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Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2)

create a model of competencies and dynamic learning pathways on a technology platform for childcare providers

Photo of zhiwen
2 4

Written by

Name or Organization

ChildFolio in partnership with Johns Hopkins University School of Education


United States

What is your stage of development?

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


  • For - 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 your submission in one clear sentence

Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) will create a model of competencies and dynamic learning pathways on a technology platform including micro-learning, gamification, adaptive learning, micro-certifications, digital portfolios, trained coaching, and a peer community to transform the family child care workforce into professional caregivers empowered to deliver high quality services to children and families as well as lead to provider certification from Johns Hopkins University.

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

Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) will significantly impact the learning outcomes of family child care providers and children. With micro-learning delivered by 2 to 3 minute videos, providers who have time constraints can watch one while preparing in the morning or before bed at night on their phone or other mobile device. Further, TLC2 will be able to show the actual learning outcomes of the child and caregiver through continuous data collection as providers, children, and families work together.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Practitioner-centric in design, the Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) program accommodates multiple pathways that encourage lifelong learning and achievement aimed at building the capacity of the child care workforce. It combines micro-learning with gamification to match the time available for learning with the engagement power of gaming apps, as well as collaboration through coaching by trained professionals and peer forums. Watching short videos or “tasks” and passing short quizzes to earn “badges” or “micro-credentials” result in completion of “pathways” that lead to Continuing Education Units (CEUs). From there a provider could go on to get professionally certified and increase their earnings while improving the learning and other outcomes for children and families. The future of TLC2 will be paved to go from professional certificates to degrees at major universities in the future like our partner, Johns Hopkins University, if desired. Various points of entry and completion within the program’s design add flexibility and opportunities for learners to decide on a commitment that aligns with their life goals, professional needs, and demands of their personal and professional lives. Recommended sequences and pathways are provided for learners who are unsure of where to begin or how to engage with the content. Similarly, advancing technology with adaptive learning elements are integrated to create experiences that guide learners along pathways.

