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10 Educational Technology Solutions for COVID-19 Out-of-School Children

By Wayan Vota on April 2, 2020

covid19 ict4edu digital solutions

The COVID-19 Coronavirus global pandemic is creating a global learning crisis in addition to a global health crisis. 82% of the world’s learners are no longer in traditional schooling or education programs and UNESCO is recommending online learning and education technology to to reach learners remotely.

All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development developed a list of nine ACR GCD-funded solutions to respond to educational needs during the global COVID-19 Digital Response. I’ve added a 10th edutech solution. I invite you to add more in the comments.

Each solution is available for free in multiple languages and, once downloaded, does not require a continuous Internet connection. Ministries of Education, educational development organizations and parents can leverage these tools to support children’s educational needs during school closures.

EduTech Solutions for COVID-19 Response

1. Global Digital Library

This open source digital library offers free accessible eBooks in more than 40 languages readable on the web, mobile, or for downloading and printing. The books can also be translated or localized directly on the platform.

2. Feed the Monster

A winner of ACR GCD and Norad’s EduApp4Syria prize to support the education needs of out-of-school Syrian refugee children, Feed the Monster is an early literacy digital gaming app that teaches children reading and writing fundamentals while collecting and growing their pet monsters. Available in more than 50 languages on Google Play, and in Arabic on the App Store, research shows the app improves children’s early literacy skills and psychosocial wellbeing.

3. Antura and the Letters

Also a winner of an EduApp4Syria prize, Antura and the Letters is available in English and Arabic on Google Play, the App Store and Windows download. Designed for children age 4 and older, the app enables children to catch letters hidden around the world, solve puzzles and earn gifts, alongside Antura the dog. Like Feed the Monster, the research conducted on use of Antura and the Letters shows improvement in children’s early literacy skills and psychosocial wellbeing.

4. Bloom

The winner of ACR GCD’s Enabling Writers prize, Bloom enables teachers, parents and children to easily create leveled and decodable children’s books in any language. Books can be adapted from shell books, or new resources created using Bloom software’s templates for basic books, picture dictionaries and wall calendars, with images available from its free illustration library. Don’t want to create the books yourself? Access the Bloom Library, with basic leveled and decodable books available in more than 220 languages.

5. eKitabu

Winner of multiple ACR GCD prizes, eKitabu offers dozens of books for free download and readable via free e-reader software. eKitabu’s Studio KSL (Kenyan Sign Language) and Studio RSL (Rwandan Sign Language) also offer several sign language videos and sign language storybooks to support accessible, early grade reading.

6. World Around You

Funded through ACR GCD’s Sign On For Literacy prize, WAY enables communities to create content in local and national sign languages and share it in WAY’s open content digital library of folktales. The digital libraries are viewable from any web browser and can be remixed by anyone, including children, with simple text and video editing tools.

7. Bookshare

Children and adults with disabilities such as blindness, low vision, dyslexia and cerebral palsy can access thousands of accessible books on Benetech’s Bookshare platform. Benetech was a winner of ACR GCD’s 2014 grant competition, using the Bookshare platform to provide students who are blind in India access to accessible reading materials. The library is provided to individuals with disabilities for free or low cost, depending on the support of local partners in your region.

8. KitKit School

A finalist of ACR GCD’s Sign On For Literacy prize, KitKit School is a tablet-based early learning program that includes a suite of games, books, videos, and art and music tools in Swahili and English to support children in learning literacy and math skills independently.

9. Sema

A finalist of ACR GCD’s EduApp4Syria prize, the Sema package of apps enable children to teach themselves how to read, write and do basic numeracy. The curriculum was designed in collaboration with pedagogy experts and teachers in Africa.

10. Worldreader

I don’t know if Worldreader received ACR-GCD, yet Worldreader is a standout educational resource and needs inclusion on a list like this. Worldreader provides people in the developing world with free access to a library of digital books via e-readers and mobile phones. Since 2010, over 13 million people across 47 countries have read from Worldreader’s digital library of thousands of e-books and they have a special COVID-19 effort. Main image is copyright Worldreader.

Please Share More EduTech Resources

Do you have a educational technology solution that can be used in the COVID-19 Digital Response? Or can you recommend one? Then please add it in the comments so we can all know what to use to reach the many out-of-school learners in every country.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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23 Comments to “10 Educational Technology Solutions for COVID-19 Out-of-School Children”

  1. Mike Dawson says:

    Ustad Mobile has a free, open-source app for Android that has a library of over 70,000+ open educational resources ready to use offline. This includes Khan Academy math and science content (both videos and exercises), Global Digital Library content, PHET science simulators, Pratham Storyweaver, and African Storybooks. The app also allows people to share content offline with each other (e.g. within a household).

