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APPrendendo

We help adults create meaningful learning environments for children through simple, intentional actions in their everyday life.

Photo of Beatriz Cardoso
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Name or Organization

Founded in 2012 by educators Beatriz Cardoso and Andrea Guida Bisognin, Laboratório de Educação is a non-governmental organization that seeks to enhance young children’s learning potential by educating adults on the importance of their everyday interactions in and outside of school.

Geography

We have 4,000+ users in Brazil, but our app can also be translated into English and Spanish.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD

Type

  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Apprendendo is a free mobile app that provides tips on how adults can transform ordinary situations into powerful learning opportunities. Organized in terms of physical settings (bedroom, kitchen, market, street, etc.), it offers adults simple, age-appropriate activities to interact meaningfully with children 0 to 10. It also explains the learning potential behind each idea and encourages adults to document children’s experiences in an annotated photo album that can be shared with friends and family. Released in late 2016, the app features a set of 200 activities in 9 different settings.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Our app gives visibility to the untapped learning opportunities that are present in everyday life, empowering adults with knowledge on how to enrich children's development through simple, intentional actions. One of the major challenges faced by the U.S. and countries in Latin America is to ensure that all children to have access to a quality education, regardless of their socioeconomic status, gender, race, or national origin. However, all too often, efforts to improve formal education systems come at the expense of laying the foundations for children to learn beyond the school context. It is common for both high- and low-income parents to think that a good education requires "extraordinary" methods, tools, or technologies. Parents work very hard to find the best school or extracurricular activities for children, without realizing that their most valuable contribution is the quality of day-to-day interactions. For this reason, our app provides easy, age-appropriate suggestions on how to make the most of everyday moments with children, reaching a large number of people at a relatively low cost. Rather than creating separate contexts for learning, we help adults turn daily activities such as cooking or walking on the street into opportunities for children to learn about their surroundings. Our app also encourages adults to document those experiences through photo and text, as a way to recognize the small discoveries that are crucial to children's intellectual development.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Research shows that disparities in early childhood development can emerge by the age of two, as a result of the quality and quantity of interactions that children experience at home. This invisible gap only becomes evident after it has directly impacted a child’s opportunities. Yet, it is through simple, intentional actions that adults can enhance learning in everyday life, helping break the cycle of inequality that persists in American and Latin American societies.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

In today’s global, technological revolution, it may appear as though direct tools and gadgets hold the answer to most of society’s problems. However, when it comes to educating our children, the kinds of experiences that will lead to meaningful learning depend on the quality of an irreplaceable factor: human interaction. Our idea is to use technology not to substitute but to enhance adult-child interactions in everyday life, as a way to promote high-quality learning contexts, especially among low income families. Research shows that, in the U.S. 91% of families living below the poverty level are connected to the internet, primarily through mobile devices. In Brazil, nearly 60% of the general population – more than 100 million people – has access to the internet thanks to smartphones. Mere access to information is no longer the main problem faced by parents; what matters is the quality and applicability of available resources. For this reason, in late 2016, we developed a mobile application called Apprendendo, which offers research-based suggestions on how to interact meaningfully with children during everyday activities. Our goal is to help adults be proactive and attentive to children’s development, by translating, integrating and materializing scientific knowledge into simple, intentional actions that can be easily incorporated into adult’s daily routines. After months of user interviews and tests conducted with support from our partners at Ashoka and IBM, we decided to organize our suggestions around the most common physical settings where adults and children spend time together: inside and outside the home. We describe around 8 to 10 age-appropriate activities for each space and encourage adults to document their children’s experiences through an annotated photo album. Rather than proposing that adults “monitor” children’s development in such a way that jeopardizes the spontaneity of their relationship, we introduce a tool that will help adults recognize and value the small discoveries that are crucial to children’s intellectual development. This solution will invite adults to not only observe and listen to how children make sense of the world, but also to take part in that process by asking questions, reformulating and expanding what children say, introducing playful actions around simple objects and places, etc. By giving visibility to the process and not just the outcome, we hope adults will learn to appreciate the value of repetition, which is crucial to children’s appropriation of new knowledge. We believe adults themselves will incorporate this repertoire into their daily parenting practice, gaining autonomy to make adjustments and come up with new ideas that are most appropriate for each child.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

