ICTs and Girls’ Education

In the developing world 42% of girls are not enrolled in school. Over 50 million girls live in poverty.”

Global Education Fund

Continuing our series focused on edtech in developing countries, we are looking today at the potential in technology for furthering girls’ education. According to UNICEF’s entry on Girls’ education and gender equality, providing education to girls in developing countries comes with a host of positive impacts. Women who receive an education are more likely to delay childbirth, earn higher wages, and avoid HIV and AIDS than women who do not.

Keeping girls in school remains a challenge in many nations around the world, as does training female teachers and role models. What role could information and communications technologies (ICTs) play in furthering these goals?

Below is a video from UNICEF Activate Talk that took place in 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A panel of five speakers present their views on the power of bringing technology to bear on education and the possibilities this opens up for girls and women around the world.

Fuller details on the UNICEF website: Connecting Through ICT: Empowering Girls Through Education.

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All Children Reading: Literacy and EdTech

All Children Reading is a project launched in 2011 by USAID, World Vision, and the Australian government. Its purpose? To promote literacy in developing countries through technological innovation. In a quote from the official website, the organization states:

…a 2013/2014 UNESCO report indicates that 250 million children across the globe are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.

In a first round of grant awards, All Children Reading chose 32 projects in over 22 countries to support. From interactive whiteboards in Haiti to a low-cost digital platform for mother-tongue educational material in Zambia, the projects all strove to bring the power of reading and writing to disadvantaged children. A full list of the grant-recipients along with project descriptions is available here.

blackboard

From 2014 through 2017, All Children Reading will again be funding projects and also supporting a number of competitions to further develop ICT solutions to illiteracy. One of the most exciting calls for submissions is EduApp4Syria, launched in partnership with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The project aims to develop a mobile app to aid Syrian refugee children in learning to read in a way that is fun, engaging, and improves their pyschosocial well-being. For more details click here.

You can find the latest updates on the All Children Reading website or blog.

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EdTech in Developing Countries

There is no doubt that education is one of the most potent tools for combatting poverty (see this U.N. report on Education First for more information). Yet the need for teachers, school supplies, and other resources remains dire in many countries.

We are going to be doing a series of posts on educational technology in developing countries here at the Dybuster blog. We warmly welcome readers to share their thoughts and experiences as we begin to explore this topic. Leave your comments at the end of a post or get in touch via our contact form.

Our first research on edtech in developing countries led us to the EduTech blog on the World Bank website. Written by Michael Trucano, the blog is a must-read for anyone looking for insights into the use of ICTs (information and communication technologies) around the world.

The post that initially led us to the blog was this one from 2014: In search of the ideal educational technology device for developing countries.

Trucano lists what he considers to be top considerations for designers looking to create devices for populations in developing countries. His first five priorities:

  • affordability
  • accessibility
  • connectivity
  • electricity
  • usability

Read through the article to get the full picture on each of these attributes. However the author’s perhaps most salient point comes right at the end:

If you really want good answers to these sorts of questions, you should ask the people themselves to whom you hope to sell such devices. Better yet: Work with them (observe them, talk with them, hire them, fund them) as part of your design process. 

Michael Trucano – Read more.

What do you think? What considerations should edtech designers and producers keep foremost in their minds as they look to create devices for developing countries?

Dybuster Coach and Analytics

Dybuster software is designed to allow children to practice reading and math independently. Orthograph and Calcularis guide the user through a series of learning games that increase with difficulty according to a child’s progress and learning needs. The software has been shown to help children with dyslexia and dyscalculia improve their spelling and math skills.

However the software is not designed to replace teachers or therapists. Teachers and parents are the most important guides of a child’s learning path. To give those guides the best possible overview of a student’s progress, we include Dybuster Coach with every school and home license of our software.

Both Orthograph Coach and Calcularis Coach give parents access to in-depth feedback on how often their child has used the software and how long each session has lasted. Reports include which words or math problems have been practiced and which ones still pose difficulties. Statistics predict error probabilities. The Modules feature in Orthograph Coach allows parents to create lists of words tailored to their child’s practice needs.

Teachers and specialists can use the analytics in Dybuster Coach to track an entire classroom’s progress, compare how different students are doing, and create individual reports. They have an immediate overview as to which students are developing what skills, as well as information on length and frequency of the practice sessions. This detailed feedback can then be used to supplement a teacher’s other instruction or to aid in a dyslexia or dyscalculia intervention program.

To test out Dybuster software for yourself, please visit the Orthograph trial page (software for dyslexia) or the Calcularis trial page (software for dyscalculia).

Dybuster Coach: track and analyze a child’s progress as he or she develops letter and number skills.

