Tabshoura Tiny Thinkers
Pitch us on your solution
Research confirms the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block of a child’s future success. When it comes to early learning, quality matters. Unfortunately, in Lebanon, public sector' kindergarten are insufficient and access to ECE programs is limited to those families that can afford enrollment in the private sector. Additionally, there are few competent teachers, and very few contextualized resources, especially in Arabic. Inequalities in learning begin early.
A low-cost, pocket size offline server, "Tabshoura Tiny Thinkers in a Box" provides a tailored digital augmented program for ECE, in Arabic and English. The program focuses on marginalized vulnerable areas and camp settlements.
We are able to scale our solution at a low-cost, as our offline boxes can reach all areas of Lebanon, can be adapted to other Arabic speaking contexts and our co-creation version of the box can respond to particular contexts of any country.
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What is the problem you are solving?
In Lebanon compulsory schooling lasts 10 years, from ages 6 to 15. Because early Childhood Education is not mandatory, there is a huge shortage of pre-schools. Consequently, children can access early childhood education only if their parents can afford enrollment in the private sector. The number of out of school KG students reaches an unprecedented rate of 70% in some Lebanese areas like Akkar.
Syrian refugees have the right to access formal education at the age of 6. According to RACE reports only 10,000 of the 134,000 Syrian refugee children between the age of 3 to 5 are enrolled in schools.
NGOs and CBOs have taken over the roll-out of the CB-ECE (Community based- Early Childhood Education) package developed by CERD/Ministry of Education but are struggling to find qualified teachers and support programs.
Digital motivates students while empowering teachers by introducing innovative resources and creativity to learning. However, many imported digital resource initiatives fail to make an impact due to the lack of adaptation to both the culture and to to the CB-ECE curriculum progression and learning objectives. Overwhelmed teachers do not have the time to discover new methodologies while non-trained young caregivers do not have the skills to do so.
Who are you serving?
Our target population is :
- Refugee children in Lebanon, aged 3-6 years, through our partnerships with community based educational centers run by NGOs.
- Vulnerable Lebanese children, aged 3-6 years, living in remote areas with no or partial access to education.
- Lebanese children attending public school through our partnership with CERD.
- Children suffering from long term illnesses preventing them from going to school through our partnership with hospitals.
- Teachers and facilitators
The program can be extended to Arabic speaking neighbors, especially -Syria and Jordan, through potential partnerships with regional and international NGOs, Agencies or Foundations.
Digital activities can be implemented as part of a comprehensive integrated programming project. The digital activities will complement the various other activities for children and youths and vice-versa.
Building strong co-creation partnerships with other organizations is an essential component of our project. This is how we will reach out to the highest number of beneficiaries.
What is your solution?
What makes our solution unique is the combination of a low-cost offline server that reaches remote areas with an innovative digital program tailored to specific needs and yet adaptable to different contexts.
As an EdTech NGO, the Lebanese Alternative Learning works with a network of technology experts, subject matter specialists, educators and content developers. We have acquired an expertise in designing programs that address the specific needs of vulnerable communities while respecting their culture and adhering to the official curricula of the country. Our motto is to develop “ free innovative local content for local impact”, using a flexible system of plugins that easily allows the adaptation of our content to other Arabic speaking countries. We will be developing a skilled based ECE program focusing on 3 major components: autonomy, creativity and critical learning.
- Autonomous thinker: Audio and video content will enable a young child to use the program with a high level of autonomy.
- Creative thinker: Utilizing games and quizzes will engage a young child in solving problems creatively.
- Analytical thinker: Personalized stories will require the child to make choices. However, each choice will lead to different consequences and lessons learned.
Our system is designed to be integrated in a blended approach, which in Lebanon will be the CB-ECE developed by CERD. It will have a special focus on teachers’ empowerment. A guide with advice on classroom management when using digital, blended approach set lesson plans and templates will be available for teachers and facilitators.
Our solution addresses internet unreliability using a Raspberry Pi as a server that creates its own hotspot and allows around 30 devices to connect to it and access our programs offline.
We designed 2 different boxes:
Tabshoura in a box, is a combination of a Learning Management System, Moodle, H5P plugins developed by Joubel, a team of developers from Norway and a Raspberry Pi. It is a library of digital resources and adapted programs.