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

Development and implementation of TLC2 is designed to solve the problem of unknown quality of the preschool education provided by non-licensed child care providers by increasing the opportunity for Family Child Care Homes (FCCH) and other individual caregivers to obtain high quality training needed to provide high quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) to children.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) has the potential to impact individuals across their lifespan beginning with the adults who serve children and families. To support and advance the quality of education and services, TLC2 is crafted to involve practitioners in reflective exercises, evidence-based practices, analysis, and data-informed decision making related to their work with children and families. Participants are guided along pathways that encourage ongoing reflection, participation, learning, and application; leading to higher achievement, greater confidence, and increased competence of this critical workforce.  Competencies, learning outcomes, and competency measures within TLC2 transform knowledge and skills into action. Structured modules follow a predictable Cycle of Instruction that establishes a rhythm for learning and models an evidence-based approach to content delivery (Mainzer, 2011). The Cycle provides learners with opportunities to acquire knowledge, apply information to their practice, and receive feedback on demonstrated knowledge and skills. TLC2 design elements: • Rubrics outline clearly defined criteria for achievement. • Micro-learning using short, 2 to 3 minute video instruction is provided in a mix of fast and slow content; fast content allows information to be accessed quickly, while slow content requires deeper thought and engagement. It also prevents learning from becoming mundane. • Game-based learning techniques using “badges” to reward success that represent micro-credentialing. • Challenge List to lure practitioners into the fun. • Responsive technology delivers feedback on performance of each competency measure. • Digital portfolio allows providers to track their progress, receive ongoing feedback from “Observer / Coaches”, form a “Study Group”, and “Share with Community” inside TLC2 and with external audiences. A key characteristic of micro-credentials is a shift in focus from “seat time” to actual artifacts and evidence that demonstrates the knowledge and skills acquired as a result of the learning experience (Barry & Cator, 2016). Coupled with competency-based learning, micro-credentials and digital badges hold promise as “an important and relatively new technology that facilitates recognition and credentialing of different skills and learning achievements and can further increase learning motivation…” (Jovanovic & Devedzic, 2015, p.115). TLC2  competencies, objectives, and competency measures represent a learning pathway model that leads to Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Subtopics focus content in four areas: Theory and Research (1.5 CEUs), Teaching and Learning (1.5 to 4.5 CEUs), Learning through Play (1.5 CEUs), and Focus on Families and Community (1.5 CEUs). Practitioners have the opportunity to earn up to 9 CEUs within the broad topic. Providers can mix and match topics to meet their personal or professional objectives. The assignment of 1.5 CEUs meets the required 15 clock hours for earning Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits through Maryland’s State Department of Education as well as the Carnegie Unit. TLC2’s goals, competencies, learning objectives, assessment criteria, and user-experiences are informed by recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council 2015 report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Specific recommendations incorporated from the National Academies’ report include: • Strengthening competency-based requirements for child care practitioners;  • Developing and implementing multiple pathways for learning and meeting qualifications;  • Strengthening requirements for supervised practical experiences; • “… and for higher education to foster a fundamental shared knowledge base and competencies around child development for professionals in all sectors who work with young children” (National Academies, 2015, p. 8). The technology-based, mobile-first structure of TLC2 will allow participants across the country to benefit from the expertise of multiple universities starting with our inaugural partner, Johns Hopkins University. To establish and maintain rigorous standards, TLC2 examined local, regional, and national state standards for child care practitioners in California, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington. TLC2 supports the Maryland Knowledge and Competency Framework for Child and Youth Care Professionals and the goals of the Maryland State Department of Education’s Child Care Credential Program to build a strong workforce of high quality child care providers, improve their status, increase compensation, and provide multiple pathways of learning for the child care community. Transformational Learning for Child Care meets the demands of states to provide a high quality, flexible learning system for caregivers.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Children benefit by receiving high quality learning experiences that result in greater opportunity throughout their lifetimes including increased learning ability, better lifelong educational outlook, better health outcomes, improved economics, and decreased justice system involvement. Caregivers have 24/7 access to innovative training, gain the ability to provide high quality learning experiences, may feel a greater sense of accomplishment, can increase economic opportunity through certification and licensing, have increased capacity to assist families in their children’s education, and provide greater impact in the life of a child. Families benefit by having a larger selection of high quality caregivers who can provide the kind of learning experience 0 through 3 year olds must have to succeed. Family members can learn from TLC2 trained providers how to provide high quality learning experience at home for their children. Communities benefit whenever children and families are strong.

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

While aimed at improving the quality of care services for children and families, Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) contributes to a broader conversation of effective practices that influence teaching and learning. According to Justin Reich (2015), Executive Director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, “we have terabytes of data about what students clicked and very little understanding of what changed in their heads” (p. 34). Beginning with its launch, the TLC2 program will integrate ongoing evaluation and data analytics to gain insight into which elements of the program engage learners, yield the highest participation rates, and result in the greatest learner outcomes. The aim is to take advantage of “… rich opportunities to examine the processes through which badges become used” for learning (Ahn, Pellicone, & Butler, 2014, p. 4). Evaluation throughout the program is intended to inform ways to reach non-traditional learners, capitalize on emerging technology, and measure changes in the capacity and competence of the child care community. The outcome-focused evaluation plan will include a study of the effect of the program on users’ achievements, attitudes, beliefs, activities, and objectives, as well as an exploration of factors associated with the outcomes.  TLC2 will significantly impact the knowledge, skills, and delivery of ECE by thousands of Family Home Child Care providers and improve the quality of early learning millions of children receive.

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

The US Census provided income data for 48.6% of the 20,404,000 children under 5 years in their 2011 report on child care. Of those reporting income, 1,599,000 were below the poverty line. Of those, 64.5% (1,031,563) are regularly cared for by someone other than a parent, organized facility, or school. There is a direct correlation between a child’s ability to obtain early high quality learning experiences and lifelong educational achievement, health, wealth, and criminal involvement. Giving caregivers, across the spectrum, the opportunity to learn how to provide high quality ECE, is one of the goals of Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2). In fact, it is with Family Child Care Home (FCCH) providers in mind that the idea was born. With an annual median salary of a child care worker in the United States at $20,320, many children in poverty are also being cared for by adults in poverty. By increasing the FCCH caregiver’s professional teaching knowledge and skills, we provide a pathway to certification and licensing that can aid in their economic sustainability. Likewise, by aiding the provider in delivering high quality ECE, we impact the children they touch directly and a whole family subsequently benefits.

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

In 2017, ChildFolio and MCT Technology enlisted 600 Family Child Care Home providers to help determine how professional development could be successfully delivered to them. Applying design thinking (Kolko, 2015) and user-experience design techniques, a multidisciplinary team of content experts, design thinkers, and practitioners collaborated to analyze the profiles of these learners. Discussions resulted in decisions to leverage technology through a technology-based, mobile-first with gamification model that increases their access to high quality learning experiences. The intention is to provide flexible, convenient, and engaging learning experiences to a workforce whose schedules often prohibit participation in traditional learning opportunities. In addition, the approach allows practitioners to connect with one another, with experts in the field, and with a team of supportive coaches. With its practitioner-centric and personalized learning design, TLC2 allows participants to choose their own achievement pathways with the option to engage with all the content within a topic or subsets of content that are most relevant to them. Competencies and content are organized in ways that allow learners to combine topic areas to match and complement their prior knowledge, experience, interests, and goals. The highest level of time commitment, demand, and rigor represents a pathway leading to Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

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

Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) is a new offering for ChildFolio which has a user base of 6,000 teachers utilizing its authentic assessment and family engagement app. Approximately, 40% of its users are Family Child Care Homes (FCCH). MCT Technology, a leader in child care technology, has an additional 15,000 FCCH providers combined between California and Maryland. In 2018, TLC2 will roll out to 2,000 FCCH caregivers in the existing network. From there, the market of 210,000+ FCCH providers are targeted. As ChildFolio and MCT continue to grow worldwide, TLC2 has the ability to reach millions of caregivers worldwide. Inroads into China have already been made. There is an opportunity to expand the user base more quickly by engaging organizations like Mother Goose Time, who participated in our initial market research. Such organizations typically have thousands of FCCH providers that work with them to receive clients and payments now. Providing branded training for these organizations will provide an entrée into CEU training.

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

User group research was conducted based on 500 Mother Goose Time Family Child Care Home (FCCH) providers. A series of YouTube online ECE training videos was used to test how users like to get training through short and mobile content: It was found that FCCH caregivers have very short periods of available time for content. During the 28 day study, there were 22,346 minutes and 8,578 views; an average of almost 45 viewing minutes, 17 views per provider. Mobile phones were used 46% of the time, followed by computers (42%), tablets (10%), TV (1.4%), unknown devices (.2%), and gaming consoles (.1%). This direct market research strongly impacted design decisions.   In addition, 100 FCCH providers in California were interviewed. It was discovered that they have a strong desire for professional development, but often don’t have time or money to go to even community college.  These research efforts helped us to tailor TLC2 to caregivers. Later, it could help us tailor it to individuals. Learning that those viewing on TV or gaming consoles watched an average of 4.5 minutes versus all other devices averaging 2.5 minutes of viewing time. The data for this is collected every time they view. Transformational Learning for Child Care has been conceptualized. The next stage is to develop the mobile micro-credential based professional development module for FCCH providers and roll out to 10% of the ChildFolio and MCT Technology combined customer base, 2000 FCCH, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University before the end of 2018.

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

The Transformational Learning for Child Care (TLC2) business model has a researched and well defined need that is end user confirmed. ChildFolio was started in 2016 and already has 6,000 end users. TLC2 will begin with 2,000 providers from coast to coast. But it has global opportunity and the ability to disrupt the education industry. It will deliver greater use value than cost to Family Child Care Home (FCCH) providers. With affordable annual subscription model, imagine, small payments dedicated to micro-learning that leads to CEUs from Johns Hopkins University.

