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Cohere - connecting abstract/concrete and formal informal learning in the moment

Enabling learners and parents of young learners to embed just-in-time, responsive love of learning

Photo of Mandi Banks Gatenby
2 1

Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • Parent/Caregiver
  • University Lecturer, Primary school governor, NFP Preschool Trustee

Tell us about your idea

This is a suggestion for an application, initially focused on supporting parents with early years learning but intended ultimately to support lifelong learning. Parents/learners upload an image or write a short piece of text about an activity in which their child is/they are engaging. Image recognition techniques use existing and crowd sourced data to recognize possible learning opportunities in that moment and recommend discourse (questions, conversation points) and resources for age appropriate learning opportunities.

For example, imagine a child on a swing. This provides opportunities to discuss, for example, Physics (momentum, velocity, acceleration, through to phenomenological primitives, quantum field theory), or Maths (counting, geometry, time), or English (poetry, narrative, spelling). The application could suggest (or provide directly) age appropriate questions to ask the learner, present AR models of a swing which diagrammatically explain the relevant principles, and so on.

The application would suggest a range of domain/discipline options for the uploaded image or text. The Parent/learner would select the area of interest and the activity would be associated with this. They would also tag the image or text to show a more specific representation of what the parent/learner felt was learnt in that activity. The collection of images/text descriptions and associated tags and associations with domains/disciplines over time would provide a record of the most valued learning activities and visualizations would show what areas had been covered most and highlight areas that might need more emphasis. The curated user tags would over time develop a 'crowd sourced curriculum', evidencing the learning that is most valued across communities and enabling formal education design to respond to this.

Developing this further, parents/learners could optionally share examples of learning activities with other parents/learners. They could optionally ‘follow’ a particular domain or tag, to see examples of how other parents/learners had embedded the learning of a particular abstract concept into play or other activities.

This would provide teachers in schools with a much clearer vision of how learners connect the formal learning they do in schools to the activities they do outside of formal education. It would emphasise the value of concrete, non-formal learning. Educators (used in a very broad sense and would also include learners and parents, sports coaches, youth workers etc.) could use this for assessing learning progress and understanding, setting specific learning activities, such as asking learners to evidence a particular tag through any activity they choose, or ask learners to do a particular activity and tag it appropriately. Potentially a collection of tags could be rewarding with digital badges. In addition to formal education settings, this could include informal parent and child groups, formal groups such as baby swim classes, through to older children, where for example, swimming coaches could see how to embed discourse on basic fluid dynamics into a swimming lesson and through girlguiding/boy scout groups, learners could connect the badges they do to abstract concepts learned in formal education. In this way, those working with young people such as sports coaches, get opportunities to learn about the work of teachers in classrooms and vice versa.

Parents and children, or learners as part of a learning community, are enabled to learn abstract principles together through activities which are meaningful to them in any particular moment. Excellent usability and ethical incentivization in the design would be needed to support and encourage use for disadvantaged groups.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

A twofold wish: to break the cycle of the inequity of education, formed as a child's first and foremost educators, their parents, depend on their own education to support their child's learning, which inherently embeds existing inequalities inter-generationally; and to leave behind the balkanisation of subject disciplines which leaves us unable to view the world as a complex system, that values niche and narrow specialisms and forces young people down increasingly particular routes throughout their education, without simultaneously valuing those who have broader perspectives, who can speak the 'language' of multiple disciplines well enough to facilitate communication between them, whose unique perspective is about connecting, rather than defining, the dots - the people that this increasingly complex world needs more than ever and something that the formal education system currently 'drills out' of young people.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I come from a working class family and have been incredibly fortunate to have the education experience I have had. Having travelled an academic path myself, I realise first hand that 'you cannot be what you cannot see' and want to find ways of enabling equity in what all children on this beautiful planet 'see', both for their own individual experience, growth and happiness, and as inseparable from this, that of our planet. As someone who is involved in education across all age groups, I know this starts with supporting and encouraging parents to engage and supporting a love of learning. This means ensuring learning is meaningful in each moment, not taught from a perspective of 'this will be useful in future’. Existing AI technology is at a stage where this idea is very possible and will provide a platform for emerging technologies in, for e.g. mixed reality, to fundamentally put these values at the forefront of learning.

What region are you located in?

  • Europe

Where are you located?

I live just outside Manchester in the UK, a city famed for its centrality to the industrial revolution, the rights of workers and women, and for 'worker bees', the industrious and inventive people of the region, a community of which I'm very proud to be a part.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Peter Worth

Thank you Mandi Banks Gatenby for submitting your idea. I really appreciate how your app is grounded in learning in the real world and fosters a data-driven conversation about how and why we learn what we do. The support for connections across different learning environments and the different people and community groups who support student learning is also inspiring. There are many elements to this idea, and I wonder if you've had a chance to prototype this and get some feedback from the various user groups. A storyboard or user journey map would be one idea for a tool to share with a parent, child, teacher, or coach. It would be interesting to hear what you learn. Thanks!

Photo of Mandi Banks Gatenby

Thanks Peter. We're in the process of prototyping one aspect of this idea - as you say it is multi faceted - so we currently have a prototype of the capture and tagging of learning 'moments' for older learners (HE) with the visualisations of these on a separate platform. Storyboarding with parents/teachers/coaches in relation to the aspects that require image recognition and text mining is the next phase!