LearnJournal is a mobile app to log and track a refugee child's learning in transit, easing their integration into new countries.
LearnJournal will be free and easy to use. It will log what a child has learned and how well they have learned it. A teacher can then assess gaps in a child’s skills and knowledge, and identify best next steps for them.
The absence of a reliable means of tracking, assessing and validating refugee education has long been identified as a key roadblock to greater educational attainment for refugees. A 2009 UNESCO report on this topic notes that ‘a frequent barrier for children either entering or completing their education is documentation, whether of identity or progress’ and further recommends that ‘tools and instruments…should be developed to ensure smooth transition of students from and into different education systems across countries.’ Nearly a decade after this report was published, few such tools and instruments exist.
The app revolution of recent years offers new possibilities for refugee education. Research and experience indicates that many refugees, including many refugees from Syria, possess mobile devices and depend on them for news, particularly information from home. Educators and aid workers interviewed by us described mobile phones as ‘lifelines’ for most refugees, particularly those from Syria and north Africa.
We envision initial profile set-up for each LearnJournal user will be led by teachers or aid agency personnel conducting education work. Information used with LearnJournal will be cloud-based and synced to the app. By combining robust infrastructure with support for multiple models of learning and ease of use, LearnJournal could provide a meaningful and potentially large-scale solution to the challenge of tracking and assessing the learning of refugee children.
What are the key outcomes and impact of your solution?
- the development of a mobile app and accompanying cloud-based “back end” which can store details of learning attainment for refugees;
- accompanying collateral, potentially including training, to ensure the solution is widely adopted;
- a sustainable organisation which can maintain, extend and support the solution as it is rolled out and used.
The solution may extend to include the provision of learning content discovery and development for teachers if the need exists.
- LearnJournal will improve refugees’ attainment against recognised curriculum outcomes and summative tests – both in terms of progress made by individuals and the raw numbers of refugees actively involved in some form of learning. Given that this solution by its very nature should collect a large quantity of granular data, we will assess impact against pre-existing measures and against benchmarks collected and established during the first year of operation.
- As a consequence, LearnJournal will play a measurable, identifiable role in improving UN statistics on refugee education, which currently state that only 50% of refugee children attend primary school vs. 91% globally. Statistics for secondary and higher education are even more stark.
- LearnJournal aims to extend to play a measurable, identifiable role in bringing together refugee education players and resources – curriculum, pedagogy, teacher training and development – through the use of a tool that can ultimately support both professional teachers and volunteers, whether in countries of origin, transit camps or resettlement countries.
What actions do you propose to realize your stated goals?
We intend to adopt an iterative (or “agile”) development methodology so that the solution is created as a collaboration with key stakeholders – including refugee children and teachers in refugee contexts. Note that budgets will be fixed at the start of each stage. However, the indicative milestones below are included to demonstrate the approach we intend to take.
Milestones – pilot phase
- Create initial specifications for user experiences (teacher, student, system administrators). These will include approaches to privacy and security.
- Establish an end-to-end network of educators, aid agencies and other relevant actors – in countries of origin, transit camps and resettlement countries – enthusiastic about the use of this technology and willing to participate in its development and implementation
- Consult network about user experience specifications and best initial curricula/ frameworks against which learning attainment should be recorded, from the standpoint of technology, pedagogy, user culture and the broad context of the refugee experience
- Potentially, identify, create or adapt a relevant content that can be used with the LearnJournal architecture in order to provide common materials when solution is tested.
- Refine specification.
- Consult selected members of network about revised specification and finalise.
- Consult with potential technical development partners and agree costs.
- Develop and test LearnJournal technology, including app and cloud components and app compatibility with the Android operating system (which is most prevalent on mobile devices used by most refugees)
- Trial the use of LearnJournal in the ‘field’ with educators and aid agencies, with a focus on Syrian refugees in either Greece or Lebanon
Milestones – implementation phase
Note: these milestones are broader and intended as a “roadmap” for rollout. As previously, an iterative methodology would be pursued.
- Establish LearnJournal as an effective, multi-functional tool for education tracking and assessment beyond our pilot group, including its adaptation to serve refugees and internally displaced persons elsewhere in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Afghanistan
- Expand LearnJournal to encompass primary, secondary and university education and possibly distance learning, ‘soft skill’ learning and other content deemed relevant by educators and aid agencies
- Integrate UNESCO, INEE and other internationally recognised education certification schemes for use with LearnJournal
- Integrate refugee education resources into the LearnJournal system, perhaps with a feature to download, comment on, and possibly update and upload additional resources (with robust and clear gatekeeping)
- Efforts by Oppi team members have led to a beta Refugee Education Hub created by developers at TES Global, which could be integrated into LearnJournal in the pilot phase we are proposing.
Who will take these actions?