We believe that all children have the ability to learn, regardless of gender, race, class, or family structure, among other factors. Everything children observe and experience can impact their development for better or for worse. If learning is an ongoing process that permeates all aspects of children’s lives, adults play a fundamental role in mediating how children interact with the world, and set examples through their own attitudes and choices. Based on these premises, we aim to empower adults with knowledge on how to enrich children's development through simple, intentional actions. What children learn, how they develop, and the people they will become depends on us! Our team has extensive experience in the field of early childhood education, including a number of ongoing projects that benefit young children in various Brazilian municipalities. Moreover, during the last 20 years, we implemented professional development programs that benefitted nearly 980,000 students across the country and, in 2012, the Ministry of Education distributed our original didactic materials (entitled Trilhas) to 2,800 vulnerable school districts. Moreover, our various online platforms have reached 700,000 adults since their launch in 2013. With support from partners such as Ashoka and IBM, our research and development methodology has allowed us to understand the needs of the adults we work with, ensuring that our interventions will meet the needs of each target population.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

At a time when adults are overloaded with information and recommendations from different, often unreliable sources, Apprendendo offers simple, research-based tools to enrich everyday activities with children. We translate scholarly discoveries into culturally-sensitive guidelines to help adults gain confidence and autonomy as mediators of children's learning. Our app can therefore promote long-lasting positive outcomes for individual family relationships and for society at large, to the extent that a more widespread understanding of children's development can counteract structural forces that contribute to educational disparities from an early age. Moreover, since we include suggestions for adults and children to observe, interact, and talk about their immediate surroundings, we aim to highlight not only academic achievements, but children’s development as active citizens who think critically about social issues in their communities.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Educational investments for low-income children have traditionally focused on more remedial approaches, rather than on proactively ensuring the conditions in which children can develop their full potential. Empowering caregivers – parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. – is one such condition. For this reason, we have developed a free, user-friendly mobile app for adults from different socioeconomic backgrounds to use as a resource to enhance learning opportunities for children at home. In the app, we suggest simple yet powerful everyday actions that can greatly impact child development. We seek to help busy adults make the most of time spent with their children by talking, reading, or singing together. Our goal is to emphasize that learning opportunities are within everyone’s reach, because they do not require a specific time or place – they can be created in the bedroom, kitchen, market, or on the street. With this in mind, we use illustrations and not photos as a way to include families in different settings. Moreover, based on early interviews with potential users, we included audio recordings of each activity, so that adults can listen to our suggestions on their commute home. Next year, we will conduct a qualitative case study with 20 parents in a low-income community outside São Paulo city, in order to better understand how they use the app and how it impacts their daily interactions with children.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

In its first year, Apprendendo was downloaded by over 4,000 people from all 27 states of Brazil and 30 different countries. Analytics data revealed that 35% of users engage with the app on a daily basis, which indicates that the content satisfies their needs and preferences. We intentionally encourage users to “redo” each activity multiple times and to use the photo album to illuminate their child’s learning trajectory. This strategy serves a pedagogical purpose that promotes loyalty among our users. Moreover, 5% of users responded to an in-app questionnaire resulting in an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 points for the proposed activities. Written feedback also informed the addition of new features, such as the option to privately share a child’s “learning album” with other users. Given that our current user base developed rather organically, we believe that a broad campaign that promotes and explains Apprendendo’s potential would greatly increase its reach in Brazil and beyond, including other countries in Latin America, and even Latino communities in the United States. Since children from low-income American families encounter similar obstacles as those faced by their peers in Latin America, Apprendendo could serve as useful tool for enriching their intellectual development outside of school. Such an undertaking would necessarily involve collaboration with local professionals in order to address linguistic and cultural needs specific to these diverse populations.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