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

2016-2017, ChildFolio interviewed 100 Family Child Care Home (FCCH) to determine if they wanted professional development and, if so, why weren’t they getting it. The answer was a resounding “YES!” They badly wanted training to provide better ECE and family support. They weren’t getting it because they just didn’t have the time for community college or online programs with lengthy classes. ChildFolio also enlisted 500 providers to help us learn from them how we could best provide the professional development they so desperately needed and desired. The study took 28 days. A series of 2 to 3 minute micro-learning videos were developed for the study to address the time issue. Their activity was monitored and the results are the nucleus of TLC2. Like the initial outreaches, TLC2 will continue to collect data as well as talk to users to ensure intimate user involvement throughout its life. TLC2 incorporates design thinking principles beginning with a deep analysis of individuals within the child care workforce. Every aspect of the program’s development and implementation is carefully and intentionally crafted to create rigorous, yet personalized, experiences that invite, challenge, strengthen, and transform this critical workforce through the knowledge and skills needed to deliver high quality services to children and families. The result is a model of essential competencies and alternative learning pathways that lead to knowledgeable, highly skilled, reflective caregivers.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

In 2005, MCT Technology was born to bring more advance technology and applications to the child care subsidy space. There were few vendors and two dominated California at the time. The first product CareControl was launched in 2007 and the clients were very small child care subsidy payment organizations. In California, there are many different organizations that contract directly with the state or county to manage the family intake and approval, as well as payments to providers for the child care subsidy program that supports low-income families. CareControl was developed to take on this work. MCT was the smallest vendor back then. Today, with 4th generation technology, CarePortal is a SaaS offering that subsidy agencies, providers, and families all use and our M-Sign product is used to take attendance for 25,000 children. Together, In 2016, ChildFolio was started to help educators with child observation, authentic assessment, digital portfolio, and student-centered curriculum design through technology. Not quite 2 years later, ChildFolio supports 70+ different learning frameworks around the globe and is supporting 6000+ school educators. Collectively, these offerings stand at the forefront of improving parents’ access to high quality early learning programs and has helped millions of children and parents. TLC2 is a natural outgrowth of ChildFolio and the work MCT Technology has played in the early education arena for years. Our mission is to empower the child care workforce with knowledge and skills at minimal cost to practitioners. By recognizing the achievements of practitioners who complete learning pathways through micro-credentialing and Continuing Education Units, we have the opportunity to build upon firsthand research in the field of early education and workforce development. There is much to be explored about factors that influence high-quality child care and positive outcomes from children, including the type of adult learning experiences that lead to increased knowledge and skills among child care practitioners. Infusing early childhood education with the research, knowledge, and innovations universities, like our partner Johns Hopkins, might actually help us find ways to close the achievement gap. Zhiwen Tan is the founder and CEO of MCT Technology, the Co-founder and CEO of ChildFolio, a CAPPA (California Alternative Payment Program Association) Board Member, and the QRIS System Integration Team Lead for a joint effort with Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Under his leadership, MCT created revolutionary ways for childcare agencies to manage enrollment, eligibility, time and attendance, as well as provider payments in California, Florida, and Maryland. Recently, he also led the California digital attendance and signature legislation effort (Assembly Bill 271) to streamline the child care subsidy delivery system for the state. LinkedIn:

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

Yes, The Johns Hopkins University School of education will design the teacher professional development curriculum, provide instruction, will validate and approve the competency model, Continuing Education Units, and the micro-credential. Mother Goose Time will also be an ECE partner for Family Child Care Home providers with curriculum, a home visit program, and curriculum support. AnjiPlay World will provide a play-based curriculum for TLC2.

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)

Collaboration with multiple universities to bring content to TLC2 is the expertise needed. They would need to be able to perform the same functions as Johns Hopkins does now.

Would you like mentoring support? [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

  • No

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

  • Yes, share my contact information


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pilar Torres

I'm excited to see the you are entering this competition. I've had many conversations with Chris Swanson and Allan Gutman about this project and the possibility of collaboration. Our ESCALERAS model lends itself beautifully to a micro-credential system, and scaffolds providers into your PD process. We could also support the development of a cultural competence micro-credential that recognizes the funds of knowledge of Limited-English Proficiency providers.

Photo of zhiwen

Pilar, we have been working with Alan and Chris quite a while on this model. I'd love to talk more about future collaboration. My email ztan at