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مغامرات ض (The Dhad Adventures) : accelerated literacy learning through a quest based app for Syrian girls and boys

The Dhad Adventures helps Syrian refugee children to accelerate their learning of Arabic language skills to help them join local schools

Photo of Rebecca Bright, MBE
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What problem does your innovation solve?

Education for refugees is crucial -a human right that restores hope & dignity, and because of its relevance for sustained livelihoods. Education for refugee children promotes psychological well being. A gap of 2+ years in learning Arabic, their first language, may not only have a detrimental impact on their Arabic literacy, but also joining local state schools in the host country. Access to robust curriculum in a new country or within camp may be difficult - informal and home based is essential

Explain your innovation.

The Dhad Adventures is a structured literacy based app designed to promote accelerated learning to enable catching up or consolidation of essential Arabic literacy skills for children. It ensures required skills in the Lebanese curriculum are covered and children can start at the appropriate level for them. The game is a quest based adventure, featuring a confident and inquisitive girl as the lead character. Children join in her quest and at the same time develop literacy skills for reading, spelling and writing with adherence to strong pedagogical methodology and game based learning. The quest: complete a series of games with help from your friends. Upon completing a game, a new sticker is revealed. Games, grouped as sets of 4, lead to unlocking 4 stickers, at which point the child can receive the mystery hidden sticker. The multimodal app design aids differing learning styles, is underpinned by best practice for children of all abilities, and app will function with all mobile device accessibility settings. Multiple accounts can be created on 1 app, each with a personal avatar. A parents’ / teacher or caregiver section will allow tracking of children’s progress, and provide strategies/information on literacy development. Psychosocial wellbeing runs through the entire app’s gameplay. Emotive and psychosocial skills are woven into games.

Who benefits?

Our users are Syrian refugee children aged 5-10 who live in urban areas in Lebanon. There are around 240,000 registered Syrian refugee children aged between 5 and 11 and an additional 70000-12000 unregistered refugees in Lebanon (UNHCR). Roughly half of these children are out of school, the majority of the other half attend a second shift in Lebanese public schools in very stressful and low resource environments causing likely delays in acquisition. Our app can be used by boys and girls but aims to particularly empower girls. It provides children with home based or non-formal school based support that helps them catch up or propel their skills in reading and writing in Arabic. We will collect data of users’ performance and self reported confidence anonymously to measure success and impact.

How is your innovation unique?

Our app is unique - content specifically looks at the curriculum in different hosting countries and at the specific challenges kids have in these countries and tries to facilitate transition. The large age range covered with the content and the ability to jump straight to the necessary level. We are focusing on accelerated learning that starts from the individual needs of the learners, and can help kids who have been out of school for a year or more cover the educational gap and catch up to their peers more rapidly so they can transition easily to the educational context in the hosting country. This app can be used offline with access to all functions. It can though be periodically used online, with the community features being accessed to make the most of the gamification aspects and to help with gathering data. We have also built in a component related to national identity & the empowerment of girls. The main character is a girl who is confident & inquisitive.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Does it make more sense to use the app individually at home, or at non-formal education settings - as we are getting mixed feedback from NGOs on this question. How can we engage parents to use the phone at home, especially if there is just 1 per household. Would making 5 minute “bites” for each game more realistic? We would like to further explore how the app range could be expanded to cover other curriculum areas such as mathematics or science. We would also like to ensure that we gather important feedback from children in our development process to make sure the app reflects the user’s needs.

Tell us more about you.

A collaboration between Therapy Box and Nour Mounajed. Therapy Box’s co-founder, Australian Rebecca Bright and Syrian Nour developed the core concepts and content for this project for 18 months united by a passion for using technology to enable Syrian children access essential literacy education regardless of their location. Since their initial conversation in 2015, Nour has obtained her Master of Education in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard and Rebecca has been made an MBE.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Most of the 2.5 million Syrian refugee children are hosted in neighboring countries struggling with developmental issues of their own. The majority of these refugees settle in urban areas in hopes of having access to services, public schools and economic opportunities. 48% of Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries are excluded from education (UNICEF) mostly due to limited capacities in public schools.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Hosting countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq with large number of Syrian refugee children as well as inside Syria. We will be starting our pilot in Lebanon. We would then scale out to Jordan, Syria and Iraq in our later roll out of the app and evaluation phase.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Nour has connections with Nonprofits such as Jusoor and Sonbola in Lebanon both involved in education of Syrian children. Jusoor and Sonbola have both agreed to pilot the app with their students. We are also going to work with Nour's academic colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to help with evaluation of our outcomes.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Therapy Box is an established, award winnig app development company focussed on education and healthcare sectors, with a track record of delivering projects for clients in a range of settings including work for UNDP projects in 3 regions: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzogovenia and Panama. It also partners with academics and organisations to look at the use of technology for both diagnostic and therapeutic/educational input - most recently a project partnering with University of Reading in rural India.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

