OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Learning Together

To build a “school without walls,” focused on the early language and literacy development of young English language learners.

Photo of Mary  McKenna
0 0

Written by

I am a.....

  • Organization

Tell us about your idea

Our vision: To build a “school without walls,” focused on the early language and literacy development of young children in the United States whose primary language is not English.  Our online platform will deliver a cohesive system of low bandwidth, research-based, culturally responsive materials, resources and training for teachers, families and communities. We promote children’s engagement in early reading and writing through active play, dialogue, and learning together with those they know and love.

What we currently do:

Support the social and emotional well being of children, families, and communities through online literacy materials: promote creativity and play, foster resilience, empower teachers and learners, and increase community engagement. Our program has been developed through six years of use in Nepal and Lebanon in settings including refugee camps and slums, and is being adapted in those settings during the current worldwide crisis. We now want to provide a variant to underserved communities in the US as well. 

Our assets: 

  • Tested methodology that empowers teachers and families in an ongoing dialogue about how best to nourish their children’s curiosity and engagement with literacy.

  • Successfully utilized curriculum that provides caregivers and teachers with games, activities, and tools adaptable to their communal and developmental needs.

  • A collection of 90 engaging online printable children’s books, many in multiple versions leveled appropriately for preschool through age 9 readers, several with read-aloud videos, some translated into several languages.

  • Stories that foster resilience by featuring socioemotional challenges (wartime, loss, not having needs met, bullying) set in a range of cultural settings and featuring children of varying races and ethnic backgrounds, with guidance on promoting conversation about the content.

What we are developing:

  • Partnerships with schools, educators, and community organizations serving immigrant and low income communities for the purpose of adapting the materials for use in the US, in an ongoing, co-creative dialogue that empowers teachers and families to express their diverse needs and help us shape the materials to best individualize their uses.

  • The capacity for children and families to tell and value their own stories, and participate in the creation of new books that reflect their own needs, challenges, cultures and communities.

  • More “real world” play-based and creative activities that promote early language and  literacy and get young children interacting with each other, their environment, their caregivers, their families, and their communities even amid the challenges of isolation and disengagement and the move to a more heavily digital interface for learning caused by the coronavirus crisis.

  • More robust tracks for bilingual learning and second language English users, with more translation of instructions, more books in Spanish and Arabic, and more videos of the books being read aloud.

  • A more flexible online interface, to allow teachers and families with varying needs to find the most appropriate materials and navigate between them.

  • An online platform for community engagement around early literacy. A blog and email distribution list providing links to new suggestions or read-aloud videos. Discussion boards where families challenged by social distancing isolation and its demands (working from home, working long hours out of the home, unemployment) can support one another and help with needs such as online tutoring or book reading, mutual language teaching, etc. 

We need your help, via this IDEO GRANT:

To help fund the creation of a new website and the accompanying online/offline content and materials. 

We have recently dissolved our partnership with a for-profit literacy group focused on providing a more rigid, prescriptive curriculum to middle class families with high bandwidth and high-powered devices. We instead are committed to focusing on the needs of underserved communities in a more flexible and responsive way. 

For this we need a new, pared-down design with more flexible tracks, accessible in low bandwidth and from a variety of devices. We want teachers and families to engage with the materials in the ways that suit their needs, and use the digital interface to facilitate engagement in ways that often spirals away from the device into the children’s world, bringing children, families and communities together in joyous play, reading and learning. Depending on local capabilities, videos can be sent on WhatsApp, for example, and digital community engagement would be promoted using whatever software families already use. 

Our goal, with your support, is to meet communities where their needs already are, and build on the strengths they already have, as we all come together to support the early language and literacy development of their children, one of the critical skills and strongest foundational indicators of school and life-long success.



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

Prescriptive methods imposed from above upon teachers, families, and communities that require children to submit answers into boxes and lead them to interact only with the digital screen, rather than with family members and each other. The limitations of this approach are exacerbated by current 'school at home' conditions, and the situation is particularly difficult for children whose language at home is not English. Children need loving connection, confidence in their capacity to learn, and opportunities for creative play, rather than to be reduced to data points and tracked.

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

What we currently do:

Support the social and emotional well being of children, families, and communities through online literacy materials: promote creativity and play, foster resilience, empower teachers and learners, and increase community engagement. Our program has been developed through six years of use in Nepal and Lebanon in settings including refugee camps and slums, and is being adapted in those settings during the current worldwide crisis. We have been inspired by the teachers we have worked with overseas, and seen their success in collaborating with families and communities. We now want to provide a variant of our program to underserved communities in the US as well. 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Our officers and board members are educators in rural and urban Connecticut, as well as urban Pennsylvania. Our international partners are in Nepal and Lebanon.

0 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment