New Global Learning XPrize opens

Read a post this week in Gizmag about the new Global Learning XPrize. Past XPrize contests have dealt with suborbital spaceflight, super-efficient automobiles,  oil cleanup, and  lunar landers.

Current open XPrize contests include: Google Lunar Lander, Qualcomm Tricorder medical diagnosis, Nokia Health Sensing/monitoring and Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health Sensing. So what’s left?

World literacy

There are probably a host of issues that the next XPrize could go after but one that might just change the world is to improve children literacy.  According to UNESCO (2nd Global Report on Adult Learning and Education  [GRALE 2]) there are over 250M children of primary school age that will not reach grade 4 levels of education in the world, these children cannot read, write or do basic arithmetic. Given current teaching methods we would need an additional 1.6M teachers to teach all these children. As such, to teach all these children when we include teacher salaries, classroom spaces, supplies, etc. would be highly expensive. There has to be a better, more scaleable way to do this.

Enter the Global Learning XPrize. The intent of this XPrize is to create a tablet application which can teach children how to read, write and do rudimentary arithmetic in 18 months without access to a teacher or other supervised learning.

Where are they in the XPrize process?

The Global Learning XPrize already has raised $15M for the actual XPrize but they are using a crowd funding approach to fund the last $500K which will be used to field test the  Global Learning XPrize candidates. The crowd funding is being done on Indiegogo.

Registration starts now and runs through March 2015, Software development runs through September 2016, at which time five finalists will be selected, each will receive the $1M finalist XPrize to fund a further round of coding. In May of 2017, the five apps will be loaded onto tablets and field testing commences in June 2017 through December 2018. At which time the winner will be selected and will recieve the $10M XPrize.

What other projects have been tried?

I once read an article about the  Hole in the wall computer, where NIIT and their technologists placed an outside hardened, internet connected computer inside a brick wall  in an Indian underprivileged area. The intent was to show that children could learn how to use computers on their own, without adult supervision. Within days children were able to “browse, play games, create documents and paint pictures” on the computer. So minimally invasive education (MIE) can be made to work.

Whats the hardware environment going to look like

There’s no reason that an Android tablet would be any worse and potentially could be much better than a internet connected computer.

Although the tablets will be internet connected it is assumed that the connection will be not always on so the intent is that the apps run standalone as much as possible. Also, I believe that a child will be given a tablet which will be for their exclusive use during the 18 months. The Global Learning XPrize team will insure that there are charging stations where the tablets can be charged once/day but we shouldn’t assume that they can be charged while they are being used.

How are the entries to be judged

The finalists will be judged against EGRA (early grade reading assessment), EGWA (early grade writing assessment), and EGMA (early grad math assessment). The chosen language is to be English and the intent is to use children in countries which have an expressed interest in using English. The Grand winner will be judged to have succeeded if its 7 to 12 year old students can score twice as as well on the EGRA, EGWA and EGMA as a control group. [Not sure what a control group would look like for this nor what they would be doing during the 18 months]. For more information checkout the XPrize guidelines v1 pdf.

The assumption is that there will be about 30 children per village and enough villages will be found to provide a statistically valid test of the five learning apps against a control group.

At the end of all this the winning entry and the other four finalists will have their solutions be open sourced, for the good of the world.

Registration is open now…

Entry applications are $500. Finalists win $1M and the winner will take home $10M.

I am willing to put up the $500 application fee for the Global Learning XPrize. Having never started an open source project, never worked on developing an Android tablet application, or done anything other than some limited professional training this will be entirely new to me – so it should be great fun.  I am thinking of creating a sort of educational video game  (yet another thing I have no knowledge about, :).

We have until March of 2015 to see if we can put a team together to tackle this. I think if I can find four other (great) persons to take this on, we will give it a shot. I hope to enter an application by February of 2015, if we can put together a team by then to tackle this.

Anyone interested in tackling the Global Learning XPrize as an open source project from the gitgo, please comment on this post to let me know.

Photo Credit(s): Kid iPad outside by Alice Keeler