The ZikaMob project spans the whole learning technology life-cycle from needs analysis and app development to impact evaluation and policy change in order to fight Zika and other diseases prevalent in tropical Brazil carried by the mosquito vector.
The Zika virus in pregnancy can result in microcephaly, severe brain malformations, and other birth defects in new-borns and in adults can result in fevers. There is no effective vaccination or preventative medication and conditions in parts of Brazil, for example poor waste management and haphazard urbanisation, have encouraged the spread of the mosquito vector. There was an initial epidemic in 2015 and 2016 in the Americas. This outbreak began in April 2015 in Brazil, and spread to other countries in South America, Central America, North America, and the Caribbean. The threat remains serious.
The project uses mobile-based educational games for school children and their teachers to change the family behaviour and attitudes around the domestic habits that impact on the mosquito vector habitat. The project team is working with 70 teachers, has registered 34 schools and is reaching out to 15000 families. Teams within schools and amongst schools in Campina Grande and João Pessoa compete in missions and tasks to move up league tables, and evidence their achievements on social media to gain points.
The team has held five meetings with the Secretary of Education Office for Paraíba State and has had local radio and press coverage. Eight YouTube videos have been produced to illustrate the different educational gaming activities. The project is partnered with the Health Surveillance service of Campina Grande to support the schools (to create a program called “one agent for each school”) .
The project concludes in September 2019 and provisional conclusions and findings will be available by then. These will say something about the impact of games-based mobile and social learning on community health in disadvantaged communities afflicted by tropical disease.
The project does however already illuminate the challenges in terms of the interdisciplinary research design that embraces and links software development, behavioural psychology, large-scale statistics, informal learning, epidemiology and policy-formation. It also illuminates the challenges of learning technology research, development, deployment and evaluation working across different countries with their different funding bodies and institutional research cultures.
The project is a partnership between the Education Observatory at the University of Wolverhampton and the Núcleo de Estudos em Genética e Educação at the Universidade Estadual da Paraíba in Campina Grande, Paraíba State in NE Brazil, funded by the Newton Fund as an Institutional Link.