As the year draws to a close I thought we could take a look at how edtech has transformed schools, students and education this year - in countries across the world. It is most pleasing to see the strides made improving educational standards in developing countries using appropriate, well-designed educational technology.
Chatterbox is an online language school that employs the latent talent of professionals, who also happen to be refugees. They train and employ displaced people to teach their native languages in the booming online and in-person language learning industry.
Based in the UK, the web platform offers work to refugees with professional language skills as online or face-to-face language tutors. Currently their clients include a host of major UK universities, such as the Universities of London, Leeds and Westminster, as well as big name nonprofits such as the Red Cross and corporations.
Offering an enormous range of languages from Hindi, Arabic, and Spanish to French and Mandarin, Chatterbox recently won this year’s “Next Billion Edtech Prize” launched at the Global Education & Skills Forum.
One of the greatest challenges when it comes to deploying edtech in developing countries (where arguably it is needed most) is the low speeds and capacity of local internet bandwidth. Dotlearn has found a way to compress online videos, with a specific view to making online tutorials accessible in countries with very low bandwidth. Dotlearn’s technology reduces file sizes to the point where they require only 1/100th of the bandwidth.
Learning through video has been shown to be an exceptionally effective online educational tool. This free web service makes accessing high-quality video e-learning content possible for millions of students in low-income countries. Because the compression is so good, students can access quality educational content for a fraction of the price; for example at current data prices in Kenya and Nigeria, this means a student can access five hours of online learning content for the cost of a single text message.
Blazing a trail in the ground-up design and development of learning applications for special needs students, Enuma was founded, and still run, by two Berkeley software engineers — and parents to special needs children — Sooinn Lee and Gunho Lee. Their vision is to provide teachers, parents and students with apps and tools that enable independence, motivation, and success for special needs students.
They are partnered by speech and language pathologists, special education teachers, occupational therapists and other education professionals to empower children with the motivation to learn more.
Not only have they developed the award-winning ToDo Maths App, but have also developed other considered apps such as The Visual Schedule which helps parents to design mobile, visual diaries and schedules for autistic children and KitKit School which is a downloadable “school kit” designed specifically for young children who cannot access school at all. Kitkit School is designed to provide children with the foundations and practice needed to build fundamental skills in literacy and math — along with opportunities to explore other subjects including music and art — even without access to schools or resources.
Founded in 2012, Nafham is a response to the over-reliance on expensive private tutoring. This award-winning edtech platform provides users from preschool to 12th grade with free access to educational videos that are linked and underpinned by the curricula of Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia.
The content is curated by a team of educational experts who have ensured the platform’s runaway success: they host over half a million students every month. With over 60-million video views since launch, Nafham is certainly one of the largest edtech platforms in the Middle East and North Africa.
Onebillion faces one of the most daunting challenges: teaching children in the absence of any teachers. The program is currently a finalist in the esteemed Global Learning XPrize, which specifically requires technology to successfully enable children to read, write and do simple maths problems in the absence of a teacher.
Focusing primarily on software design, the international team have built comprehensive, scalable educational software for children in and out of school. Together with partner organisations, the London-based nonprofit is currently testing the software in 150 remote villages in Tanzania that have no schools.
The program identifies one adult per village, dubbed the “solar mama”, who is given a charger, and is tasked with handing out tablets to the children every morning and collects them every evening. The data on learning will be collected in March, 2019.
I always find it a wonderful (and sobering) exercise to contemplate the extreme educational challenges that some countries face. It is equally wonderful to realize the enormously positive impact that technology is having — who could even consider how to solve an educational problem that begins with no school or teacher. And yet we have individuals and visionary organizations who are applying cutting-edge information development and computer science to address these issues at a grassroots level, creating life changing impact.