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The Talking Bus

Our radio broadcasting mobile schoolhouse delivers a developmentally appropriate and safe learning environment to empower and educate girls.

Photo of Elana Blinder
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What problem does your innovation solve?

Girls’ lack of access to education in emergencies has the potential to perpetuate gender inequity in the workforce and society at large. The goal of our innovation is therefore to sustain and enhance girls’ education while acknowledging that children in a state of crisis cannot necessarily learn in the same conventional manner as those who are not experiencing trauma.

Explain your innovation.

We are suggesting a wifi and satellite radio-enabled mobile schoolhouse capable of delivering instruction face-to-face and through real-time broadcast radio. Ideally, the bus would be staffed by a trained educator, journalist, and/or mental health practitioner from the community, who could provide instruction/counseling in students’ language. We feel that creating and sustaining educational routines is important for children living in crisis; however we are also committed to building meaningful learning experiences that extend beyond conventional instructional models. To that end, the goal of our curricular program will be to engage girls in the process of telling their personal narratives and to use our Talking Bus as a tool for disseminating those stories and building a virtual community. By reading, listening to, watching, and discussing female-authored accounts of personal struggle, it is our hope that girls targeted by our innovation will be equipped with literacy and media production skills and the sense of self-efficacy and emotional safety required to process and take ownership of their journey as girls and young women living under difficult conditions. Supporting Research:

Who benefits?

We intend to target pre-adolescent and early adolescent girls who cannot attend school due to violence or a natural disaster, but who wish to continue their education. The region in which we would pilot our innovation would likely be determined by organizations and other collaboraters interesting in partnering with us, as nearly all of our current team members are located in New York. While our proposal speaks of a single mobile school tackling educational access over a small area, going further there could be a fleet of such vans, associated with the local schooling authorities. This would help the van volunteers/teachers to stay on track with the syllabus. This scheme might prove successful if children can return to school after a prolonged absence due to local contingencies, and continue further education, as if they never left school. Objectives & Proposed Benefits:

How is your innovation unique?

We recognize that our mobile schoolhouse delivery model is not entirely new or unique. We believe that the innovation and success of our idea ultimately relies--not on its delivery method--but on our curricular approach toward promoting reading, writing, socio-emotional, and media production learning for girls who would be otherwise unlikely to receive such a holistic instructional model. It is our hope that this approach can meet girls immediate academic and emotional needs while also supporting their future academic and professional prospects by providing them with marketable skills, self confidence, and a supportive local academic community.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Given our personal lack of experience negotiating emergency situations or living in the regions in which we hope to implement our idea, how can we ensure that the pedagogical models and content we develop will be culturally sensitive and relevant? What are the existing standard educational practices in our target regions? What sorts of dangers and threats might our Talking Bus need to be prepared for? Are we correct in assuming girls will have access to broadcast radio? What is the availability of trained educators and counselors in these regions? Who will pay for operations and maintenance? Should the goal of our intervention be to create sustainable change or merely to prevent periodic learning loss?

Tell us more about you.

We are a team of recent graduate students from New York University--engineers, designers, researchers, and educators. Elana is an educational technology researcher and former teacher who spent 6 months on a working holiday in Australia. Cooper is former Vice President, International Creative at Sesame Workshop. Tanvi is an engineer with a passion for human-centered design. Keisha is a graphic and instructional designer who worked in underserved communities in South Africa for many years.

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

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Our innovation is aimed at emergency settings in which students are unable to access formal education due to natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). We would also like to make our innovation available in regions prone to violence, though we have not yet done adequate research to identify the significant constraints associated with such an endeavor. We admittedly also need to learn more about the geographical constraints for which our bus will need to be prepared.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Where we choose to pilot our idea will depend largely on who we are able to partner with, given that we are all located in New York. We feel our innovation has the ability to serve a variety of communities in a variety of geographic regions. We have a content strategy in place that would need to be interpreted and culturally adapted by the volunteers driving the programs in the communities. We look forward to learning more about our initial implementation context--its affordances and constraints

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • No, not yet.

In-country Networks

We have professional and academic connections at The Education Development Center (international nonprofit), Sesame Workshop, Design for America, and New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education and Tandon School of Education as sources of potential support.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

We are educators, designers, researchers, and engineers who have worked in underserved communities in the United States and internationally.

Innovation Maturity

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

Organization Status

  • We are not registered but plan to in the future.

Organization Location

Our current team members are in New York City, but we hope to collaborate with others further afield!

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Toyin Oshaniwa

Hi Elana,

I love the concept and a great supporter of mobile learning opportunity for remote and communities in crises. Just an observation about the connectivity of internet in some real remote places, i will strongly recommend that the innovation still provide a space for possible hard copies learning materials for the children (Mobile Library ) to promotes the culture of reading. All the best the competition and am open for possible collaboration.

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