Questions and Answers
What is the big idea in no more than 100 words.
Do not bring technology into the classroom, bring the classroom into the 21st Century.
Reading has been handicapped by the stress on phonetic decoding. Teaching a child to listen is “word by word”. Teaching a child to read “word by word”, can be done at the same time. Children will come to school reading and writing. Education will jump a quantum level.
The STEM subjects have been handicapped by the tedium of arithmetic. Replace arithmetic by estimation; use Excel as the STEM platform. STEM will attract more students.
A test predicts performance in the future. Authentic Assessment is that performance.
What is the role of technology?
ESF exists in the Cloud, providing online support for workers on the ground, including web hosting and grant editing. Our experience stems from the 1980s where technology was scarce, similar to Kenya today. We know how to make the best of what we have. We start with the most widespread technology for the individual, the Smart Phone. We will expand the apps to support other platforms, especially for Group Centers.
A baby on the floor learns the meaning of the spoken word, but we wait until they are 5 years old before we teach reading. Show the printed word at the same time as you say the spoken word. This can be done with flash cards, but we are developing Smart Phone apps for reading. Future versions will have a keyboard, which can be used for writing.
We have an estimation app that uses feedback to enhance accuracy. The estimation skill is made precise on a spreadsheet that is the platform for STEM subjects.
Project based learning is based on the use of computer and Internet.
How will this idea improve the quality of education for primary and secondary learners?
When children come to school reading and writing, there will be time available for culture, history, STEM, and more. An ESF proposal on early childhood development also integrates the emotional aspects of life.
Secondary school will prepare a person for life after school. Existing material will be supplemented with activities of daily living and a vocational track where the students explore occupational choice. An ESF proposal on secondary education is available.
With the drudgery of arithmetic eliminated, many more students will be attracted to STEM. Estimation can become a game in a way arithmetic never could. Does estimation have limits? Teaching STEM on a spreadsheet combines calculation, illustration, and dynamic text.
The most intriguing aspect is the untapped potential released by early reading. The implications become clear when one realizes that a 3 year old will be able to read and write as well as speak and listen. Are we missing an optimal time for learning?
Please describe its current reach.
In 2017, Early Reading emerged in Uganda and Kenya.
Miridians Nursery School is using the program for 25 children with favorable preliminary results.
Four-day care centers in Nairobi and 4 sites for older children help 158 children. Peace Rescue Kenya, an established NGO, has agreed to pilot Early Reading with at least 50 students in September, as a proof of concept. They have at least 15 more schools watching.
These numbers represent a change from a zero baseline in May 2017. Early Reading has been successful because it makes sense, saves money, and school is enjoyable for students and teachers.
Does your organization have prior experience developing technology in-house? If yes, please briefly describe.
The Principals of ESF supported education and disability online in the 1980’s before they joined ESF in 1994.
The Director of ESF created the Maelstrom Listserv and Grassroots Education MOO.
For over 10 years, ESF has been supporting grassroots African organizations. The support includes free web sites at our Drupal or Word Press sites, located on 4 cloud servers.We developed apps for reading and estimation on Android phones.
How will you ensure that your big idea scales to impact as many learners as possible?
The program is already scaling since its inception May 2017 to include multiple sites in Kenya and Uganda. Potential sites are emerging. From another viewpoint, it will not scale. It is a quantum leap for Education.
What three factors pose the greatest risk to your ability to execute on the above strategy?Traditional education is based on the needs of the 19th Century, and special interest groups will fight to maintain the status quo. Reading and writing disability will be as infreqent as speaking and listening disability and not the epidemic it is now.
Arithmetic is still seen as the gateway to mathematics even though arithmetic was automated. Arithmetic has become a stumbling block. Estimation leads to an understanding of product, rather than an emphasis on process.
Evaluation is an essential in any Educational system and experts will say that standardized tests is the gold standard of evaluation. A test is a prediction of what a person can do. Since the Cold War the US has been behind many nations in educational performance on these tests. The US scores average. In the last decade of the 20th Century the US won about 30 Nobel Prizes. In the first decade of the 21st Century, they doubled that. Is the Nobel Prize Committee wrong? Or are the tests measuring the wrong things?