KogniKit is a co-creation box, combining Word Press, H5P and a Raspberry Pi. It integrates tutorials for content creation. This box allows one to curate, adapt and/or develop content with our partners. It replicates our system for other contexts and other countries.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Beirut, Lebanon
Select one of the below:
New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
It is the combination of many features that makes our solution innovative. It is worth noting that we only use open sources and that our programs are freely accessible by all, strongly believing that digital should be an equalizing force when it comes to education.
(1) We use a Raspberry Pi as a local server to solve the internet unreliability issue in remote areas.
(2) We provide digital devices through our partnership with Thaki NGO that donates computers.
(3) We integrate innovative digital creation plugins, such as H5P which are developed by Joubel, a Norwegian company.
H5P makes it easy to create, share and reuse HTML5 content and applications. H5P empowers users to create rich and interactive web experiences more efficiently - all you need is a web browser and a web site with an H5P plugin.
(4) We have an experienced team of developers, curriculum designers, tech experts and teachers that create local programs for local contexts. We work closely with our clients assess their needs and provide a tailored solution in a short period of time.
(5) We developed a co-creation box, KogniKit, with tutorial, guide and templates that allows our partners to learn and autonomously create their own content if needed or to adapt, curate and translate imported resources.
(6) We have a partnership with CERD/Ministry of Education for the integration of our solution in Lebanese public schools.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
For the Tabshoura in a Box, we currently use Raspberry Pi 3 and will be upgrading to Pi 4 shortly. To address the inevitable electrical outages, we connect the box to an average power bank providing 4 to 5 hours of electrical power. Our programs are uploaded on a Micro-SD card. We use Moodle as a Learning Management System which enables schools to monitor the data and evaluate the work of the students' work.
For the co-creation box, our partners can do it autonomously by following the tutorial available on the KogniKit website to learn how to extract and burn the image and connect to the box. Tutorials and Examples will be provided on the web server in Arabic, English and French. The KogniKit uses WordPress to offer an immediate access to content. However, if necessary, Moodle can be also integrated.
Both boxes integrate H5P plugins.
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Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our TTT in a box program has been designed in harmony with the culture, habits and values of the targeted communities. Utilizing a friendly interface and easy to use, it complements the CB-ECE developed by CERD. This will motivate the students in using it, while developing and improving their creative, cognitive and analytical skills autonomously. We believe this will enhance their ability to integrate within a formal school system.
Capacity buildings provided to institutions, teachers and caregivers will support them in catering for the diversity of the students, help them to innovate in their teaching, and empower them with technology. This technology will not only support but will innovatively empower all faculty members of institutions serving a diverse and challenging student body.
The deployment of the program on the offline boxes finally allows us to reach under-privileged areas and give them unprecedented access to quality education.
Adapting the program to local context by utilizing the KogniKit box will allow us to contextualize and personalize the learning experience, reach neighboring countries and create a network of similar projects that will enrich one another.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
The proposed project is designed to serve marginalized children between 3 and 6 years old by providing them with digital support program to enhance their skills.
The primary beneficiaries are refugees and host communities' out of school 3-5 years old children, already using the Tabshoura platform or new comers.
In year one, we will reach 500 children in Lebanon. This will increase to 3,000 in Lebanon in the second year. In the third year, we will grow within Lebanon and expand to Jordan and Syria following agreements with implementing partners. Our goal is to realize a minimum of 15,000 users in year 3.
Commencing in year 2, we will actively promote the e-learning platform throughout the neighboring Arabic-speaking countries. This will encourage our educational partners to take the initiative to use the digital resources provided. Although it is difficult to estimate when it comes to random digital users, we aim to reach at least 10 random partners, be it schools or NGOs.
We will also target 100 ECE educators with capacity building on using our digital support program.
As LAL has an agreement with the Centre of Education and Research Development (CERD)/Lebanese Ministry of Education (MEHE), the school support content will benefit from CERD endorsement and, therefore, could indirectly benefit public sector Kindergarten.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Scalability of our program is our priority. In order to scale up our ECE program, we have to not only ensure its deployment but also encourage educators to continue using it. We will do so by utilizing our interns program to make regular field visits to follow-up on the program impact. We will also create a hot mail to address any issue and provide guidance. Further support will be provided with the development of an online guide for teachers.
At the same time, we will reinforce our partnerships with educational centers run by NGOs while recruiting additional partners.
We will strengthen our partnership with CERD by taking an active part in their training programs. Each year, CERD provides a selection of calendar training for public school teachers. We will now be a part of this training program.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Assumption: Governments and the populace of Jordan & Lebanon will continue to accept the presence of the large numbers of Syrian refugees population.
