Education Apps for All xPrize Logo

Pilot Testing at Head Start

head start

Today Jessica Korn started a two-month pilot test with six children at an educational setting for young children, Head Start. We started with a baseline assessment and evaluated what letters they could read. The assessment tool we used was similar to EGRA (Early Grade Reading  Assessment), which is commonly used in international development education projects.

Using the tablets, we will work with the children two times per week for about eight weeks, and we will evaluate the progress made by the end of that time. Even though there is a large range as to how many letters the children already know, our program will enable them to start at their level and move forward at their own pace.

We are looking forward to the results of this small-scale evaluation of the English version of our application, and in a couple of months, we hope to  do a similar evaluation with children in Tanzania.

Global Learning XPRIZE Team Summit

xprize meeting dc

The Global Learning XPRIZE hosted one-day team summits in Nairobi, Paris, and Washington, DC. Lucy Haagen participated in the Paris summit at UNESCO, while Isabelle Duston, MaryFaith Mount-Cors, Mary Alex, and Olivier Alais participated in the DC summit at the World Bank. About 45 teams participated in the three summits.

The summits provided an excellent opportunity to meet other competitors, discuss details of the competition, engage directly with XPRIZE staff on competition details, and hear from some amazing guest speakers.

For our team, Education Apps For All, Isabelle Duston gave an interview to the XPRIZE marketing and communications staff, which will be available online in the near future. Isabelle also gave a presentation to all summit attendees, relating her story, which started six years ago when she saw the opportunity to impact the lives of millions of children by developing an app to teach reading in local languages.

Our team left the summit confident that we had one of the best applications to offer. Beyond the quality of our pedagogy and our design, we have the potential to deploy our solution at scale and be real change makers with a sustainable and affordable tech solution.

Education in Emergencies and Technology

On November 20th, The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies(INEE) and the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) convened a debate on education and innovation in emergencies and how technology and innovation can be used to reach the most marginalized learners.

Globally, there are an estimated 124 million children and adolescents out of school, of which 34 million live in conflict-affected countries.1,100 million children and young people are affected by natural disasters every year and most of them face disruptions to their schooling. The need to fulfill the right to education in times of crisis is vital, yet children and young people who live in emergency settings are some of the most marginalized in the world. At the same time, the quality of education in many emergency situations remains low. Education has not received high enough priority in humanitarian response and as a result only 2% of all humanitarian aid was directed to education in 2014. The relatively poor funding of education in development aid and humanitarian appeals, starkly contrasts with the high prioritization that communities and children place on education in the context of emergencies

It was a real honor for me to take part in the discussion and learn about the innovative solutions and new technologies designed to facilitate access to learning and which also supports learners and teachers in conflict, disaster, or other emergency settings.

With the software solution that we are designing for the XPRIZE, we believe we will bring a scalable, innovative solution for teaching basic early grade skills in mother tongue in an emergency context.

Readster, our Reading Gurus

What a treat to spend 10 days in Alexandria working with Readster, my reading gurus! We have just  finalized the design of an early grade reading curriculum for Niger in Zarma, Hausa, Kanuri and Fulfulde for NECS (Niger Education and Community Strengthening Project). The NECS project is financed by USAID and MCC and is implemented by Plan International in 150 Nigerien schools for grades 1 and 2.


The pedagogy designed by Readster is based on the latest research findings on neuroscience and the team’s experience with struggling readers in the United States. The results of the first lessons piloted last spring are beyond belief. Children are learning their letters and sounding out syllables in just a few months.

Our XPRIZE application follows a pedagogy similar to the approach implemented for the NECS project in Niger. As recommended by Readster, kids will first learn the letter’s names and sounds before slowly learning to sound out simple combinations of letters. Our application includes decodable texts, which follow a scope and sequence based on letter frequency. Stories that are read aloud improve the children’s vocabulary and comprehension skills.
I am very grateful for the support of Linda, Nicole and Michael. Readster’s advice on the pedagogical approach and their willingness to see how technology could support kids lear

Oliver Kuttner

In September 2010, Oliver Kuttner won the $5 million top prize in the Progressive Automotive XPRIZE. His Edison2 team’s winning vehicle, a four-seater called the Very Light Car, reportedly gets 102 miles per gallon of fuel and could revolutionize the automotive industry.


On May 13th, I had the honor to meet with Oliver Kuttner, who agreed to share with me his XPRIZE experience and advise me on strategic issues. During our casual conversation on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, I listened carefully to Oliver’s recommendations and we have agreed to meet again in a few months to follow up on my progress and see how things are moving forward for our team.


The main thing that I took from our conversation is that the XPRIZE foundation team is working in an environment where innovation prevails, so even if there are rules to the competition, the foundation will listen to advice from teams and experts in the field. I feel that this is an invitation for us to be active and really take part of the competition by contributing input and suggestions on the XPRIZE forum or by establishing a think tank, and I would like to encourage everybody on my team and beyond  to participate.



We are excited to introduce yet another great addition to our talented team.

We are excited to introduce yet another great addition to our talented team. Please welcome, Adebayo Adegbembo, who is  the founder of Genii Games Limited, an award winning company based in Lagos, Nigeria.