    Organizations can get a rebranded copy of the app as a learning management system allowing teachers to assign content to their classes and monitor progress. Admins can add/remove their own content. The app has been used in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Jordan under projects supported by USAID, International Rescue Committee, and Dubai Cares among others.

  2. SkillEd (skill-ed.org) is a social enterprise, that offers an online e-learning platform, and 2 Android applications (for ‘course following’ and ‘course creation’), that are optimized for use in areas with unreliable internet, limited bandwidth, remote areas, developing countries and disaster areas. The content focus is on skills (finance skills, soft skills, entrepreneurship, business development etc.), the functional focus on ease of use, flexibility and collaboration, and the delivery focus on portability; mobile first, light-weight, offline usage and sharing (via Bluetooth, SD card or USB stick).

    SkillEd delivers an integrated solution for blended learning, which focusses on combining a limited number of direct training meetings with mobile learning on simple smartphones or any other device. SkillEd offers all the tools for mobile and blended learning and training under all circumstances (on- and offline). The basic idea behind our approach is, that anyone should be able to follow and build courses in their own language, based on content coming from their setting etc.. The courses can be built containing a rich content of videos, photos, texts, audio fragments, slide-shows, web links, quizzes and assignments. Students can do their assignments remotely, and share them with their teachers.

    Since the way of learning can be made very visual (through short video’s, pictures, etc.), it is fit for any user. Courses can be set up flexibly, from straightforwardly explaining how to do something (‘vocational training’), to training through a number of modules of a complex set of skills, while monitoring the progress of students through specific assignments. All materials can be easily produced in any language. The SkillEd approach is “mobile first”, ultra-light weight, flexible, for both on-/offline use, easily transferable offline from phone to phone, and being very much directed to be used in (non-)formal, remote learning settings (vocational/ peer-to-peer training/ Training-of-Trainers/ blended learning settings). SkillEd collaborates currently with partners in Ghana, Benin, Malawi, Kenya, Honduras, Surinam, and The Netherlands.

  3. Ronnie Evans says:

    M-Shule

    M-Shule (www.m-shule.com) is the first personalized, mobile learning platform in Africa to combine artificial intelligence with text messaging to deliver tailored tutoring and training to learners in Kenya.

    M-Shule’s SMS tuition platform provides Maths and English revision for primary school students, on any phone. Right now all primary learners in Kenya may register and learn for at least 2 weeks for free while at home. In light of the pandemic, M-Shule has developed a special C0VID-19 informational toolkit.

  4. Can’t Wait to Learn provides a highly effective and cost efficient solution to close the education gap for millions of children around the world affected by conflict. It is a digital tablet-based innovation programme providing children access to quality education, in both formal school settings or inside their communities. It offers children the opportunity to (continue to) learn to read, write and count through a self-paced digital game, which is specifically created to reflect their world and context. We work together with Ministries of Education to ensure that learning objectives are based on the national curricula. Children’s progress is monitored and used for further improvements of the programme. The programme is currently operational in Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Uganda, Chad and Bangladesh..

    In its present form, Can’t Wait to Learn is well positioned and ready to undergo several adaptations to respond to the present COVID-19 crisis.

    In the Can’t Wait to Learn model, children usually learn together in groups in a confined safe learning space. The educational materials – in the form of digital games – are stored on tablets. Under present circumstances, children and facilitators are unable to meet in groups. Home-based schooling is required and sharing materials (tablets) is challenging. To adapt to this situation, War Child will tailor Can’t Wait to Learn implementation methods to ensure the safety of children, caregivers, facilitators and staff. While continuously guaranteeing the delivery of quality education that we are used to.

    Adaptations include:
    – Increase the number of available tablets per country, in order for all the children to have their own tablet.
    – Develop a downloadable link which allows children to use core Can’t Wait to Learn materials (instructional videos and (work)books), on other devices such as computers and mobile phones.
    – Create a mobile compatible version of Can’t Wait to Learn.

  5. Facts:
    There is a LEARNING CRISIS worldwide. 330 million children are in school but are failing to learn. 250 million children cannot read. —Amel Karboul.

    Problem:
    Parents work hard to provide for bare necessities and sometimes even work two jobs, putting their kids in the cheapest daycare they can find. Kids prior to entering kindergarten in a public school have no access to good books and parents can’t afford or find time to take them to libraries. At most, these kids have access to free YouTube videos, poorly put together animations, videos games full of ads that research shows engage and entertain but have no educational value.

