportunities that I had. These girls have the potential to do great things. I want them to have opportunities to excel, succeed and be independent. I hope that their exposure to technology is opening their minds and helping them form new aspirations that they can then go out and reach.


Edith Saldivar is a graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was awarded honors in the Global Economics/Latin American and Latino Studies major. In addition, she received her Master’s degree in international affairs at the UCSD’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. Prior to her work at Qualcomm, Saldivar was an economic development coordinator, responsible for creating and expanding programs to ensure the economic vitality of downtown El Cajon, California. She also worked at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), as a research assistant, where she helped advance wireless telecommunication capabilities in rural Oaxaca for a transnational project supported by UCSD, USAID and Qualcomm. She currently serves as Wireless Reach™ staff analyst within Qualcomm’s Government Affairs department. She is also on the board of directors for Izcalli, a community-based non-profit with a focus on community and youth development.


Digital Diversity is produced by Ken Banks, innovator, mentor, anthropologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Founder of / FrontlineSMS. He shares exciting stories in “Digital Diversity” about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

You can read all the posts in this series, visit his website, or follow him on Twitter.



Ken Banks is an innovator, mentor, anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Founder of, he devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. His early research resulted in the development of FrontlineSMS, an award-winning text messaging-based field communication system designed to empower grassroots non-profit organisations. He shares exciting stories in "Digital Diversity" about how mobile phones and other appropriate technologies are being used around the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

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