Our top educational innovations that responded to the many challenges posed by this unprecedented year.
Indeed, as education is arguably the foundation of society, students falling behind could be one of the worst and most dangerous long-term outcomes of the pandemic.
Therefore, from nursery to university teaching, students and teachers across the world had to quickly adapt to online and creative virtual lessons in a way that ensures the least amount of time and teaching lost. However, another worrying aspect of this is the potential damage to the education of students in developing nations, who don’t have access to the tools and equipment to teach and learn virtually.
The necessity of educating the next generation this year has, of course, paved a gap for innovators across the world. Here we round up our top seven educational innovations that responded to the many challenges posed by this unprecedented year.
1. STUDENTS DEVELOP VIRTUAL CLASSROOM FOR IMPROVED REMOTE-LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Kerala engineering students in India recently won the CODE19 hackathon, for creating a virtual classroom to enable uninterrupted learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their winning entry, iClassroom, connects students with teachers through a social media-type interface. Students and teachers can interact with each other, answer questions, mentor others and conduct online classes.
iClassroom was created by 19-year-old Abhinand C and 20-year-old Shilpa Rajeev, both students at Government College of Engineering in Kannur. According to Shilpa Rajeev, the platform will enable learning communities to interact with each other, share resources and keep track of progress in selected courses, without the need to use multiple communication tools.
2. FREE CLASSES CONDUCTED ON THE STREET FOR DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS IN NEW DELHI
When India imposed a nationwide lockdown in late March to slow the spread of COVID-19, all schools were shut and had switched to digital learning. As most of the schools still remain closed, problems have arisen for children from low-income families who do not have access to the internet or the means to purchase digital learning tools. In an effort to help these children from falling behind in school, singer Veena Gupta and her former diplomat husband, Virendra Gupta, have been conducting free lessons on the streets of New Delhi for children aged four to 14.
The idea for the impromptu street-side classes came when the Guptas’ maid complained that children in her impoverished community were running amok because they haven’t had the means to learn during the lockdown. With the goal of keeping these children engaged, the couple bought all the necessary teaching materials and set up the open-air classrooms, offering free lessons in maths, science, English and physical education. After each lesson, Veena treats the children to her homemade lemonade and cookies.
3. ‘TREE-HOUSE SCHOOL’ DESIGNED FOR THE COVID ERA
US-based designer Valentino Gareri has come up with a modular educational centre concept featuring two ring-shaped structures that blend outdoor and indoor spaces. The “Tree-House School” addresses health concerns stemming from COVID-19, while incorporating sustainable features and a modular design that allows for future expansion based on capacity needs.
Classrooms would be well-ventilated, and social distancing would be easier to achieve due to the extra spaces incorporated in the design. Rooms can also be repurposed for different functions, including temporary medical centres or short-term residential units. Sustainable features include rainwater collection and wind energy devices. These would be visible to the students, located on the roof, allowing for sustainability to become part of the educational experience.
4. INITIATIVE PROVIDES E-LEARNING SUPPORT TO KENYA DURING COVID-19
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, education facilities across the globe have been forced to temporarily close for the safety of their staff and students. In Kenya, over 15 million students are expected to be learning from home, which has prompted multinational technology company Huawei Technologies to launch an eLearning initiative. The Learn ON program provides high-quality resources on an open platform, together with financial support to ensure educational continuity.
The program includes a few key benefits, the first being a €4.5 million Huawei ICT Academy Development Incentive Fund, provided to partner colleges for activities such as online courses and training. More than 1500 teachers are expected to be trained, and over 100 online “Train the Trainer” sessions will be available between through December. Lastly, 50,000 students are expected to be trained through online self-learning, courses and classes.
5. PROTECTIVE FACE SHIELD FOR CHILDREN IS CUSTOMISABLE AND REUSABLE
With worldwide anxiety at an incredible high, Luxembourg-based Metaform architects created a protective face shield for children that introduces a bit of light-hearted fun in the design. Meant to sit atop a hat or visor, the base of the shield is 3D-printed, and the entire design is open source for maximal use and sharing. The main components of the shield are the base and an upper and lower PVC shield. The studio included in the design a template for paper accoutrements that include bug eyes and a crown.
Wearers sew the base to the hat for easy on and off. The shields snap apart for swift cleaning, and the designers recommend recycling the paper inserts every day. The team emphasises the non-medical nature of the shield and states that it is to be used as an additional form of protection against infection. The goal of the shield is to make it easier for young children to avoid touching their faces, amongst the many other new safety measures being introduced in schools and other public places.
6. TOY WOODEN CUBES TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY
The Student Runner Up award in this year’s Core 77 Design Awards has gone to three students at the Umeå Institute of Design. The student team, consisting of Anna Hing, Fabian Böttcher, Soh Heum Hwang, have designed a toy that lets children explore energy sustainability in a creative way.
The toy, named Joul, consists of small wooden blocks, each of which is part of the energy cycle – generation, storage or usage. The generation cubes include blocks topped by solar panels, miniature wind turbines and hand cranks. The storage cubes are batteries which can be charged by the generation cubes. Finally, there are usage cubes, lights and speakers powered from the storage cubes.
Specially-designed sounds also help children link different energy sources. For example, the sounds of a marimba indicate the connection between different blocks, and as storage blocks are stacked up to add more energy, different tones add up and create harmonies. The blocks are also accompanied by a mobile interface, which indicates how much energy is being created.
7. STARTUP SELLS PORTABLE LIGHT DEVICE TO FUND SOLAR CHARGING STATIONS IN TANZANIA
South Korea and US-based solar technology startup YOLK has kickstarted a crowdfunding campaign designed to fund dozens of solar charging stations at schools across Tanzania.
Funding will be provided by customers buying the Solar Milk portable batteries and light. Solar Milk can be used as a power bank to charge mobile phones and also makes an excellent night or flashlight. Solar Milk provides hours of bright light per charge, or six hours of soft light.
There is then an option to buy the same device for a child in Tanzania. At home, Solar Milk can be charged with using a USB-C and in Tanzania, children will be able to charge them at special solar charging systems, which are installed in schools.
Many low-income families in developing countries rely on kerosene lighting and relatively expensive charging stations to meet their energy needs. The project, called Solar Cow, aims to provide a tangible incentive for parents in low-income families in Tanzania to send their children to school instead of work. Furthermore, Solar Cow has been designed to fit into and enhance kids’ existing routines, as they transport batteries to their homes on their daily school commute.
Written By: Holly Hamilton
10th December 2020