After launching Apprendendo in late 2016 and publishing new activities throughout 2017, we are now raising funds to develop a new area called “Around the City”, where adults are invited to look beyond prominent, central locations and discover ways in which public spaces in their local neighborhood or town can spur meaningful interactions with their children. The section will highlight places where children may not naturally feel included, but which can be explored through help and mediation from adults. It will also guide users in carefully observing, listening, and engaging their children in conversation about the things they see and experience. As the initiative moves forward, we will seek to develop partnerships with institutions such as health clinics, nursery schools, and businesses that can help us reach a wide range of families. Additionally, we will need to translate Apprendendo into English and Spanish prior to disseminating it across North and South America.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

I began my career as an early childhood teacher, and later became a professor at the University of São Paulo School of Education, where I received my PhD. In the mid-1990s, I moved to the nonprofit sector, where I implemented in-service professional development programs for teachers in 25 Brazilian municipalities. For the last two decades, I have dedicated my professional endeavors to improving public education in Brazil. Among my achievements, I led the development of instructional materials the Ministry of Education incorporated into national policy in 2011, and in 2013 I participated in the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative Program. Moreover, I have been a Senior Ashoka Fellow since 2014. In 2012, I founded Laboratório de Educação, an organization that aims to enhance young children's learning potential by educating adults on the importance of everyday interactions in and outside of school. We translate, integrate, and implement scientific knowledge in order to help adults create meaningful learning environments through simple, strategic actions. We prioritize conceptual reflections on teaching and learning processes in order to facilitate the search for effective solutions to structural problems in education. We believe the complexity of the field demands multiple organizational approaches, and we therefore emphasize the production of applicable knowledge to inform educational transformation. Education is often discussed in generic terms that downplay the most important goal – learning. By promoting a sense of collective responsibility for child learning, we seek to expand socio-cultural representations of education in Brazil, and shed light on social, emotional, cognitive, and linguistic indicators that reflect key milestones in child development. My team and I are fully committed to improving early childhood education, as we firmly believe that education is the most powerful tool to combat deep-rooted inequality.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Yes, this project involves content production by experts in pedagogy and educational psychology, support from experienced technology consultants, and contributions from a network of Harvard education scholars and practitioners, as well as entrepreneurs from Ashoka and IBM. We are seeking assistance with regard to communications and online campaigns.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We devoted considerable resources to designing a solution that translates academic research into simple activities. We have received user feedback from the first year of implementation and now we need support to expand our reach and create strategies for online and offline engagement. For this reason, expertise in communications, mobile technologies and social media would be helpful.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Communications and user feedback/evaluation.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Bio: https://www.ashoka.org/pt-br/fellow/beatriz-cardoso#intro https://advancedleadership.harvard.edu/publications/advanced-leadership-pathways-beatriz-cardoso-and-education-brazil Platforms: www.aprenderlinguagem.org.br www.espacodeleitura.org.br www.todacriancapodeaprender.org.br International Publications: http://journals.openedition.org/poldev/1802#tocto1n2 https://blog.educationandskillsforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Teachers-Connecting-the-Dots%C5%B81.pdf

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

“Learning Language,” a Laboratório de Educação project, was the central theme of the series, “The Secret World of Babies: Learning to Speak,” which aired in 2015 on TV Globo’s premiere time show. The series followed families with small children to examine the language learning process at different stages of early childhood. Laboratório de Educação presented findings on the topic from the latest studies carried out in partnership with a team led by Ana Teberosky from the University of Barcelona.

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

We received very encouraging comments through the IDEO website, including some from our current user base. Inspired by their support, we decided to reach out to those who had sent us voluntary feedback, in order to map out possible improvements. These include: > Sharing children’s history and album with close relatives, internally through the app (providing an alternative to the public display of children's photos in social media channels). > Changing the opening dashboard for users to easily visualize the wide range of options on the app. They may find activities by filtering not only by "place" but also by "duration" or "age". > Turning the learning album into an interactive timeline that highlights children’s discoveries not only through new activities but also with the repetition of “old” ones. We hope to promote greater engagement with this feature if adults can interact with it more frequently. > Integrating the app with a content feed from the other projects maintained by Laboratório de Educação. This would give users additional support and reflections on how to engage with their children more thoughtfully, while joining a community of like-minded formal and informal educators. > Creating a Q&A section that members of our team would answer both in video and writing in order to establish a more consistent and direct communication channel with users.

