My name is Martha Kamundi, an LGT Impact Fellow in the 2018 cohort. I am working with Bridge International Academies (Bridge) in Nairobi, Kenya, as an Academics Fellow within the Learning Innovation Department. My job mainly involves carrying out learning innovation research in academies.

Bridge is a social enterprise whose mission is to provide millions of children with a life-changing education. Bridge provides quality pre-primary and primary education to children in underserved communities, hence contributing solutions towards putting an end to the cycle of poverty.

Being a data-driven organization, Bridge uses evidence-based approaches by leveraging innovation and technology to transform learning outcomes for children in Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria and India.

Building partnerships with several stakeholders is one of the many ways through which Bridge can provide high-quality education. This blog will tell the story of one such recent partnership.

As part of ongoing measurement and evaluation, Bridge has been using numeracy and literacy assessments like Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) and Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) to assess competencies of its pupils. When an opportunity arose to pilot software that has built-in assessment to create an adaptive and personalized learning system, Bridge did not shy away.

onebillion is a nonprofit organization that has designed and built comprehensive and scalable software for children learning both in and out of school. Like Bridge, it is focused on creating innovative ways to improve learning outcomes for children. The onebillion educational software – onecourse – approaches numeracy and literacy in the child’s own language using a suite of reading, writing, and numeracy activities.

Jamie Stuart, CTO and Director of onebillion approached Bridge in Kenya to assist in testing a new component of their onecourse software. The component would assess pupil learning levels and provide data to onecourse in order to align the rigor of the activities with the ability levels of the learner. At the time, onebillion was also one of five finalists for the well publicized $15M Global Learning XPRIZE.

A large fraction of my time is spent solo in Bridge classrooms testing learning materials, so I was glad to accompany Jamie to an academy to carry out the testing. Suffice it to say, as an Academics Fellow at Bridge, I constantly find myself at the forefront of learning innovation and data-driven decision making.

The minute the children saw Jamie and I arrive at Kingston Academy on May 2nd, they knew that something good was about to happen. Shadrack Juma, the Kingston Academy Manager quickly set up Jamie in the hall, while I liaised with the children’s teachers.

Educational Partnerships in Kenya

A few pupils from Grades 1-4 had been invited to participate in the pilot during the school day. As they came to take part, I introduced myself, asked them to tell me their names and then told them that they’d get to play a game on a computer tablet. Jamie then introduced himself along with the cool ‘game’. The game, which was in Swahili, had a digital teacher called Mahira who gave short and clear instructions in audio, on each activity whilst providing encouragement to the children throughout.

Jamie was a natural with the children, and quickly made them feel at ease. Pupils were well on their way to finishing the game. The test had a total of 15 questions. Children got feedback on their performance to each question immediately without upsetting them where they erred. One of the approaches that Bridge classrooms take is to ensure that children are not disheartened when they make a mistake.

The test went smoothly and by the end of the 3-hour session, the rest of the school had heard news of the game. Pupils began hanging around in the room, waiting their turn! In the end, Jamie distributed two tablets on game mode to two other pupils. Within minutes, the room filled up with curious onlookers! It became clear that while the game was an educational tool, it was also fun. The children who were familiar to their teachers using teacher computers in their classes were quite excited and comfortable holding a tablet and using the software. With Mahira’s and Jamie’s help, it was as if the children had been using the software all their lives.

As with most research, you test and then test again. onebillion returned to Bridge a week later for additional testing. The purpose of the second testing session was to verify the accuracy and repeatability of the onecourse assessment component. We wanted to ensure that when pupils completed the test again, they received a similar, consistent score.

When we arrived it was as if all the children at Kingston Academy had been waiting for us. This time, our interested audience was even larger and bolder! Due to the large audience, it was not possible to give out the tablets on game mode for play, at the end of the second testing. Instead Jamie took a few group photos of the children holding the tablet.

Working with partners and helping to test ways of improving learning is an important part of working at Bridge. Bridge is very proud of onebillion for being a co-winner in the Global Learning XPRIZE and is quite excited about future potential collaboration opportunities.

Being privileged to work with individuals and companies that are at the top of their field; as well as individuals and communities that companies are trying to impact; are the best perks of working for an LGT Venture Philanthropy portfolio company. These interactions make for some very memorable moments that LGT Impact Fellows cherish for the rest of their lives!

Photo Credit: onebillion and Bridge International Academies