The Global Literacy Project: Technology to Power Child-Driven Learning

author: Cynthia Breazeal, Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: Aug. 22, 2017,   recorded: July 2014,   views: 0
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Children are the most precious natural resource of any nation. Education opens the mind of a child to a potential lifetime of knowledge in all its varieties, personal growth, and critical and creative thinking. Yet, it is estimated that around 67 million children live in poor, remote areas where there is no access to schools and where everyone around them is illiterate. There are at least another 100 million children who live where schooling is so inadequate, that they also fail to achieve education any meaningful manner. There are, and always will be, places in every country in the world where good schools will not exist and good teachers will not want to go. Even in developed countries such as the United States, literacy rates, especially in areas of poverty, are unacceptably low. And over 40 percent of preschool aged children in the US are not enrolled in preschool. Too many children enter Kindergarten not ready to learn, and too few ever catch up.

We need a fundamentally different approach to this set of issues. Advances in new, affordable mobile computer technologies, growing ubiquity of connectivity to the Internet with cloud computing, big data analytics, even social robots allows us to explore fundamentally new ways of educating and promoting readiness skills of young children — even in these extreme contexts. It allows us to develop a new platform for global literacy: to support science, technology and content development, and to evaluate their impact on learning outcomes for even these most extreme contexts.

I will present both the vision and early initiatives and results to date of our multi-university team's work in the pursuit of this provocative mission. This is a story of technological innovation, community, and the power of child-driven learning on a global scale. What we can learn from this endeavor has to potential to help us think differently about education and technology in both formal and informal learning environments, even in the most extreme learning environments. As a novel platform, we invite participation of the global community to make a difference in the lives of children everywhere.

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