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Free Literacy Resources for Beginning Readers and Their Teachers.

We provide ACCESS to research-based literacy curricula for students ages 4 - 8 to directly support teachers in resource-limited settings.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

ACCESS to quality early literacy resources and teacher training remains one of the most critical issues in many schools around the world. In emergency settings in particular, the upkeep of education is often neglected. Without access to quality educational resources and effective teaching strategies schools are not effective. Without effective schools, there is no means for future generations to establish themselves and gain socioeconomic empowerment.

Explain your innovation.

OUR INNOVATION WordScientists.org is web-based software designed to address students’ fundamental need for quality research-based literacy instruction to succeed in school. We directly support teachers through our free online platform, which provides access to training tutorials, professionally-designed books, and explicit lesson guides to empower educators in teaching language and literacy to young learners. HOW IT SCALES For no cost, any school, teacher, or parent with or without access to the internet can download, print, view, and utilize our resources, lesson guides, and training tutorials. With minimal distribution costs and a software design meant to scale, a small staff can sustain support to thousands of schools, teachers, and families worldwide. EARLY RESULTS SHOW PROMISE Teacher knowledge is a robust predictor of student outcomes. In February 2017, in partnership with Hands in Outreach (HIO) and Intel, we conducted research to assess the effectiveness of the WordScientists.org project, which included long-distance learning sessions supported by a prototype of the website. 43 teachers in Nepal who used the prototype website were compared to 42 teachers of a similar background in the local area who had not been exposed to these resources. On a test of their knowledge of the foundations of literacy and early reading development, statistically significant differences were found between the two groups of teachers at a confidence level of 99%.

Who benefits?

BENEFICIARIES Teachers and students in resource-limited settings where their school cannot afford or gain access to quality classroom resources. HOW THEY BENEFIT Schools around the world have access to more technology than ever before, but most ends up underutilized. Despite these advancements, schools still lack access to quality books, lesson guides, and professional teacher development needed to teach literacy. WS strives to bridge this gap through our online platform that helps teachers utilize their technology to its fullest potential. We provide video training courses for teachers, synchronized with books based on global themes and scientific topics to support students’ learning about the world as they learn how to read. All books have companion lesson guides that provide explicit instruction to help teachers accelerate students’ reading ability. GIRL POWER Our resources regularly portray girls in problem-solving and leadership roles in STEM-related activities.

How is your innovation unique?

UNIQUE INNOVATION By providing access for free, we are able to remove many of the traditional barriers that exist in the education space. For schools that have smartphones, computers or tablets, but don’t have reliable internet, they can download the WordScientists.org software onto a USB and copy it from computer to computer. For schools that don’t have any computers, all books and lesson guides are printable, ensuring that students can have books both in class and to take home. In addition, parents can access our books at home, in English or in their home language, which encourages more parental involvement in academics, increases the amount of books available to children in their homes, and facilitates home-to-school connections. WHAT'S DIFFERENT Our books and lesson guides are developed and curated by professional literacy specialists and experienced software engineers to be “plug-and-play” for teachers, parents and students.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We have tested our prototype at 6 pilot schools for the past year, allowing us to answer basic questions concerning our products’ effectiveness in providing education for students and teachers. Follow-up questions: 1. Our research in February found a significant statistical difference between teachers who accessed WS resources and those who did not. We plan to extend the study in more comparative and longitudinal ways to directly measure what teachers gain and how much they learn from using WS’ resources. 2. We have observed significant gains in student learning and improvements in reading levels from our pilot schools. We would like to do third-party evaluations of student achievements, to measure our impact on students.

Tell us more about you.

We are a small but dedicated team of educators and software developers. WordScientists.org is a project of the National Educational Support Trust, USA. We are a small but nimble nonprofit made up of a part time staff and a handful of volunteers dedicated to ensuring access to literacy resources for everyone. We are officially deployed in 6 pilot schools in Kathmandu, Nepal. Analytics show other schools around the globe using our prototype as well. Team: http://www.wordscientists.org/about-us/

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

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Extreme drought
  • Other (please specify in next question)

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Emergencies can cut off access to schools for weeks or years at a time. Free and openly available software can be a way for education to continue without access to school infrastructure. WordScientists.org’s educational resources can be available as soon as smartphone access or electricity becomes available. WS can help children continue to access education in any ongoing emergency situation.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

We have piloted our project in 6 schools in Kathmandu, Nepal. We are now spreading to additional schools in rural Nepal, Malaysia and China. As the software becomes more robust, we can roll out to more schools without adding additional costs. WS has translated some of its books into 10 languages, and we would need support to tailor our resources into even more languages for additional locations.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

We have partnered with Intel and Hands in Outreach (HIO), an NGO that sponsors hundreds of girls to attend 5 partner schools in Nepal. The success of partnering with an on the ground NGO increase the quality of the education of their students with no cost to the NGO. In expanding to new contexts, we envision ourselves partnering with other local NGOs in mutually beneficial relationships to reach as many learners as possible.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

We are made up of a dedicated team of experts in literacy education, international education, the telecommunication industry, and software development. Additionally we have a team of graduate students from Columbia University Teachers College who help us to develop our resources and test prototypes in the field.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

We are incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Connecticut, USA. Our team is located in: New York, California, Florida, Ecuador and Nepal.

