Globally 250 million children lack basic reading and writing skills which will limit their future potential, leading to poverty and inequality. Many of these children are in developing countries and more than 2/3 are girls. Many of them do not have access to quality schools or teachers, or are unable to attend school.
Take advantage of advances in Artificial Intelligence, Gamification and Cognitive research coupled with dropping prices of open source tablets, and develop software which can autonomously help children learn in groups or alone. We envision children using the tablet as a lifelong friend on their journey of exploration and discovery.
After learning basic literacy, a child can not only lift herself out of poverty - she can learn further and achieve previously impossible dreams. Multiply this by millions of children and we can foresee exponential advances in science, technology, literature, arts and society. In one word - UTOPIA
We believe that modern technology has a profound influence on learning that has not yet been utilized for learning by children. Throughout history, technology and innovation has spurred learning. It all began with the invention of writing. Before that, learning meant memorizing all the knowledge available to the community and distributing it through word of mouth. But, with writing, people could record and transmit knowledge. This resulted in an explosion of knowledge since the learner could read anytime without waiting for a person to communicate it orally. And who can ignore the effect of Gutenberg on education. With the invention of the printing press, education became democratized. Books were no longer the exclusive property of guilds or university libraries. More people could afford books, which meant schools and homes could start reading and learning. Of course, today in the developed world, children are very comfortable using tablets and computers to advance their learning. In fact, for many children, tablets have become the first medium of education through games, animation and multimedia. But the majority of the world’s children have not yet been able to take advantage of this technology.
We believe that children learn best when they are exploring with their friends. Our software will be a guide which enables a group of children to learn together. Most tablet learning software are glorified animations with an addition of touch based quizzes and games. This results in the software being used in the child’s free time rather than being the primary source of education. To enable group oriented learning, we have to rethink the software from the ground up. Every activity, be it reading, writing or math needs to connect with the whole learning group to make it more memorable and enjoyable.
Another aspect is the gamification of learning. No one can deny the exhilarating feeling when we achieve another level or get bonus badges in a game. If we view learning as a long trek up the mountain, then each of these levels or badges are one step in the right direction. The software will gamify each aspect of the learning process and customize the rewards to each child’s ability so that every child will have a sense of achievement at the end of the learning day.
A child will start learning individual phonemes and progress to alphabets. From there, the child will learn to identify words and sentences. Once the child is comfortable, the software will encourage the child to start writing. The process of reading and writing will feed on each other to enable the child to understand and express thoughts into paragraphs and longer texts.
Stories have been the promulgators of culture and knowledge all through history. They encapsulate mankinds spirit. Our software will provide a gateway for each community to tell their stories on our platform. This will not only serve as a storage of each community’s cultural history, but it will also re-inforce learning of reading and writing. Children will also be able to contribute their own stories that can be distributed in their groups and to faraway children.
The child will start identifying and recognizing numbers in their immediate vicinity. They will then start learning the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. All these will be customized to the child’s location and culture. Once the child had mastered these, the software will cover fractions, algebra, measurement, geometry, expressions, equations, statistics and probability
Children can learn science in different domains such as physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences and engineering applications. Each lesson will build upon the knowledge gained in the earlier lessons. The lessons will have multimedia chunks followed by a thinking question which will encourage the children to work in groups to arrive at the answer.
Though not directly related to any curriculum, puzzles sharpen the children’s minds. They also encourage children to think cross-dimensionally. Our software will re-inforce ideas from other domains such as reading, maths and science in the puzzles so that the foundation becomes much stronger while the child is solving the puzzles.
With the ubiquity of computers, coding will become the single most valuable skill for anyone to succeed in the professional world. We will start encouraging children to learn coding by different activities on the tablet such as animation, story telling and puzzle building. These will then progress to activities such as programming games and simple databases. This will provide a stepping stone to full fledged programming languages with support for loops, functions and classes.
Tablets have reached a price point where it is affordable to the bottom of the pyramid. Currently we can buy entry level tablets for a price of $35. Considering a 3 year life of the tablet, it can be made available to children for a price of $1 per month. There is also been very favourable research done in the areas of cognitive development and group learning which show that children can effectively learn on their own with minimal intervention of a teacher. Telecommunication prices are also coming down due to which we can enhance learning with effective network based applications where a learned peer or a teacher can monitor and guide the group learning at a distance. The lowering data transfer prices also will support cloud based learning where elder kids can choose from a wide variety of knowledge bases to learn subjects which previously could not be taught in their village schools. Imagine a kid in rural India learning Spanish and robotics and creating a Spanish speaking robot.
We are currently identifying several test sites where we can distribute tablets loaded with our software. These test sites are rural or located in slums in India where there is minimal access to quality education. Our team will visit these sites once a week to monitor the effectiveness of the learning and download data from each site and compare it with the education of children undergoing a traditional school education under the guidance of a teacher. We will experiment with several learning methodologies and then select those which show promise.
We believe education needs a reboot right about now. And that learning should be chimple. At Chimple, we are open to any ideas that will radically improve learning.