Global Learning XPRIZE awards $1 million each to final five teams

The Global Learning XPRIZE, an international competition to create educational software, has reached its penultimate stage: 5 teams out of an initial pool of nearly 200 have been selected to receive $1 million and compete for the $10 million grand prize.

The problem, of course, isn’t that kids around the world don’t have a good enough app — access to basic resources, teachers and other considerations are the real limitations. But that’s why the competition aims to create software that kids can use to teach themselves, off the grid and with no top-down help.

A panel of independent judges whittled down the numbers, and semi-finalists got a month to shape up and present again; the 5 finalists selected are about to begin field testing. Thousands of tablets provided by Google, charged at solar stations made available for public use, will be the hardware platform. Matt Keller, who is leading the program, has been on the ground in the Tanzanian villages where they plan to perform the testing, identifying potential pain points and getting advice from locals on how to make the program effective.

I’ll let XPRIZE do the describing in the bullet points below, since they’ve actually used and judged them, but each team also has their own video (linked in the name) describing the team and technique employed:

  • CCI (New York, United States) is developing structured and sequential instructional programs, in addition to a platform seeking to enable non-coders to develop engaging learning content in any language or subject area.
  • Chimple (Bangalore, India) is developing a learning platform aimed at enabling children to learn reading, writing and mathematics on a tablet through more than 60 explorative games and 70 different stories.
  • Kitkit School (Berkeley, United States) is developing a learning program with a game-based core and flexible learning architecture aimed at helping children independently learn, irrespective of their knowledge, skill and environment.
  • onebillion (UK/Malawi/Tanzania) is merging numeracy content with new literacy material to offer directed learning and creative activities alongside continuous monitoring to respond to different children’s needs.
  • RoboTutor (Pittsburgh, United States) is leveraging Carnegie Mellon’s research in reading and math tutors, speech recognition and synthesis, machine learning, educational data mining, cognitive psychology and human-computer interaction.

Each was awarded $1 million to fund further development — and of course as a reward for having created an effective piece of software.

Next up is the real test, though: thousands of kids will put the apps through their paces for more than a year. The program that shows the best results will take home the grand prize, a $10 million check.

That probably won’t be until early 2019, but it’s likely we’ll hear from the Global Learning XPRIZE team before then. You can keep up with the latest developments at the competition’s website.