Website

Prototype: www.WordScientists.org National Educational Support Trust, USA: www.NESTUSA.org Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/wordscientists/ UNESCO Spotlight: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/open-source-literacy-resources

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

1. Some schools prefer using printed resources in their classrooms. We will create more printing options. 2. The UI is difficult to navigate for first time users. We will make the UI more intuitive going forward. 3. Students in pilot schools have demonstrated rapid development in their literacy skills at a faster pace than originally anticipated. We need to develop internal assessment tools to track student progress and have a third-party evaluation for academic and promotional purposes.

Who will implement this Idea?

Existing WS team is global and uses modern communication tools to keep a low overhead. NEST USA Add 2 full time operations staff. Add 3 contractors to create books, lesson guides, and video scripts. PARTNERS Short term: Expand our partnership with HIO in Nepal to utilize their existing onsite staff, to better track the implementation and progress in pilot schools. PLATFORM Assemble a team of freelance software developers and engineers to build out the platform. VOLUNTEERS Continue to use expert literacy specialists to design course content.

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?

1. Our users are often English language learners themselves. Sometimes it’s hard for teachers to understand new teaching ideas and concepts.
 Detailed information and lesson guides need to be simplified further through the use of pictures, GIFs, and videos. 2. On a system wide level we need schools to share their IT infrastructure. In a community of resource-limited schools, there will be some technology available in almost every setting. Some schools have computers, or internet access, or printers, or smartphones, or mobile hotspots. We need local community leaders to help facilitate the sharing of these resources; ensuring that teachers who are willing and motivated have access to the WordScientists.org training and classroom resources on a daily basis.

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

Our team and infrastructure are in place. http://www.wordscientists.org/about-us/ If funding became available we could scale up to full production quickly. Sustainability: CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP Find annual corporate sponsors who want a goodwill presence to sponsor operational costs. SUGGESTED DONATIONS The WS software is free, but we ask for a donation of $2.50 per student per year. This could help wealthier schools support schools in impoverished areas. PLATFORM DEVELOPER FEES WS will open up its web platform that links multiple screens and tracks analytics to other developers.

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?

IMPACT: By 2020, bring our prototype to scale and reach 500,000 or more students through promotional campaigns and outreach to at least 50 NGOS and education agencies. BIGGEST HURDLE: Expand the software platform to support all devices, measure analytics, and meet the needs of diverse multilingual populations.

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

Using informal but accepted standards we have measured reading progress in our pilot schools. Additionally, our NGO partner regularly collects video data that demonstrates teacher implementation and student performance as a result of using WS resources. With additional funding, we would like to add analytical measurement tools into the software. Additionally we will do third-party evaluations for objective evidence of WS’s impact on students’ literacy and teachers’ knowledge.

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

YEAR 1 | DEVELOPMENT -Redesign book app based on feedback from pilot schools -Create additional teacher training videos -Create additional books, lesson guides and student background knowledge videos -Pre and post assessment of students literacy skills in pilot schools -Build platform analytics engine -Build assessment tools for teachers YEAR 2&3 | SCALING -Create partner program for onboarding new NGO’s -Actively promote WS to schools and NGO’s

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 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
  • Product Design
  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design
  • Other

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Spam
Photo of Rasal Lia
Team

link report
With my gratitude to you, I'm asking another qquestion. Please let us know, the procedure an iindividual or an iinstitution needs to follow to get your proposed texts books translated into local llanguages. Suppose, what should I do if I like to have the text books, given in your web page, in the language of Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar? Is there any financial aspect?
Thank You.

Spam
Photo of Jake Bronstein
Team

If you (or someone you know) are interested in helping us translate books into Rohingya we would be more than happy to discuss it with you. Once materials are translated we put them up on the site, and then we will offer the books in that language. So any of the schools or classrooms your working with will be able to access them. As a reference this book has the most translation languages: http://www.wordscientists.org/hippos-muddy-mud-stage-3-audiobook/

We have a procedure for doing translations. We need two translators, because the work will need to be proof read for accuracy and the translators will need to be able to access google docs.

You can e-mail me directly JakeB@NESTUSA.org to discuss this further if your interested in getting involved.

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