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

Organization Location

Therapy Box - London, UK Nour Mounajed - Boston, USA

Website

https://therapy-box.co.uk/dhad-adventure Nour Mounajed: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nour-mounajed-5b051016/ Rebecca Bright: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccabright1/ https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/refugee-study-harvard-to-fix-education/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=global&utm_campaign=general-content&linkId=37127292

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

We gathered feedback that we need to think more about the local hosting country education rather than Syrian curriculum. We have therefore adjusted our app to focus more on transferrable skills than content anchored in one curriculum. We have also adjusted the app to have shorter games to help children to access the phone in shorter periods when the family phone is available (eg 5 minutes between other responsibilities, when dad might let her use the phone).

Who will implement this Idea?

Therapy Box and Nour Mounajed are committed to the project implementation and have an agreement with Sonbola and Jusoor in Lebanon to pilot the app. Therapy Box has a committed budget to cover the period. Therapy Box will lead the technical project management and development; whilst Nour Mounajed will oversee the project’s pilot and evaluation. Therapy Box has a team of 6 allocated to the project, from its team of 14.

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?

Roughly half primary aged Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are out of school due to limited capacities, lack of legal residency, financial hardship, and incomplete documentation. Lebanon’s Ministry of Education has taken many positive steps to enroll Syrian children in public schools including the adoption of double shifts. However, the generous enrollment policy is not always properly implemented, and financial challenges including the costs of school materials and transportation prevent many refugee families from sending their kids to school. The Lebanese public education system has been struggling with low teaching standards, violence, and poor discipline before the influx of refugees. And now, the same underpaid teachers operate two shifts without proper training to teach refugees.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

Therapy Box launched its first app in 2011, and it is well supported with over 50,000 users and in its 5th major iteration. We have the track record, financial stability and projected growth from our more commercial offerings to help make The Dhad Adventures sustainable. A key benefit of releasing an app to the app store is that it can be released to all geographical regions at a relatively low cost. However, to ensure that is sustainable as an app in the long term, we would look to re-modularise/repurpose the app for language learning support in other languages from year2

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

By 2022 we aim to have a range of apps used in informal learning in emergency situations incl. but not limited to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq; reaching 100,000 girls and boys using the app with a measured impact in their ability to a)accelerate learning of their native language b)leverage skills developed to access state education in their host country with more confidence/self reported success How to adjust our model for uptake of app in new environments where informal learning takes place

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

1key aspect is screening task to place the learner at the right point in the app. This allows us to take baseline assessment. At that point we will gather self reported confidence with the subject matter, self esteem and perceived readiness for joining local state schools. This information will be then checked again at determined intervals, allowing us to gather information about a)skill development b)confidence in using skills c)learners’ perception of their readiness to leverage these skills

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Development of app based on feedback from sharing prototype with children, partners + OpenIdeo (m 1-6) Pilot with Sonbola + Jusoor -40 girls+boys (m7-12) Development of app drawing on pilot outcomes(m 13-18). Disseminate outcomes (13-16) Release app (m19-20) Communications + outreach to providers of informal learning in countries beyond Lebanon: Syria, Jordan, Iraq (m20-24) Iterations of app based on feedback from live app (m24-36) Leveraging of feedback to develop in other languages (m 2

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $500,000 and $1,000,000 USD

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

  • No paid, full-time staff

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

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

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

  • More than 2 years

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support

Attachments (1)

Personas.pdf

Personas for the app users

7 comments

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Photo of Dave Hughes
Team

Hi Rebecca, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website www.bendigoinventorawards.com.au/apply. Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at dhughes@bebendigo.com.au.

Regards,
David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

Photo of An Old Friend
Team

Hi David,
Thanks for getting in touch. We appreciate your interest in our project and will check out the Bendigo Inventor Awards.
Rebecca

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