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Questions and Answers (Q&A)


How will learners collaborate without the Internet?

posted Aug 13, 2015, 10:23 PM by Natalie Denmeade

The Dev4x learning platform will not only provide the learning resources,  but through a mesh network of mini-internets, it will also provide an easy way for learners to share and comment within their immediate  learning community. The status gained through these restricted mini-social media spaces creates a momentum to keep progressing along a learning spiral.

How can peers teach each other something they don't know?

posted Aug 13, 2015, 10:17 PM by Natalie Denmeade   [ updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:32 PM ]

Each child will excel in one area: music, art, counting, storytelling, or reading. Based on their own passion they will be the first to master a new skill level and then become mentors to inspire less enthusiastic siblings and peers (see Gardner's multiple Intelligences). The self organised learning environments around Loombands and Minecraft are initiated and maintained by peers.

How can each learner design their own pathway?

posted Aug 13, 2015, 10:15 PM by Natalie Denmeade   [ updated Aug 14, 2015, 8:19 AM by Bodo Hoenen ]

The advantage of using a digital interface is the learner usage data  can be analysed by our adaptive engine to suggest learning pathways.  A large range of content is being created to appeal to a wide range of motivations. Like Amazon and google, the top suggestions can be ignored and learners could explore the world of learning their own way, and over time the engine will become better at guiding the child.  The engine is based on a radically unique open learning map (which you can find out more on here). It's radical and powerful because it’s open to educators and curriculum experts to add to, design learning paths for specific contexts and then validate its effectiveness. We expect this learning map to become The resource for educators needing to find the best way to provide the children they are teaching the personalized and adapted learning the child needs. And because all this analysis is being done in the open it will be available to benefit everyone, especially today's most underserved.

Will learning be facilitated?

posted Aug 13, 2015, 10:14 PM by Natalie Denmeade   [ updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:21 PM ]

Like analogue resources, the digital resources loaded on to the tablet can be useful in both facilitated and unfacilitated scenarios. A teacher may simply use the device as a content repository  to plan lessons, assign homework, or provide extension work.

Who is going to distribute these tablets?

posted Aug 13, 2015, 10:11 PM by Natalie Denmeade   [ updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:21 PM ]

For the next 18 months we are working closely with existing NGOs and communities in some of the most challenging of environments. In some of these environments tablets are already in place and we can leverage existing hardware.  In addition, there are many competitions and grant applications that are encouraging solutions to be developed for these children, for example the Global Learning XPrize. For that competition and many like it we will leverage the competitions deployment and distributions strategy. The Global Learning XPrize foundation will take care of installation on hardware they have purchased. They have teams in place to co-ordinate training in solar-charging, local negotiations, distribution ,supervision and reporting. 5000 children will be involved in a field test over the course of that competition.

What is the status of your MVP?

posted Mar 24, 2015, 10:27 AM by Jeff Bennett   [ updated Mar 24, 2015, 10:34 AM ]

We have a number of different ongoing MVP efforts that are delivering promising results in developing our ultimate MVP. We feel very strongly that technology itself is no longer the problem in deploying terrific educational solutions to all the world's children. In fact, there are many complimentary technological angles that will be a part of our blended solution. To that end, we are relying on testing and results to determine the optimal approach. And, we feel the balance between iteration and our long term plan is key to the success of the resulting MVP and beyond. 

What do you think are the most important aspects of Android, App and related  technology that provide the most promise in providing the best solution for these children? 

How will the XPRIZE competition winnings be distributed if you are to win?

posted Feb 24, 2015, 9:35 AM by Bodo Hoenen


That is a very good question and one we have been thinking about since the Global Learning XPRIZE was launched a few months ago. Our project was started well before the XPRIZE was announced and before there was any financial reward. We came together and started this community to solve the problem, not win a prize and this created a powerful culture, one we want to nurture. Our initial 10 year mission will take us well beyond the XPRIZE timeframe and we want to continue building a community that is focused on the long term, focused on these children. We have tried to come up with various options but only one made any sense. We will treat the XPRIZE competition just like any other grant, and distribute it to our 501c.3 non-profit and use the funds to further this cause.

But to fully explain this answer I'm going to need to explain the background of our project, why it got started and how.

THE MOONSHOT EDUCATION PROJECT

The project kicked off over a year ago as a side project. I was creating something for my daughter (4) and my son (2). A somewhat autonomous process where I could help them learn whatever they were interested in. From personal experience I know how ineffective traditional education was at fostering this type of learning, and I wanted my kids to have something better, something that could prepare them for today's world. With a background in entrepreneurship and through the experience of recently building some education technology solutions and then an education technology company, I created a somewhat crude process that really worked well. It allowed my daughter to learn things on her own, and she loved it because she was learning about things that mattered to her. At the same time I was following the work of Sugata Mitra, the Global Literacy Project and some others who were creating solutions to help children teach themselves, and I wanted to join that effort, as this could be far bigger than something just for my own kids. I naively started to venture down this rabbit hole and over time got passionately transfixed at the potential this could have on these kids and for the world.