Risks: (1) Resistance to change from traditional modes of teaching 2) Frequent and/or unexpected movement of the refugees due to the challenging nature of their situation. 3) Possible changes in government policies and regulations toward refugees in Lebanon, and specifically by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
1) Capacity building of teachers, parents & communities. We will choose and do needs assessments where we know the refugees are relatively settled.
2) Project team will maintain contact with relevant ministries so as to be aware of any possible upcoming changes so that project activities can be adapted to minimize the effect of these changes.
3) Digital content can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
4) Continuous coordination with partners on the ground will allow for timely identification and discussion of potential blocks/delays with a view to overcome these delays.
Select an option below:
If you selected other for the organization question, please explain here.
"Tabshoura Tiny Thinker in a Box" is a project lead by a team of developers that works within the Lebanese Alternative Learning NGO.
LAL’s mission is to help refugee and other vulnerable children to catch up or keep up with school curricula by addressing the inherent knowledge and skills gaps. To do so, LAL adapts its augmented programs to the Lebanese curriculum learning outcomes (Agreement signed in September 2016 with the Center of Educational Research and Development-Ministry of Education). LAL also empowers teachers with ready to use digital pro grams that are easily integrated to their lesson plans.
All LAL’s programs are free and trilingual (Arabic, English and French). They are accessible online and through the boxes offline access solution.
LAL' innovations won several awards, including UN equals in tech award (2017), World Summit Award (2019), and was enrolled in the WISE accelerator program (2018).
The “Tabshoura Tiny Thinkers in a Box” project will build on LAL experience in curriculum design and existing connections within the field.
It will address children who are not attending pre-school by developing a non-formal education program for ECE. We will also test the KogniKit solution in other contexts.
How many people work on your solution team?
The management team is composed of a project manager, a communications officer, an e-platform manager, an education expert and an accountant. (full-timers with academic or professional experience).
The team in charge of developing digital programs, composed of 1 curriculum designer, 1 ECE expert, 3 developers. They are part-timers and are compensated based upon deliverables.
The creative team is composed of 1 UX/UI, 1 web designer and 1 illustrator. They are also compensated based upon deliverables.
The team of interns: LAL relies a lot on volunteers from all over the world and have developed a comprehensive integration program.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
3 years for the box solution. The ECE enhancement program is in its design phase.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
The team combines several areas of expertise: technology innovation, educational expertise and masters e-content development. The team has completed jointly several projects and is proficient with the process of e-content creation and delivery.
LAL also works closely with the Education department of the American University of Beirut, participating in workshops and seminars, consulting with their subject matter experts and recruiting interns and volunteers.
The team integrates members of the Center of Educational Research and Development. These subject matter experts, assist in the conception phase but also ensure that our programs conform to the official curriculum.
LAL works with a large number of volunteers and have developed a fellowship program. This help us to keep in touch with the young and retain an innovate culture.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We produce programs, box them and provide them to several partners. In order to do so, we have developed a network of partners including:
- Beneficiaries of our programs: Public schools through our partnership with CERD/Ministry of Education, INGOs like War Child Holland, Norwegian refugee Council, World Vision etc, private schools catering for vulnerable communities, local NGOs like Kayani, Social Support Society, Borderless, MALAAK etc.
- Providers of devices: Thaki
- Capacity building partners: Digital Opportunity Trust
- ECE experts: CERD and a specialized NGO in reading and writing, Ana Aqra
What is your business model?
We are implementing a B to B to C model. Our customers will be (1)schools and education centers in need of support programs for ECE (2)Governmental instances, international agencies and NGOs implementing humanitarian solutions catering to young children of disadvantages communities. (3)Animators, teachers, facilitators in charge of ECE programs.
Our content is accessible on line for free and provided offline through our box. In order to keep our program running and secure sustainability, our main revenue stream will be based upon the services that we provide:
- selling the box, uploaded with our free programs, with technical and pedagogical support at a unit price of $500.
