A team of Canadians is developing a new tool they hope could revolutionize education in the developing world – and win them a $10 million prize.
The team is in the running for the Global Learning XPrize, a competition funded entirely by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in which teams develop technologies to improve education.
The competition began three years ago with 198 teams, but the Canadian team was recently named one of 11 semi-finalists — the only Canadian team chosen.
The technology the 29-person team has created is called Learn Leap Fly. It’s a tablet and mobile device-based educational software that aims to teach the basics of reading and math to children in areas with no access to formal education.
Ottawa mathematician Kjell Wooding, who co-founded Learn Leap Fly with Amy Wooding, says there are presently 250 million children in the world who don’t know how to read or write, and most of them don’t have access to schools or teachers.
“So the challenge was: is there anything we could do to help these children in the absence of school and the absence of teachers? Can we perhaps use tablet-based technologies to help them?” he told CTV’s Your Morning.
The software they created acts like a “virtual teacher” for learning the basics, using interactive characters and activities to keep children engaged. For example, the software starts out by reading stories to children, and then guides them through the process of being able to read the stories themselves.
It’s technology that intended to be used in a social context, among several children at once, to eventually turn the children themselves into teachers, says Wooding.
“Once a child learns something for the first time, one of the first things you see them do is turn around and show everyone around them that thing that they’ve learned. And that‘s a very powerful way to encourage them to achieve learning outcomes,” he explained.