Oppi is a global education movement based around connecting a diverse range of education stakeholders at standout learning events. Oppi celebrates equality and is action-orientated, and seeks to build a meaningful network of talent and expertise that has a positive impact on teaching and learning worldwide.
The seed of LearnJournal emerged from a refugee education session at the most recent Oppi event in September 2016. Since then, a core group of UK-based educators has further developed this idea on a pro bono basis, conducting research across a network that has included Plan International, Teach for All, the International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), MIT, Open Society Foundations, and a variety of NGOs and individuals working ‘on the ground’ in transit and settlement camps with expertise in education, asylum law, and medicine.
The Oppi organisation, and the core pro bono team, will continue to develop LearnJournal through to proof of viability and impact, but not scale. We will then explore funding models for sustainability, which may include deploying the technology in non-refugee settings.
Core pro bono team members:
Lord Jim Knight is the Chief Education Advisor at TES (Times Educational Supplement), the world’s largest network of teachers for sharing teaching resources, news, and help with jobs and development. Lord Knight is a member of the House of Lords, where he specialises in public policy around education, digital, rural affairs and employment. Previously UK Minister of State for Schools from 2006 - 2009, he is currently Chairman of the Board of the Tinder Foundation.
Nick Kind has worked in digital strategy and development for over 20 years, with a specialty in education and technology. Most recently he was Head of Business Insights for one of the largest media organizations in the world, the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Previously among other accomplishments, he co-founded an educational software company and executive produced major digital learning projects for the BBC.
Michael Shaw is the director of TES (Times Educational Supplement) Pro and former deputy editor of the TES magazine. He joined the publication as a news reporter in 2002, and in 2013 set up the app version of the magazine, TES Reader, and the free TES Jobs app
Greg Klerkx is co-founder of the award-winning training and producing company, Nimble Fish. He has developed and delivered large-scale professional development programmes for teachers in the UK, US and Europe and is currently an advisor to the UK-based Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s education grant-making programme.
Based on conversations with aid practitioners, educators and aid agencies, we propose that we would initially work with a population of Syrian refugee children between the ages of 11 and 14 – what would be, in Syria, middle school. Anecdotally we understand that this group is the least catered for in terms of education provided in transit and settlement camps, and is often the hardest group to reach.
We would work either with this population in Lebanon or Greece. In Lebanon, there is a large settlement population served by a relatively stable education system, and with which we have some connection via Teach for All. The refugee population in Greece is largely transitory, with most refugees seeking to move to a third country, and if we chose this population we would also extend the pilot to a European ‘resettlement’ country such as the UK or Germany.
As indicated above, we would hope to expand the solution to other geographies over time.
What do you expect are the costs associated with piloting and implementing the solution, and what is your business model?
We would value the support of the Solve CoLab programme in establishing detailed costs for this pilot. Given that our network and that of Solve CoLab includes a range of players who may contribute time and resources (including programmers) pro bono it is difficult to estimate precise expenditure without undertaking the initial six pilot steps identified above (which we believe we could accomplish without substantial financial outlay, other than perhaps a small amount of travel).
We have identified the following budget categories:
- Project Management – partner development, budget control, implementation leadership, evaluation
- App Development – architecture, design, testing, and programming
- Curriculum identification and content development – most likely adaptation of an existing, established curriculum and content base for trial, e.g., the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), with a focus on English with pre-existing TES resources
- Website development and support
Oppi runs under a social enterprise model, domiciled in the UK: it is a business, but with a mission to do good.
We propose to develop LearnJournal as a pro bono-resourced and grant-funded solution initially. During the course of its creation we will investigate whether or not there might be revenue streams that can be established. Whilst the developed technology will be open source, it may be possible to deploy adapted versions in non-refugee contexts (for example, corporate learning) that could provide a sustainable income for the refugee solution.
We believe the pilot phase of LearnJournal would require 12 months from initial funding through to the completion of viable testing and evaluation. We would begin as soon as basic support was available.
As outlined, we believe the pilot phase would put into place most of the necessary elements - app and supporting infrastructure, learning communities, basic content structure - to expand the programme fairly quickly. At present we are unable to provide definitive user figures with any confidence, but would hope that a majority of educators, educational agencies and aid agencies providing education would use LearnJournal within two years of the start of our implementation phase.
We are aware of proposals to create “learning passports” and “stackable credentials” to assist the integration of refugees into higher education, in Europe, the USA and Africa. To the best of our knowledge, there is nothing like LearnJournal and its focus on the primary and secondary learning journey of refugee children.
On the need for a reliable, widely-used means of tracking refugee learning:
Certification counts: Recognising the learning attainments of displaced and refugee students, Jackie Kirk (ed), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and International Institute for Education Planning, 2009
On the disparity of educational attainment for refugee children:
‘UNHCR reports crisis in refugee education’, 15 September 2016, accessed athttp://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/press/2016/9/57d7d6f34/unhcr-reports-crisis-refugee-education.html
How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24?