- providing co-creation services through the KogniKit project. Like Tabshoura in a Box, KogniKit uses Raspberry Pi as an offline server integrating digital creation plugins and tutorials. It allows other organizations who wish to digitize their own content or create new programs to benefit from our content creation kit and educational acumen. We offer a complete process combining hardware, workshops and follow-up. We also offer an optional content creation service. The client-organization can either have her team create the content or subcontract us to do so. Our only condition is that the content must be educational and free. Our services will be charged in accordance with the needs of the institution, the amount of content to adapt, the digital literacy of the trainees and the level of customization required.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
1) Co-creation services: In Lebanon, over a hundred NGOs operate ECE programs to cater to out of school KG children. Some use the formal CB-ECE program developed by CERD while some have their own program and could be interested in digitizing part of it. We will target the 1,177 private schools and 370 free private schools led by charity organizations plus the 67 UNRWA schools. By year 3 we hope to co-create with 7 % of these groups by developing and adapting programs for ECE, focusing on skills development and psycho-social support activities.
Out of Lebanon: As Jordan and Turkey face the same refugee crises, they could also benefit from personalized digital programs. As refugees have started returning to their homeland, organizations working inside Syria are in great need of education support programs to give children an alternative education while schools are being reconstructed.
2) Writing proposals and answering calls for projects.
3) Launching a donation campaign on a crowd funding platform once a year, in parallel with the launching of a new program. LAL's Oktober.
Why are you applying to Solve?
From our past experience with the MIT Refugee Lab, we benefited from the organizational and technical support of the MIT Refugee Lab team. The workshop in Jordan, in addition to the numerous video calls helped us fine tune our solution and bring it to life. This input assisted us to advance the technical evolution of KogniKit and to specifically target the needs of the refugee population. We currently have several co-creation projects in various stages of development.
By participating in the refugee lab, we connected with teams from all over the world and benefitted from their experiences and information exchanges. Additionally, we have also commenced creating a network of people around EdTech solutions.
Networking is essential to benefitting from others' expertise. Through various networking events we learn about innovations in the field, how to identify funding opportunities and to secure partnerships as we continue to grow. MIT is a place that provides networking opportunities with like-minded people, working on innovations with a social impact.
If our solution is selected, we would benefit from Solve expertise, networking and funding opportunities while expanding our network and knowledge base.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
We are seeking for partners to deploy our solution both locally, regionally and internationally. Basically educational institutions, organizations or schools.
We are seeking co-creation partners, who will benefit from the replication of our model to create their own content in a box.
We are also seeking to communicate with experts in Early Childhood Education and Alternative Education. It could be education faculties as well as NGOs specialized in early childhood support to combine both academic expertise with field expertise.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Three areas of collaboration appeal to us: Early Childhood Education, EdTech experts and co-creation partners.
- Regarding ECE experts, we seek to collaborate with education departments and ECE field experts, in research, program development, pilots.
In Lebanon, Ana Aqraa NGO is specialized in ECE psycho-social support as well as reading and writing programs. Any similar organization working in that field is relevant to us
The American University of Beirut educational department can also provide us with support, particularly in the program conception and design phase as well as in Monitoring and Evaluation.
- For Education technologies innovations we seek partnerships with APP and Plugin developers:
Digital campus is an English organization striving to promote learning innovation while developing capacity through the use of appropriate technology. They especially developed the Oppia Mobile application, an open source mobile learning platform specially designed to deliver learning content, multimedia and quizzes in low-broadband settings.
Joubel: a Norwegian company and the creators of H5P plugins that we use in our content creation.
International programs provided by universities like the Ohio State University master of learning technology that specialized in applied instructional design.
Any big tech company like google or recently amazon which have programs to create content.
- For co-creation, we would like to approach international agencies like UNICEF or UNHCR or Foundation that are interested in Education and Technology like the Qatar Foundation.
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
While building our support programs, we would like to personalize our learning paths integrating AI to target the specific gaps of each student.
Working in emergency education, there is no need (and no time) for our beneficiaries to complete the entire programs but to be directed by an AI feature to the modules and activities they need to reinforce their skills in order to keep up with school or to be ready to integrate school.
It is also important to note that in refugee situations, all children do not have the same path. Some of them have received some education, while other have not. Some of them master a foreign language, namely English, others do not. Personalizing their education through AI will allow us to adapt to their personal needs.
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
Working with the Malala Fund, we target young girls, advocating for their right to access quality education and have the same opportunities as boys.
By educating them, we also fight against early marriage.
We also address the prejudice that confine them to jobs related to art and craft, sewing, hairdressing and cooking. By providing them with STEM skills we hope they will widen their potential jobs opportunities.
Each year, we promote ICT and STEM for girls by participating in events and hackathons :Girls got IT, Girls' coding day...
We would like to pursue our mission for girls by supporting them through a coding program. The innovation for Women Prize would be used enhance our Girls Can Count Malala Fund project.