We’re thrilled to announce that Kukua is a partner in a consortium developing standards frameworks for twenty-first century learning. Our job for the consortium is to create an international standards framework that can describe educational outcomes at many levels across many national educational systems. The consortium is led by Microsoft Research and includes several European universities, research centers in Germany and Portugal and ed tech startups such as Sweden’s Triba Learning.  The whole project aims at richer and deeper learning experiences, by advancing the ed tech industry into knowledge management and data-driven learning.

So what are standards frameworks and why are we building one ? Basically, standards frameworks are the foundation layer in the emerging industry of knowledge management. They describe, name and evaluate all the attainments of learning. You need standards frameworks to assemble all those smart tools which adapt and personalize your learning, validate your progress, and produce certified outcomes of your competence. We think, that as railroad tracks were to the industrial revolution, so standards are to the revolution in ICT for education. Everything travels along them. That is why these underlying frameworks matter.

The key to localizing content

Our work for the project, due to start September 2015, will see Kukua build a machine-readable map of standards of achievement for learning. Crucially, and for the first time in the history of ed tech, our standards will span multiple languages and jurisdictions. Kukua will map, in a single environment, the standards of learning across many different curricula, national school systems and mother tongues. Using software rules to link different schemas of learning, we we will be able to automate the process of adapting core learning content for specific settings. It brings down the cost and time required for creating hyper-local content.

It’s essential groundwork for our mission of delivering literacy and numeracy through technology in the highly diverse cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa. We will often need to “translate” our learning products between settings and languages, while retaining accurate pegging to a unified standards framework. Because we are working on that, we can also work with the Microsoft Research consortium on the standards which will be used to intelligently “read” the attainments of OECD and EU students and discover their equivalence. The system architecture will be just as suitable when mapping the attainment data for our Sub-Saharan African learners. Kukua’s users may be from low-income settings, but their education too should be running on the smartest technologies.

Closing the attainment gap

Standards are a theme in a recent report New Vision for Education from the World Economic Forum, pointing out the global gap between rich and poor nations learning achievements in areas like numeracy, literacy, ICT etc. The WEF study explores the potential for technology to assist in such problems. The authors argue that if technology is to have any impact, then attainments and skills need “definitions and globally uniform standards”. Indeed, WEF’s first recommendation is the creation of such standards (as yet, these frameworks don’t exist…). So we are on to solving that problem.

The other focus of WEF’s “New Vision” report is the so-called “twenty-first century” skill set, which includes character traits like resilience and initiative, alongside competencies such as creativity and thinking. Numeracy and Literacy – the XPRIZE goals – are just two among 16 such skills. Here’s their diagram of it all.

Twenty-first century skills standards are seen as specially relevant in the Microsoft Learning consortium, which addresses developed education markets. We think they may also be useful for our Sub-Saharan African literacy projects. If important values like curiosity and problem-solving can be handled by our learning standards frameworks, we can plan to offer them to our African learners working on literacy and numeracy too. It’s great if Kukua can build standards frameworks capable of addressing the deep human qualities that will shape the next generation of advanced learning technology, and even better if we can use them to serve our sub-Saharan learners.

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