Youth, Skills, & the Workforce of the Future

WordScientists.org

By National Educational Support Trust, USA (NEST USA)

Location

United States

Team Leader

Jacob Bronstein

Our solution:

Free Literacy Resources for Beginning Readers and Their Teachers. We have created online software to provide ACCESS to research-based literacy curricula, aiming at students ages 4 - 8, to directly support teachers in resource-limited settings around the world.

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Our pitch:

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The problem:

Access to Literacy Resources

Access to quality early literacy resources and teacher training materials remains one of the most critical global issues facing schools. Research has demonstrated the importance of early literacy development –children who fail to learn to read by the 3rd grade have little chance of ever learning to read throughout their lives. Without quality educational resources and effective teaching strategies, schools are not successful in teaching students how to read. Without effective schools, there is no means for future generations to establish themselves, gain socioeconomic empowerment, and have the knowledge and skills to adapt to the challenges of the future.

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Why our solution will solve the problem:

Teacher Knowledge is a Robust Predictor of Student Outcomes

Teacher knowledge is a robust predictor of student outcomes. In partnership with Hands in Outreach (HIO) and Intel, we conducted research in Nepal to assess the effectiveness of our model (long-distance learning sessions supported by a prototype of WordScientists.org). 43 teachers who used the prototype 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 at a confidence level of 99%.


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Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot

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Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

Impact

Increasing literacy rates in resource-limited schools. Literacy opens up additional educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

Beneficiaries

Teachers and their students (early stages of reading development) in settings where their schools cannot afford or gain access to quality classroom resources including professional development for teachers.

Deployment

The use of the software is free. So schools, teachers, and families (with or without access to the internet) can download, print, and view WordScientists.org to utilize its early literacy books, lesson guides, and training tutorials.

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How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: Increase content offerings including books, lesson guides, and video resources on the WordScientists.org platform in order to complete the scope and sequence for early literacy and increase the number of translations available as read alouds.
    Measurement Plan: Track the number of books, lesson guides, and videos at each reading stage. We currently have 54 books & lesson guides and 76 videos available online. We will continue to keep track of our growing library.
  • Outcome: Increase implementation of WS in pilot schools and improve teacher knowledge about teaching literacy.
    Measurement Plan: Use internal tools, surveys, and onsite observations to measure and assess teacher knowledge and implementation fidelity in order to determine the impact of the WS curriculum on teachers’ knowledge of early literacy development and instruction.
  • Outcome: Improve student reading achievement in pilot schools.
    Measurement Plan: Administer pre- and post- external standardized literacy assessment of English reading skills for students attending pilot schools.
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The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Child
  • Low-income economies (< $1005 GNI)
  • Early childhood education
  • Urban
  • Rural
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The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • South Asia
  • US and Canada
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The countries we will benefit initially:

  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Nepal
  • United States
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Technology

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
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Why our solution is unique:

Free All in One Place Research Based

By providing free access to literacy resources, we can remove many of the barriers that exist in the education space related to the cost of licenses, seats, and copies of classroom resources.

All in one place we provide the instructional knowledge of how to teach early reading and the engaging classroom resources needed to apply this knowledge in a systematic and explicit way in any classroom.

Our research-based approach to books and lesson guides are developed and curated by professional literacy and language specialists who work directly with a software development team with a human-centered design approach.

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Why our solution is human-centered:

Leveraging Technology to Scale Globally

The WordScientists.org solution resulted from onsite observations of bright, motivated local teachers who struggled to teach their students because of a lack of access to effective training and classroom resources. As an alternative to dispatching professional teacher trainers and using very limited funds to buy classroom resources, we aimed at creating a solution that could scale by leveraging technology to help build local teachers’ capacity to deliver more optimal instruction. Over 3 years we have tested assumptions and prototypes in resource-limited schools and engaged with teachers to create an easy to use product that tackles a global problem.

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How people will access our solution:

The WordScientists.org solution is accessible at all technology levels: as a website, as an application you can download to a computer or mobile device, and as resources you can print copies of and take into a classroom.

Distribution and scaling costs are close to $0. The access is provided for free as part of a not-for-profit effort to increase literacy rates around the world.

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Technology-Readiness Level:

6-8 (Demonstration)
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Our website

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Our app

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Business Plan

Our organization:

Non-Profit

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Where we are located:

United States
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How we will sustain our team financially:

Corporate Sponsorship: Partner with annual corporate sponsors who want to have a goodwill presence by sponsoring educational content for resource-limited schools around the world.

Suggested Donations: WordScientists.org software will be accessible for free but when signing up we have a suggested donation of $2.50 per student per year. This could be a sustainable source of funding given the size of the marketplace without being prohibitive to resource-limited schools.

Platform Developer Fees: WordScientists.org will open up its web platform that links multiple screens together and tracks analytics to other developers who want to build classroom content. Other developers who want access to the WordScientists.org audience and platform can build and sell their own educational apps. WordScientists.org would collect a small percentage of any transaction fee.

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The factors limiting our success:

Development Funds: We have a functioning prototype that needs further software and content development. We need to secure funding for the upfront costs associated with the development.

Offline Analytics: Collecting usage analytics when our software is downloaded and run offline, or printed and used without the software.

A Full Time Team: The prototype was built and tested with a small group of dedicated volunteers. To be able to scale this effectively, we need a small permanent team.

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How long we have been working on our solution:

3 years
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How long it will take to develop a pilot:

We have already developed a pilot.
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How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

12-18 months
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Our expected annual budget:

$350000

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How much of our budget we've secured to date:

$60000

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Our annual report

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Our promotional video:

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Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Technology Access
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Literacy
  • STEM Education
  • Teacher Training
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Why we're applying to Solve:

We aspire to take our prototype to the next level to increase its viability to help the global literacy crisis. Solve’s commitment to disadvantaged youth and open innovation can help connect us to a community that can further the technology side of the WordScientists.org project. We have had a successful partnership with students from Columbia University in building and testing our prototype content. We think that Solve and MIT could be a major contributing force to the next phase of this solution.

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Our current partners:

Intel and Hands in Outreach (HIO)

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Solution Team

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