Adebayo is the founder of Genii Games Limited, a company based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the lead programmer and 2D animator for the company’s Asa brand; a range of interactive mobile apps and videos driven towards promoting and preserving indigenous African Cultures among kids using a combination of games, voice, sounds, graphics and text.


Adebayo, a self-acclaimed African Cultural Evangelist consistently works to promote and stimulate indigenous Language learning among kids of primary school age. Working with an extensive team of language teachers, historians, voice over artists, drummers in the Education and Arts space, he has built a community of over 5,000 registered users for his apps, some of whom contribute towards its development by providing contents and contexts.


His Asa brand was awarded the 2013 Etisalat Pan-African Prize for Innovation at the AfricaCOM awards in Cape Town, South-Africa. He is also an inaugural member of the British Council’s Global Futr Lab, 2015.


A trained Engineering Surveyor from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, Adebayo founded Genii Games Limited in fulfillment of his passion for love, technology, Arts & Culture. Adebayo is excited at any prospect that lends its voice to promoting education within African Cultural contexts among kids.


Adebayo brings an incredible set of talents to our team. He has the ability to help us design an attractive application culturally connected to the African children, which will engage the students, increasing literacy results.

Our Team Is Registered for the Global Learning XPRIZE

Along her journey to improve basic education with technology, Duston has met numerous talented people who are now part of her team for the xPrize Learn Challenge. They come from all paths of life but all share a mutual passion for education, technology and international development.


Since 2009, along with programmer Aaron Borsay and designer Ana Zivick, Duston has created apps for iphone and android phones. Her last tool was a desktop application – MoToLi Library- that helps communities create books in local languages. Borsay and Zivick will be heavily involved in the development and the design of our xPrize solution.


Duston’s original reading app – Smart4Kids – was designed with the collaboration of Game Design Adviser Todd Sherman. As a professional game designer, Sherman’s project management knowledge and experience will be a great asset.


With the help of Mobile Technology Adviser Dr. Christelle Scharff, Duston organized an education app contest in 2012 in order to promote the development of mobile apps. As a Professor of Computer Science at Pace University, Scharff will provide technical advice on the solution design.


To enable developers and educators to create high quality content, in 2012 Duston partnered with illustrator Aija Jasuna and built a collection of over 1200 illustrations available for free on Janusa will enrich this illustration collection and adapt them to the local context.


Instructional Design Adviser Doug Bell and Technology for Development Adviser Samuel Sarafel have worked on many ICT related project in Africa and Asia. Both possess a depth of knowledge regarding the challenges related to designing a sustainable solution for a challenging environment. Bell and Sarafel’s experience in Tanzania with the implementation of a reading program is an incredible asset for the team.


Mobile learning researcher Ronda Zelezny-Green has provided advice and shared experiences with Duston since they met at the Unesco Mobile week back in 2011. As a researcher, she will help integrate research on Mobile Learning in our xPrize solution.


Education Researcher Mary Faith Mount-Cors has worked with Duston to support numerous proposals, among which was a USAID proposal for a Global Book Repository. Mount-Cors’ has lead research project in Africa with major a US university, and we are looking forward to integrating her wealth of knowledge for the XPRIZE competition.


Storyteller Carlos Salum has been a constant source of support and inspiration for Duston since 2009, when he encouraged her to accomplish her dream of being a social entrepreneur.

Organization Development pro Mary Alex has been part of Duston’s journey since 2010 when they met cycling and discovered a common passion for social entrepreneurship. Salum and Alex will support the team and provide advice on marketing, fundraising and promotion.

 Adebayo Adegbembo brings an incredible set of talents to our team. He has the ability to help us design an attractive application culturally connected to the African children, which will engage the students, increasing literacy results.

Reading Pedagogy Advisers Linda Farrell and Nicole Lubar are working with Duston on a literacy project in Niger, and their incredible knowledge has provided Duston with a better understanding on how reading should be taught. Their input in designing a solution which can efficiently enable a child to learn how to read is essential.


Technology Policy Adviser Olivier Alais and Duston have been sharing experiences related to ICT for Development for many years, and his insight on ICT policy will enable us to build a sustainable solution.


Meyasi Meshilieck will bring in the Tanzanian component, he will be our Swahili literacy expert, and will implement field-based testing of the application. The founder of the middle School Amadou Hampaté Bâ has given local insight to the challenge of developing reading material in local language for a country with very low resources.


Jim Teicher is the founder of CyberSmart Africa, which provides the first massively scalable, technology-enabled classroom learning solution for sub-Saharan Africa – including schools without electricity. He has been working with Isabelle on the deployment a Franco-African version of the reading app since 2013.


The African Storybook initiative has built a website where users can find, create, translate or adapt stories for early reading. The stories are free and openly licensed. Isabelle has translated the stories into French, and coordinated the translation of stories in for local languages in Niger.


The Education Apps For All team believes that innovative solution can improve education in developing nations, where it is critically needed. Our team is committed to delivering a culturally conscious solution designed by educators who have been trained in best practices for effective reading, literacy, and numeracy pedagogy.