Open Innovation to Advance Children's Learning
Open innovation competition to encourage young entrepreneurs to think big to influence the future of learning.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, United States
In early 2010 a new US nationwide open innovation competition was launched.
The goals of the inaugural Cooney Center Prizes for Innovation in Children’s Learning were to discover and nurture breakthrough ideas in children’s digital media and learning.
The competition is the brainchild of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a US-based non-profit research and innovation lab. It will help the organization fulfill its objectives of advancing the role of digital technologies in promoting literacy amongst children aged 6-12 as well as other people struggling to read.
A Challenge for Innovators
Innovators were challenged in two categories, 'Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning' and 'Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning'. The submissions were whittled down to a handful of finalists who were invited to pitch their ideas to media industry and education leaders at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles in June 2010.
The winner of the 'Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning' category was Project NOAH (Networked Organisms and Habitats), a mobile app to teach children and young people to appreciate their natural surroundings.
The app also serves as a useful research tool for scientists because the project has a community hub on the web (www.networkedorganisms.og) where people from all over the world can document and photograph their local wildlife, and share this information with other users.
A number of research organizations are using the data collected by the crowd in support of their missions. Examples of missions include those that track migrating birds and invasive species.
NOAH helps children to master science and technology skills by learning about wildlife. They also get to contribute to the work of such organizations as the National Geographic Society.
It was created by Yasser Ansari, Martin Ceperley, Bruno Kruse, and Peter Horvath of Networked Organisms, LLC and they were awarded a check for $50,000 towards developing their app as well as ongoing business planning support.
Electric Company Heroes
The winner of the literacy category was Jay Schiffman for ‘The Electric Company Heroes’ an online game that promotes literacy through a range of role-playing activities. He was awarded a check for $10,000 and will work with the Sesame Workshop to further develop the idea.
Players create an avatar hero and play games that test their literacy skills. They earn points for mastering such skills as vocabulary and reading comprehension and these points can be traded for new superpowers for their avatar.
Benefits of Open Innovation Contests
The Cooney Center Prizes for Innovation in Children’s Learning proved yet again the great value of open innovation contests to galvanize innovators to come up with imaginative and future forward ideas.
The Executive Director of the Cooney Center, Dr. Michael H. Levine was crystal clear about the value of the competition: “The prizes competition encourages young entrepreneurs to think big and to develop bold digital prototypes that may influence the future of learning. We are delighted that the inaugural winners and finalists produced innovations with real potential to make a positive difference in millions of children’s lives.”
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