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Play and Learn - Improving literacy and numeracy through engaging mobile experience

Award winning Mobile based game platform that helps kids in emergency settings to acquire basic language and numeracy skills

Photo of Ofir Zukovsky
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What problem does your innovation solve?

The challenge we are aiming to address is to support the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills among kids aged 5-10 who have been displaced from formal schooling systems due to a crisis situation. Mobile gaming is an excellent tool to enable learning among young kids. We believe that the blend between mobile phones and educational games is an optimal way to encourage the motivation for learning thus bridging between the non formal and hopefully formal future education settings.

Explain your innovation.

Our innovation aims to encourage curiosity among young kids who have been displaced or do not have access to proper schooling for a long period of time (normally longer than 6 months). our consortium have been selected as winners of the EduApp4Syria competition were we have developed a unique mobile game that enables us to tackle any language by "breaking" the alphabetic letters of the language into small chucks, and then using a unique game mechanism to acquire the language without the need for any prior knowledge. Today the game supports the Arabic language and we would like to continue the development in order to enable easy expansion to additional languages. We are also interested in developing an expansion of the game that would focus on the acquisition of basic numeric skills and cover the curriculum of first school years. The game is fully functional offline (in order not to be dependent on mobile connectivity) and it is designed for low end mobile smartphones , it also allows multiple users to play on a single device (to allow all kids in the family to participate using a single family device). The game was tested in Berlin last year and the results showed high levels of engagement and interest among the targeted audience. In addition there is a planned intensive impact evaluation of the game that would take place in Jordan this summer.

Who benefits?

An estimated 250 million children who attend school in developing countries are struggling to read even basic words. Our innovation is targeting kids aged 5-10 (both boys and girls) who have been displaced from formal schooling; therefore the game platform is relevant to any kid in a crisis setting. Part of our mission would be to develop the mechanisms for rapid expansion into multiple language (we intend to use a network of partners for this purpose). Worldwide displacement from wars, conflict, and persecution is at the highest level ever recorded by the UNHCR, and it continues to accelerate. Almost 60 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2014; alarmingly, over half of the world’s refugees are children. The benefit of acquiring basic language and numeracy skills will enable kids an easier path to formal schooling and will strengthen their self confidence by giving them a chance to read and understand written words as well as gain basic mathematical knowledge.

How is your innovation unique?

CET is a world leader in the field of Education Technology and educational content development, with strong expertise in language arts (both first and second language), Math and Science. The center is an NGO that was established 46 years ago and it employs over 600 educators in the fields of content development, pedagogy and the development of educational technology platforms (with an active R&D arm of over 100 software developers). The suggested challenge would allow us to expand the reach of an award winning game 'Feed the Monster' into multiple languages (through collaborations with the community of developers and educators worldwide), in addition we are best positioned to expand the game to support numeracy skills and make it ever more relevant to support displaced kids in their effort of acquiring proper education. Using mobile games to support education is a relatively 'new' domain and we are happy to act as innovators We believe that CET is well positioned to explore this route

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Our end goal would be to develop a new and innovative approach to deliver education in a non formal setting, so it can be both used as a bridge for displaced kids in crisis settings as well as contribute to enhance education around the world in a fun and engaging way. We chose to focus our innovation on young kids with the notion that this is the most vulnerable and critical part, especially with regards to displaced kids. We believe that through 'Play' we could achieve the maximum impact, and smartphone can be the devices of choice to engage kids in learning. Our main challenge would be to 'hack' the way to expand our creation to as many users as possible and we believe that collaboration with others would be paramount to our success.

Tell us more about you.

CET (The Center for Education Technology) is an NGO with 46 years of experience and expertise in content development in the fields of Math, Science, Humanities and Language Arts. Our mission is to empower kids around the globe through the creation of engaging learning experiences that encourage curiosity and nurture motivation for learning. We strive to provide equal opportunity to kids worldwide by enabling access to premium educational technology solutions.

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

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our innovation is targeted to any country of conflict were kids are displaced from formal schooling systems. In addition, the game can be used to strengthen any formal education system and can be prioritized by geographies with low literacy rates.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • No, not yet.

In-country Networks

We would rely a lot on local networks mainly to support us with information related to local languages as well as to ensure successful spread out of the game among local needed communities.

Sector Expertise

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

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

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


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

From our users we learned to speed up the progress in the game and make it more visible to the player, have as many monsters as we can. Our users would love to show off their progress so a leader board and sharing options would be a great addition. We learned that we should make the game available on as many platforms. We learned that we should contemplate on in class use options. Class use can allow the teacher to strengthen struggling kids and we in return can develop a teacher’s console.

Who will implement this Idea?

A dedicated team within the Center for Educational Technology (CET) will implement the solution. The team will be combined from software developers, game designers, art experts (animation, sounds and after effects) and subject matter experts in the fields of language arts and Math.

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?

Our solution is targeting children who have been displaced from home due to a crisis. At the end of 2000 all "persons of concern to UNHCR" numbered 21.1 million. In a research led by Dr. Hamish Graham of the Center for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia, researchers analyzed data from 34 studies of learning problems in 29 different groups of refugee children and found their risk of difficulties could be influenced by parental misunderstandings about a foreign education system, teacher stereotyping and bullying or discrimination. Our goal is to create new ways to minimize the learning gap that occurs when children are displaced and to help them achieve the foundations in both language arts and numerical basic skills.

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

CET employs today close to 600 professionals in education technology and content development. In addition, CET is a provider of teacher's training and professional development. CET's mission is to empower educational systems around the globe through sharing our knowledge and expertise to create the learning environments of the future. CET’s approach to innovation has always been to harmonize pedagogical needs with the evolution of new technology The organization is financially strong with annual revenues of over $60M from sales of educational content & services.

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?

We believe that we have built a platform that can scale and impact millions of kids around the world enabling them to acquire language and numeric skills. IMPACT: By 2021, we aim reaching more than half a million refugee kids. In addition, we would like to provide the game in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and DRC. QUESTION: "As we rely on the usage of smartphones, what would be the penetration? We rely on a single phone per family as we enable multiple users on a single smartphone.

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

Our first goal would focus on reach out to the relevant audience. For that purpose, we would need the cooperation of the community (NGO's, Mobile operators, Educational and aid organizations). Following the deployment, we intend to encourage and monitor usage. Monitoring usage will be performed via analytical tools by our BI department. Our second goal would be to measure the educational impact of the App. We intend to use focused groups and run baseline and end line tests.

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

Our initial focus would be on two major steps: 1. Enhancing the existing version of Feed The Monster to support math & multiple languages. 2. Improve our platform so any member of the community can upload and update content (in a form of an open source. We believe that the development phase would last for ~12 Month and the next 2 years would be vested in deployment and collaboration with various organizations around the world in order to support uptake and expansion.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $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?

  • Over 50 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?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

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

  • Understanding User and/or Community
  • Program/Service Design
  • Other Technical Expertise


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi Ofir, 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 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

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

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