    Solution:
    http://www.SmartKidzClub.com

    Smart Kidz Club “just right” content for young children.

    To be used as a tool by parents (not as a toy) to read with their kids 20 minutes a day. Books that matter and are deemed “just right” by early education researchers, that give their kids a global competitive advantage. Smart Kidz Club is closest to authentic reading offering read along books with word highlighting in a natural human narration which research has shown to be the most effective.

    It works in rural and remote areas where there is a lack of English teachers, no internet and English is a second language for most people. See how kids in villages in India are learning. Namibia Reads (Nationwide access sponsored by a nonprofit) Smart Kidz Club’s disruptive technology can make an impact at scale for as little as one cup of coffee at your favorite. See the coverage on Namibia National TV https://youtu.be/SYxn-5hsKNo

    Contact me if you like to learn more.

  6. These are great resources. We at the EdTech Center @ World Education have launched a resource and technical assistance site for youth and adult basic skills, ESL and literacy programs and educators who are rapidly transition from in-person to distance teaching. The site, Tips for Distance Learning, includes resources to both scale up and launch distance education programs, including evidence-based guidance on first steps in planning, successful ongoing implementation (recruiting, onboarding, teaching, and assessing learners), and locating and evaluating online learning resources. I’d be happy to add resources that you have developed – especially media describing learner engagement or any promotional offers you have right now during the crisis.

    Check out the site here: https://edtech.worlded.org/tips-for-distance-learning/

    And join our weekly distance learning strategy sessions here: https://edtech.worlded.org/events/edtech-center-distance-learning-strategy-sessions/

  7. Unfortunately most of these platforms are useless and very few people will pay for them, because they provide no value.

    Get some lesson, make an animation and bang. Thats e learning for you in 2020. In 1970 these would work as bad toys but we have to shove these bad products around, obviously they win a few grants to support their bad products.

    A good example of a bad example can be found with Kolibri funded by UNICEF. http://e-learning.education.go.ug/
    You dont have to waste time creating an account, simply select the option of explore without an account and you will laugh your socks off.

    They are obviously some cool apps out there. There’s an app where you can scan a formula and gets for you the working. I have forgotten its name but am sure I can find inside two minutes of a google search.

    The open source gospel has made matters worse. People think an e learning platform should be open source. That’s the myopic mindset in ICT4D – the emphasis is on open source bot value. These bad OSS projects are not only harmful for the eco sytem but slow progress.

    Open source is good, but unfortunately many people will never understand it, even if they tried. I gave up trying to explain, its easier to write on water. Instead of wasting grant money developing horrible platforms, they could use that money to digitize good textbooks, pay off the authors of quality books vetted by top teachers.

    Every one can switch on a computer, but not everyone can code a useful application that provides value. That’s where things stuff starts hitting the ceiling.

  8. Simon Mutua says:

    In 2011, I took a training with you Guys in Kenya & am pleased that you have kept your dynaminism. These Edu Tech is timely in this season. It will go along way in helping communities.

    We shall pull through this.

  9. Alvaro Ros says:

    ProFuturo has decided to open for free its educational resources to Ministries of Education and the general public in low and middle income countries, where the impact of COVID-19 is especially challenging for their education systems. You can find a summary at https://profuturo.education/en/2020/03/31/we-continue-to-bring-education-closer-to-millions-of-people/.

    • Resources for Teachers: https://profuturo.education/en/2020/03/31/our-educational-resources-for-teachers/
    • Resources for students: https://profuturo.education/en/2020/03/31/our-educational-resources-for-students/
    • Resources for families: https://profuturo.education/en/2020/03/31/our-educational-resources-for-families/

    Specifically, here is the list of open and free resources that we offer:
    • Open Educational Resources and pedagogical experiences for children between 3 and 18 years old, developed by third parties and curated by ProFuturo, available to students, teachers and families through a search engine: https://resources.profuturo.education/ (only available in SPANISH)
    • Oráculo Matemágico, a gamified app for children between 6 and 12 years old to learn mathematics by playing, available to students, families and teachers: https://www.fundaciontelefonica.com.pe/educacion/programa-educacion-digital/oraculo-matemagico/ (only available in SPANISH)
    • ProFuturo educational content in interactive & multimedia format for children between 5 and 14 years old to learn mathematics, language, science and technology, currently accessible through ProFuturo’s OFFLINE platform in 35 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. As of May 1st, they will also be available to teachers, students and families through ProFuturo’s ONLINE platform here: https://solution.profuturo.education/ (contents available in SPANISH, ENGLISH, FRENCH and PORTUGUESE)
    • ProFuturo Observatory, website to learn about trends in the field of education, as well as some of the most innovative educational platforms and resources availble in mathematics, literacy and science, developed by third parties, some of them available to download for families and teachers: https://observatorio.profuturo.education/ (only available in SPANISH)
    • ProFuturo teacher training courses, accessible online for teachers so they can continue training and improving their pedagogical and digital skills: https://profuturo.education/cursos-de-formacion-docente/ (in SPANISH) and https://profuturo.education/en/2020/03/31/teacher-training-courses/ (in ENGLISH)