Calcularis Learning Games: Helping to Solve Dyscalculia

Calcularis learning game for dyscalculia

Judging quantities, performing simple arithmetic, picturing numbers on a number line: all of these tasks can cause severe frustration to someone with dyscalculia. Math problems that pose no difficulty to their peers, can seem incomprehensible to dyscalculic children.

An inability to deal with numbers can leave dyscalculics with deep feelings of anxiety and inferiority when faced with anything math-related, such as counting out change or remembering the multiplication tables.

When children with dyscalculia play the Dybuster Calcularis learning games, the software gradually helps the brain to develop new learning channels and to automate mathematical processes. User studies have shown these games to be very effective: students using the software over a period of three months improved their addition skills by 30% and subtraction skills by 40%.

The games are designed to develop both numerical understanding and arithmetic operations. Students practice numbers as quantities, number words, Arabic numerals and positions on a number ray. Children progress from comparing amounts, to adding and subtracting with colored blocks, to multiplying and dividing. As their skills increase, dyscalculics also gain confidence in their own number abilities.

The results of the users studies involving Dybuster Calcularis were published in the following peer-reviewed publications:

Study about the neurplastic changes: K. Kucian, U. Grond, S. Rotzer, B. Henzi, C. Schönmann, F. Plangger, M. Gälli, E. Martin, M. von Aster. Mental number line training in children with developmental dyscalculia. NeuroImage, Neuroimage, 57(3):782-95, 2011

User adaptation, improvements in HRT (Addition/Subtraction): T. Käser, A. G. Busetto, G.-M. Baschera, J. Kohn, K. Kucian, M. von Aster, and M. Gross. Modelling and Optimizing the Process of Learning Mathematics. Proceedings of ITS (Chania, Greece, 14-18 June, 2012), pp 389-398, 2012

User adaptation, study 2011: T. Käser, G.-M. Baschera, J. Kohn, K. Kucian, V. Richtmann, U. Grond, M. Gross, and M. von Aster. Design and evaluation of the computer-based training program Calcularis for enhancing numerical cognition. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 4: 489, 2013

But our favorite reviews come from the parents, teachers, and students who use our software:

Tracking progress in Calcularis. Parents, teachers, and students can easily see how far a child has come in developing math skills.

Tracking progress in Calcularis. Parents, teachers, and students can easily see how far a child has come in developing math skills.

“As a mother, I am extremely impressed by Dybuster.” – Katharina, mother

“I like the fact that I can use Dybuster on my computer at home instead of having to visit a therapist.” – Jonathan, 12 years old

Like to test out the learning games yourself? Please visit the Calcularis website and download your free trial.

 

 

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Dybuster Orthograph Featured on Acapela Blog

People express themselves in so many ways: through the clothes they wear, their taste in music and television shows, and, very importantly, the words they use. Our vocabulary makes up an intrinsic part of who we are. There are the words we use with our family, the words we use at school, and the words we use for work. This mix of words is unique to each individual.

When we developed Orthograph it was important to us that students with dyslexia could practice not just standard vocabulary but their own words. We wanted them to be able to build lists of the words necessary to them in all areas of their lives. The program allows dyslexics to build those lists and then reads the words back so they can be practiced.

The voices behind the words are provided by Acapela. The Acapela blog ran an article featuring Dybuster Orthograph last week and we’d like to share the article with our readers. You can read the article here or try Orthograph for yourself on our website.

LearnGame_ClicktoOpen

Technology and Teachers: Not Interchangeable

dybuster children in classroom

The first title for this blog post I had in mind was Will computers replace teachers? …until I realised just how many articles already exist with that exact same title or variants thereof.

This question – whether technology will ever take the place of teachers in the classroom – seems to pop up on a regular basis and has been doing so since the 1970s when learning software PLATO began to be widespread in schools. PLATO was useful because it performed the time-consuming task of checking students’ answers to math problems. PLATO was not a teacher, but simply evaluated whether an answer was right or wrong.

Today, as the market for education software is booming, the same question persists. There has been speculation that the role of a teacher will change from that of instructor to a coach, or guide. This article from the New Yorker argues that not just learning methods but the very content of education will change. As computers take on ever more tasks, students will focus more on skills that cannot be automated by a computer, skills such as critical thinking and communication. A teacher, not a computer, is capable of imparting these skills.

When we develop software for dyslexia or dyscalculia intervention, we do not intend this software as a replacement for teachers. The programs are meant to make a teacher’s job easier, to free up her or his attention for tasks the software cannot do. None of our learning programs take away the need for special education experts, therapists, or teachers.

But if a country is facing a shortage of teachers, as is the case in many places around the world, technology can greatly assist in filling the gap. This article from the World Bank provides a global look at the role of computers in education.

Is the role of teacher changing? This seems highly likely. But there is one aspect of a teacher’s job that does not change: human connection. There is no doubt that teachers can touch their students’ lives in a deep and personal way that no computer can ever do.

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