Geography

As we described earlier, APPrendendo was originally launched in Portuguese, but its technological infrastructure is prepared to host content in other languages. We believe that partnering with U.S.-based institutions would enable us to translate APPrendendo into English and Spanish, in order to reach low income communities in the United States in a culturally-relevant manner.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

Our concept is innovative because it uses technology to promote meaningful real-life interactions. APPrendendo’s goal and, therefore, its design structure is focused on helping adults build a repertoire of simple but powerful ideas that can be easily put into action. Contrary to other solutions in the digital market, APPrendendo encourages adults to be proactive and creative, and to use their unique knowledge of children’s needs and interests in order to customize the proposed activities. Rather than prescribing step-by-step instructions, APPrendendo explains the principles behind its suggestions, leaving room for adults become authors of their own relationship with children. Moreover, APPrendendo gives adults the option to document children’s discoveries through an annotated learning album that respects the diversity and spontaneity with which social and emotional bonds get established between adults and children from different cultures. As opposed to viewing it as a monitoring tool, we think of the album as a formative way to make learning visible in everyday life.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

APPrendendo’s concept was born of a partnership with IBM Brasil and developed as part of Ashoka’s Grow2Impact social business program. Throughout 2016, we received guidance from mentors in order to design a model that would enable Laboratório de Educação – our nonprofit institution – to achieve financial sustainability while fulfilling the mission to provide quality educational content for free. During the first two years of APPrendendo's development, we received donations from two Brazilian entities: Samuel Klein Institute and Itaú Social Foundation. Social investments that give experienced teams the chance to respond to pressing educational challenges in innovative ways enable NGOs like ours to get good ideas off the ground. In the future, we intend to move towards a sponsorship model through which carefully selected businesses with an interest in early childhood can associate their brand to the different spaces we discuss, inside and outside the home. Each space can feature a logo and a small video that sponsors pay a monthly fee for.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

APPrendendo has gone through three stages of human centered design: > The first was conducted in partnership with IBM. In late 2015, we brought together a group educators, parents and other adults that interact with children on a day-to-day basis for a two-day workshop where we sought to identify their most pressing needs and come up with a simple but innovative solution. APPrendendo’s concept was born out of this experience. > In 2016, we participated in Ashoka Brasil’s Grow2Impact program and received support from design thinking experts as we began prototyping and testing our idea with a larger pool of potential users. We also had the opportunity to engage with organizations that work in other social areas, bringing different perspectives into the design process. > Before APPrendendo’s launch in December, 2016, we worked closely with our tech partners to run additional tests before defining the most optical user flow within the app. At this point, we decided to incorporate a voluntary feedback form in order to keep a log of possible improvements. As a result of IDEO's challenge, we have analyzed user feedback from the past year and come up with user-driven changes, as described earlier in our submission.

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Photo of Yael Sandberg
Team

Samuel Klein Institute, as partner supporting the development of this tool for educational and social innovation, registers its satisfaction with the results achieved so far and the capacity for expansion that this project presents.

We have received lots of positive feedback from those who have met APPRENDENDO and from those who are using this app.

As a philanthropic institute we believe in projects like this which can provide people a quality education through a modern and free tool!

We can say that this project has a highly qualified team formed by experts in the field of education that researched in depth on the theme to build a tool that meets the developmental demands of Childhood.

Photo of Beatriz Cardoso
Team

We are very grateful for the trust and support that Samuel Klein Institute has placed on this initiative over the past two years. Social investments that give experienced teams the chance to respond to pressing educational challenges in innovative ways enable NGOs like ours to get good ideas off the ground. We look forward to strengthening our partnership around ECE.

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