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Listen and Adapt

Using IVR to help teachers identify disabilities in students and learn how to adapt their classrooms and teaching to help these students

Photo of Jamie

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What problem does your idea solve?

One of the issues associated with children with disabilities is the failure to identify and respond to them. Many teachers don't know how to identify disabilities in children and hold stigma and therefore an intervention is never provided. If teachers are familiar with disabilities, they may not know how to address them in their classroom or seek services for referring children which leads kids to struggle without assistance.

Explain your idea

The service works like a search engine where there is no Internet wherein, at a moment of need, teachers use their own simple mobile phones to proactively retrieve information across a range of focus areas. Callers dial a toll-free number anytime, anywhere and listen to a menu of options: “Would you like to know about: Identifying disabilities? Press 1. Adapting your classroom for disabled children? Press 2. Referrals? Press 3. Hear other teacher stories? Press 4 In a series of “listen, then choose” steps, callers use their mobile phone keypad to select from pre-recorded voice and text messages in the local language. They can direct their call to find out the information most important to them at that moment. By moving through the menu, teachers can use the IVR system match a child's behaviors with the symptom prompts in the IVR system and begin to diagnose the disability. The system will then advise the teacher on how they can adapt their classroom accordingly or for those who may need further help, the teachers can learn more about referrals networks for providing the children the additional support they may require. By using mobile technology, and IVR specifically, we can deliver the most up to date information in rich sound files, on any mobile phone, overcoming issues of language, literacy, and material delivery. Teachers can even record their own best practice and experiences working with disabled children and share those stories to encourage others

Who benefits?

Both teachers and students, specifically those in P1-P4, will benefit most from this service. Teachers will now have a resource for information that is easily accessible and highly actionable. Primary school teachers are the ones most likely to start identifying disabilities in children and therefore the teachers who are proactive and use the information and their students will benefit most. IVR can reach as many callers as know about the service and therefore the scope is wide.

How is your idea unique?

The innovation is the "pull" aspect of this service.  Callers can "pull" the information at a moment of need (in contrast to traditional mass media channels like radio and television). Unlike other mobile interventions, this service allows teachers to be the decision-makers. They can listen and choose from hundreds of voice messages using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). With staff and recording capabilities already in Uganda, each message will be recorded in a local language and designed to be easy to understand and actionable. While SMS interventions have become very popular, few interventions (if any) are using IVR, which can provide far more information in a sound file than a 160 character SMS. Additionally IVR can also be used to collect feedback from teachers using to learn more about their needs and challenges, inviting them to respond to both multiple choice questions and leave open ended responses in order to adapt and improve the system.

Tell us more about you

Viamo is a global development organization dedicated to bringing the benefits of technology to individuals and organizations working in the developing world. We work across all sectors to promote the free flow of information between vulnerable groups and the humanitarian and development professionals dedicated to helping them. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Viamo supports thousands of partners in more than 100 countries to leverage Information and Communication Technology for Development.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Who is the best partner to create the decision trees to assist teachers to identifying disabilities? Are there resources for children with more serious disabilities and are there networks for assisting children in accessing these resources if parents don't have the means to access them? Which government agencies can we bring on board? How can we leverage our already existing partnership with Airtel Uganda to increase the reach?

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Uganda

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

Idea Maturity

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

After speaking with special needs teachers in Uganda, I have come to understand a lot of the issue in providing services to students revolves around a general lack of teacher training about disability, stigma, and lack of known resources or places to turn that are affordable for families. Before we can simply advise teachers on strategies to help students with disabilities, we need to educate them on what disabilities mean, how they can be overcome, and that children have a bright future regardless of their differences. We will need to help teachers engage parents in order to ensure parents understand disabilities and are able to support children at home. Therefore, in addition to teaching intervention strategies, we are going to have to have a large focus on stigma and sensitization. Lastly, the scope of the pilot will have to be scaled down to Central Region as most external resources are available around Kampala.

Who will implement this idea?

The staff in Uganda (Country Manager and Content Supervisor) will look for partners including teachers, education focused NGOs, or disability focused organizations. After all of these parties we will then host a 2 day content development committee to create messages for the Listen and Adapt hotline. Once these messages are written we will engage our production team translate, record, pre-test, and launch on a hotline while the Viamo staff will review results.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

While decisions at Viamo are made at the country level, we start by taking into account best practice and research from around the globe where we have implemented similar projects. Once we learn what has or has not succeeded, we take some of those assumptions back to Uganda to test if they still hold strong in the field. Once we collect feedback on these ideas from our beneficiaries, we then adapt our tools. As we are a small and agile in country team, it allows for greater independence and reliance on a bespoke model where strategies can change on a whim. We always focus on how the beneficiaries will use our tools and products and success is measured by the effectiveness and ease for that person to use our tools.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

We are really interested in Amplify because human-centered design has always been the key to our success. The more we engage our beneficiaries, the better our tools are and the more successful everyone is together. Amplify recognizes the process for creating effective solutions and will support our team to ensure that over time we can adapt our tools if the research shows there are more effective methods of helping people with disabilities and that iterative approach is essential.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The first challenge our users face is a lack of resources. Teachers do not have enough training, they have too many students, there are not enough in classroom resources, or external supports to help with individualized needs. The biggest systems-level challenge is the lack a central information source about all of the organizations that can help children with disabilities and the failure to communicate where those resources exist to teachers and households themselves.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

Impact: In the next 3 years we hope to expand the Listen and Adapt service to national scale, highlighting special needs organizations nationwide and hosting information across 6 languages to assist teachers across Uganda. Question: If we create demand for services for the disabled, is there adequate service provision? Armed with information from Adapt and Learn, will teachers have to make necessary changes and referrals to make meaningful impact to the lives of disabled students.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are seeking registration in order to implement in additional countries.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tjitske de Groot

Dear Jamie,
Again thank you for bringing us into contact with Human Network International. While reading through your proposal I was thinking whether there would (at the and of the information session) also be a possibility to get into contact with 'real life help' or if for example you can be referd to organisation, trainings or government institutions that can help with the inclusion in education?
Looking forward to hear from you.
Best Tjitske

Photo of Jamie

Hey Tjistke,

That would be great if we can connect to real life help. I would make sure to provide the information for other services and phone numbers for teachers to connect with outside the system that can give the teachers further help and information. The only fear I have in this is that the real life help will be unreliable and will cost the teacher money in airtime.


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