  10. Pieter says:

    Gynzy offers online digital whiteboard software that teachers can use to provide instruction, even in distance learning situations. The software is currently being offered for free.

    *Digital Distance Learning Tips & Tricks*
    https://www.gynzy.com/en/digital-distance-learning-tips-tricks/

    Also, it has a lot of educational games that students can use for free and without an account at http://www.gynzykids.com

  11. Hla Hla Win says:

    360ed leverages virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other emerging technologies to bring scalable and immediate impacts in transforming Myanmar’s education system and beyond. They have received the Nikkei Products Award, and have been recognized by UNESCO and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. https://www.360ed.org/

  12. Robyn Scott says:

    Apolitical offers peer to peer learning for public servants who are facing extraordinary learning challenges during covid-19 – from understanding epidemics to figuring out how to do remote working well. Apolitical is used by government officials in 160 countries. apolitical.co

  13. Joe says:

    SomaSmart (www.somasmart.co.ke) is an online learning platform for primary and secondary school learners. It is loaded with educational content that is simple and interactive, through animated characters. The language used in the content is simple and very easy to remember for all learners. The content available on the platform does not only include videos but also audios, text-based courses and test at the end of each topic.
    Teachers and learners have access to schemes of work, lesson plans, notes, past papers (for revision) and animated lesson activities for all subjects.

  14. Lauren says:

    Learning Equality builds inclusive edtech products that work completely offline so children without internet connectivity don’t get left behind. LE’s flagship platform, Kolibri, has been developed with the support of, and driven by needs shared by, our friends at UNICEF, UNHCR, and Motivation for Excellence’s Nalanda Project, among others. We’ve heard from these organizations that one of the advantages of using Kolibri in their programs is a way to leverage open educational resources to be adapted, aligned to curricular standards, and vetted by official government bodies such as NCDC in Uganda.

    – We have developed some initial guidance on when our offline learning platform Kolibri could be a value-add at home, and for setting up learning spaces without requiring Internet after the initial set-up. We also provide simplified guidance to support users, content creators and government: https://blog.learningequality.org/kolibri-covid19-60d6341c0e7c The blog links to new simplified user documentation to support this use case: http://learningequality.org/r/at-home-instructions

    – We have also recently created new materials to guide those who find themselves in the role of ‘educator’ at home. Facilitators instructing via distance learning, parents at home with learners, and independent learners can refer to https://blog.learningequality.org/continued-learning-during-covid-19-supporting-at-home-learning-with-kolibri-e1a5552e2fed

    – We will continue to update on the status of our work in response to COVID-19 and available resources via this link: http://learningequality.org/r/covid-19. Follow us there and at @LearnEQ for more resources over the coming weeks.

    • Thanks for sharing your work. I am aware the NCDC which you reference (National Curriculum Development Centre – in Uganda) digitized learning materials and some how either their server crashed or something to the sort.

      I also noticed they simply have lesson guides. This is the problem I have when incompetent public organizations try to take on work which the private sector can do.

      I am not saying the public sector should not be involved, but at least make an attempt to hire competent people to do the work, to avoid egg on the face.

      What I have seen on the NCDC platform were simply lesson guides, but that does not in any way shape or form justify the amount of funds that have been wasted on these white elephants like Kolibri and a tard of others.

      What they could have done is go for the low hanging fruits like digitizing popular and high quality text books, pay the authors money such that the materials can be free.

      • So on point as ever. It is just that people have even lost shame to be promoting some of these like the http://www.e-learning.education.go.ug or the list up as learning tools for everyone in this day age….little content to write home about, little if any learner management functionality. You even wonder what NCDC would approve there…but people have to eat their money.

