Innovations for “back to school” season

Autumn is traditionally a time of return – to work, but especially to school. As this is a season like no other, here are some initiatives that take an innovative approach to teaching and learning.

yoluyla Mark Tungate , Adforum

Many of us have just watched our children trot off to school, willingly or reluctantly, masked or not. Some of us have also spent a long period teaching our children at home. The digital era has impacted teaching as it has everything else, so let’s take a look at some interesting innovations from the world of education.

One of the projects that caught our eye recently was the GIF Learning Library, developed in the Philippines by Facebook and the advertising agency BBDO Guerrero. The aim is to promote child online safety and positive parenting as kids spend more time in front of screens. According to Manila-based magazine Adobo, the GIFs – available free from Facebook or Instagram – combine “cute and colorful animation with short, easy-to-read text that can help parents talk to their children about staying safe in the time of physical distancing”.

Underpinning the project is the idea that, while monitoring screen time is a priority, it’s also important to ensure that children are engaged with content that challenges their developing minds – while keeping them amused, of course.

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Education is not just the domain of childhood. Despite the wealth of scientific fact contained between the covers of books, many adults prefer to believe what they read online – fuelling everything from racial prejudice to the flat earth theory. Penguin Books wanted to do something about that, so with the agency Africa it came up with an algorithm that seeks out outrageously misinformed tweets and matches them with a book that sets the facts straight. At a discounted price, of course.

Staying with books for a moment, here’s a neat campaign from South Africa that linked garbage collectors with an under-stocked library. Can you guess what they did? Take a look at the film.

We all know that apps and other digital tools can help us learn a new language. But can they save a language that’s dying? Enter Kupu, an app from telecom brand Spark and Colenso BBDO, which is helping to save New Zealand’s native language, Te Reo Maori. As the agency points out, while global connectivity has brought us all closer together, it is also contributing to the loss of indigenous languages. In fact, on average one language is lost every 14 days. Smartphones are part of the problem – but they may also present a solution.

Not all educational solutions are digital. Do emotions have a taste? They do according to this very analogue project from Dentsu in Japan. With one of the country’s oldest publishing companies, the agency created a book for very young children that matched expressions and feelings with snacks contained within its pages. The book was called “Tasteful Words”. Here’s a bite-sized explanation.

In India, a charity sought donations for its drive to send more girls to school. The agency Famous Innovations knew that people often failed to donate because they weren’t sure where there money is going. The solution was to identify several real-life girls who’d received an education thanks to the charity – and dramatize their stories in book form.

One of the most heartwarming projects to emerge from India this year was the Open Door Project, from FCB Ulka and the Millennium School. Put simply, the private school opened its doors to underprivileged kids – whose parents can’t afford to pay for their education – when its official lessons ended in the afternoon. The school donated its own teachers and resources to transform lives – and encourage other private schools across India to do the same.

Finally, a footnote from history. Because education is still, today, the great “leveler-upper”.