Throughout my career working for, or building, for-profit companies, the culture of short term mindedness really got to me. I expected things to be slightly different when I entered the education technology space 5 years ago, but It was much of the same —if not somewhat worse, because the people most affected here are not stockholders but children. In most of education the focus is squarely on short term ROI, politics and protecting the status quo rather than focusing on the needs of the kids. And I did not just want to stand back.

I started the project back in 2013 as an experiment, and looked for people to join me. We would focus on the children that nobody else was focused on, we would offer the platform for free and build it open source, we would fund this ourselves and through donations, grants and appropriate partnerships. We would use the cognitive surplus of the many people who wanted to work on this challenge to expand on what the core team could do by crowdsourcing help. If we could deliver an educational solution that focused solely on the needs of these children, not their schools, not their parents, not their governments and educational ministries. If we could stay away from the politics, the protectionism the dogma, then we would be able to do something revolutionary. A solution that works for children in the most challenging of environments, could work for children in any environment, including our own. And so with that spirit the project was born.

Over time more and more people who shared our passion and belief joined the project. We started to reach out to others working on similar projects with a lot more credibility than ourselves, suggesting that we could help. We wanted to pull together projects and create something greater than the sum of our individual efforts. And because we were an open philosophy project, building open source, without any financial incentive, this collaboration was natural. Over time some highly credible people and projects started to respond positively and we began collaborating, and it worked. It worked because we all have the same focus, these children.

The Global learning XPRIZE was announced and suddenly thanks to their amazing work and their following, this challenge has gotten a whole lot more attention, and rightfully so. We see this XPRIZE as an amazingly fortunate short term milestone, and something we are excitedly focused on leveraging. But it raised the question you are asking.

Our project has an initial 10 year mission to provide these children all the education they need to succeed. It was started well before the Global Learning XPRIZE was launched, and will continue well beyond its close. This long term focus is core to what we are doing. In addition, the team was started by people that wanted to work on this challenge for the sake of these children. We started without any incentive reward and we will continue long after the incentive reward has been won. This is a powerful culture. It is something we want to continue to encourage and nurture. We need folks who are focused on these children, who want to solve the problem for the long term and want to see this as a sustainable solution for many generations to come. This is why we are continuing to structure our project so that all funds go to the supporting of our mission, these children. We are therefore treating the XPRIZE competition just like any other grant, with the funds distributed to the project which includes, in small part, to support a core teams non-profit salaries.

We realize this will limit who would be interested in working with us, but those no longer interested would not be the right people for our project to begin with. We really are a group of parents, teachers, engineers, artists, designers and do gooders that want to solve this challenge for the long term.

What is most liberating about this approach is that we can work with anyone, even those that are in 'competing' teams. Our focus is on the Children, not the XPRIZE, not the winnings and not even on being the ones to solve it. We just want to be part of the solution, we want to help these children, and there are many people like us!

If you are one of those people who share our conviction, please join us

HOW IS DEV4X CURRENTLY FUNDED?

posted Feb 16, 2015, 7:23 AM by Bodo Hoenen   [ updated Feb 16, 2015, 7:23 AM ]

We are currently self-financed. We are actively raising capital from foundations, high net worth philanthropists, and individuals. We may also consider creating a B Corp to support the non-profit and seek capital from venture capital funds that have a social impact charter.

WHAT MAKES THIS EFFORT SUSTAINABLE?

posted Feb 16, 2015, 7:21 AM by Bodo Hoenen   [ updated Feb 16, 2015, 7:21 AM ]

This answer is courtesy of our partners at the Global Literacy Project: There are already tablets on the market for as low as $40 each without cellular capability. Based on the availability of inexpensive and reliable tablets, we estimate our cost to drop to approximately $60-70 per child. Assuming a tablet’s lifespan of three years, our cost per child per year could be as low as $20-25. Since the bulk of the cost of deployment is the device itself, economic pressures and new manufacturing techniques may continue to drive the cost down even further. Currently, even the most impoverished countries are spending close to $100 per child per year to try and reach these populations with some sort of educational experience. As we move into Phase 3 and the deployment number rises to 10s of millions (then to 100s of millions) of users, the cost of maintaining and supporting the core platform (data collection and analysis, server backends, integration of new content, community support, …) is amortized across a large population. Even with an annual operating budget of $10-20 million / year, the cost per child would be pennies. (Note that Wikipedia has a $20 million /year budget.)

WHY DO YOU NOT FIRST DEVELOP SOMETHING FOR THE DEVELOPED WORLD AND THEN USE THAT TO FUND DEPLOYMENTS INTO THE DEVELOPING WORLD?

posted Feb 16, 2015, 7:20 AM by Bodo Hoenen   [ updated Feb 16, 2015, 7:20 AM ]

Most education technology companies are doing that. They build something for the developed world and then try to adapt it to work in more challenging environments. We haven’t seen this approach work, because too many assumptions about the easier developed-world problem are built into the software.

We are doing it in the other direction. By building something for the most challenging of scenarios, not only do we affect the lives of those that need it most, but we also build something suitable for children who live in less challenging environments. We want to build an education platform that truly anyone can use, and for free!

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