        • Cavin Mugarura says:

          I looked at this platform and wondered how anyone can really come up with this type of mediocrity, Kolibri crashed at least three times in a space of 5 minutes while I was using it. poor design, poor everything. The wax lyrical army that sing the open source songs without even having a clue what open source software is all about. They are hundreds of tech platforms out there, all of them open source, funding another open source platform Kolibri is not a clever use of funds. What some of these donor agencies should focus is quality content, not funding bad platforms, Moodle, Drupal and WordPress are all mature platforms that can be used to setup a quality learning management system, but a poor understanding of the tech landscape is what creates these white elephants which provide negative value to students, apart from listing these activities in M & E reports, there s no proof any improvement in learning takes place

  15. Here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we have launched ‘Digital Making at Home’ to support the almost 1.5 billion children globally that are unable to access learning through schools and clubs.

    We have designed new virtual and online learning experiences based on our existing library of free online project resources, we are developing instructional videos, supporting different levels of skills, led by members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation team. Each week we will set a theme (or themes) that will inspire and engage young people to learn how to solve problems and express themselves creatively with technology.

  16. To empower families to support their children’s learning while out of school, The Asia Foundation launched Let’s Read At Home (www.letsreadathome.org), a multi-language website full of colorful book collections and reading activities that cultivate skills schools would be focusing on, such as Critical Thinking and STEM while addressing topics parents are concerned about, such as Health and Resilience. Plus, a Favorites section filled with books we think especially foster a love of reading.

    To help children make sense of the coronavirus, we’ve added COVIBOOK for young children in 20 languages and My Hero is You: How Kids Can Fight COVID-19 for older children to our Health collection.

    Twelve Asia Foundation country offices are implementing Let’s Read at Home. We use localized social media campaigns, video tips, and colorful graphics to provide parents with ideas on how to read aloud with their children. Our volunteer translation communities across Asia are also participating in Let’s Read at Home, expanding the number of children’s books available in local languages through virtual translation events.

    Let’s Read at Home is part of Let’s Read (www.letsreadasia.org), a free digital library for children created specifically by and for the Asia region with 30 languages and more than 3,300 books to date, including books developed by organizations mentioned in this blog and the replies. Books on the Let’s Read library have been read more than 1 million times. Let’s Read involves partnerships with leading national and international education organizations and ministries of educations.

    All of our resources hold Creative Commons licenses to encourage sharing and adaptation.

  17. Yaaka Digital Network http://www.yaaka.cc, is an award winning learning and training platform offering online and offline learning materials input and access, interactions as well a set of tools for digitalising teaching and learning online and offline.

    Yaaka is like http://www.coursera.com, Khanacademy.com , Udemy.com, EDX.org, but in addition to offering country and or particular institution relevant academic content and interactions, Yaaka is a five in one product for digitalising learning and teaching. It consists of:

    1. The web app http://www.yaaka.cc where trainers and learners can signup for accounts to input and access learning materials in text, pictures, audio, video and graphics at their convenience on any gadget that can access the internet and a web browser. It is built as a market place of learning materials and a social network for learning with interactive features for groups, discussion forums, friendship, selling of courses, metered learned, quizzes, assignments, content drip feed, online and off line courses, live classes etc.

    2. The Yaaka offline app: which enables people to access http://www.yaaka.cc as an offline app on their gadget so one can learn anytime anywhere without needing access to the internet. We can install Yaaka offline on any computer, phone or tablet of sizable memory.

    3 The Yaaka tablet computer https://www.yaaka.cc/product/yaaka-tablet-with-uganda-syllabus-apps/ which comes with http://www.yaaka.cc pre-installed. People who purchase the Yaaka Tablet Computer can learn offline for free and go online as and where they choose.

    4. Yaaka Plus for Institutions where we deliver a networked Yaaka installation to an education institution- which networked Yaaka can be accessed by any number of learners and trainers connected to the same LAN or wireless network at any campus/ learning venue(not needing internet).

    5. The mobile app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.yaakadnapp.app

  18. Extegrity Exam2 – exam2.com

    Mini LMS connects instructors with students working from home.

    Time-controlled question delivery. Orderly, time-stamped answer collection.

    A minimalist tool for a fundamental task. Set up in seconds.

    1. Instructors set question timing (durations and deadlines), then post questions.
    2. Students download questions and upload answers.
    3. Instructors track timing compliance, and receive organized, properly-named answer files.

    • Retain key pedagogical value of time-limited exams.
    • Or set looser timing for other assessments and assignments.
    • No user accounts, no signups, no pestering, no entanglements.
    • Free for most institutions.

    Extegrity has worked with US law schools and state bar examiners for more than two decades.

    We have delivered security and file management on millions of the highest-stakes exams.

  19. Melody Zavala says:

    Hi Greg! Great to learn about your company! It’s been a long time!