Seeds of Empowerment, a California-based non-profit organization, implements SMILE (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment) in developing regions. Currently, SMILE is used in multiple scenarios. For example, in countries such as Ghana and Tanzania, SMILE is implemented for secondary school students with partnering local organizations to distribute high-quality open source education contents and enhance learning experiences while enabling technology-based assessment schemes. In countries such as Mexico and USA, SMILE is implemented for primary school students in underprivileged areas where access to reliable Internet is not available. In South Africa and India, SMILE is used for informal education settings for ages of all learners. Current programs have been funded by UNESCO and various partnering NGOs. Additional implementations are scheduled with support from new NGO partners.
SMILE is an interactive learning management solution designed to promote higher-order learning experiences and generate instant learning analytics. The model consists of mobile learning management software and a small form factor computer server that acts as a main router, wi-fi, and storage. The small form factor SMILE plug (hardware) is an ad-hoc wif-fi server that can operate on a battery in places where access to Internet and electricity is not available. SMILE generates learning analytics summaries on student performance in multiple dimensions (i.e. overall group or individual achievement results, peer evaluation results, ranking, quality of outcomes, etc.) instantly without having to manually score or review learning outcomes. GLOBAL SMILE, software running a cloud server, enables the exchange of inquiries (e.g., students in Ghana and Tanzania generate questions while students in the U.S. solve the questions and comment on them) and aggregates questions as learning objects to create a global learning object repository. Overall, SMILE addresses three major issues the current education system is facing: access, engagement, and transparency.
SMILE offers multiple sets of advantages including the capability of creating a unique interactive learning environment that promotes higher-order learning opportunities (e.g., creation of inquiries, presentation of questions, analysis of peer-generated questions, evaluation of individual students and overall class performance, etc.) linked to new common core learning standards; the capability of engaging students in inquiry-based learning sessions at a global scale; the capability of generating real-time learning analytics while students are engaged in interactive learning activities; and the capability to create a low-cost mobile wireless learning environment for extremely underserved regions where access to Internet and electricity is not reliable or available. At a site such as Ghana or Mexico, visitors will see classrooms where a SMILE plug is serving up to 60 tablets or chrome book devices used by students who are actively creating, exchanging, solving, evaluating, and presenting questions on topics of a variety of subjects covered by their teachers. SMILE is a subject- and device-agnostic pedagogical model enabled by mobile wireless communication network and devices.
Overall, SMILE is to solve access problems where access to quality education content, Internet access, and reliable electricity is not available. SMILE also solves the student engagement issue widely witnessed in traditional memorization-based classrooms. Most importantly, SMILE provides transparency in monitoring student achievement because it generates real-time learning analytics for teachers and stakeholders to dynamically respond to discrepancies identified.
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CEI approaches in action
Partnering with established local NGOs dedicated to education, Seeds of Empowerment collaborates in allocating financial resources to implement SMILE.
Mexico: local government-funded
Colombia: local government-funded
Since 2012, Seeds of Empowerment has reached more than 22,000 students and teachers in a total of more than 25 countries.
Seeds of Empowerment plans to continue implementing SMILE in more schools and classrooms in underserved regions around the world and conduct longitudinal studies on the educational and social impact the program is making. Stanford University is planning to continue to enhance the overall model and solutions through various means. SMILE will be continuously implemented by large implementation partners such as Edify.org, CongoVoice, etc.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Stanford University is in the process of collecting data from all deployed SMILE plugs through remote desktop capabilities. With such technology, it will be easy to create a global performance dashboard that shows activities, progress, and milestones of all SMILE sites around the world in real time.