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Surrey teacher Linda Dyck (fourth from left) is one of 11 people selected to judge the Global Learning XPRIZE contest, aimed at bringing education to children in developing countries.
A Surrey elementary school teacher has been chosen to be part of a global experiment aimed at helping more than 250 million children learn basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Linda Dyck, a Grade 4 teacher at Maple Green Elementary, is one of just eleven judges – and only two teachers – selected worldwide for the Global Learning XPRIZE, a $15-million contest to develop software that will allow children in remote African villages to teach themselves how to read and do simple math.
The underlying goal of the project, sponsored by UNESCO and The World Food Program in conjunction with Tanzania government, Google and a $15-million prize provided by Elon Musk, is to "enable a child to learn autonomously." Currently, about 260 million children globally do not have access to education.
"Being chosen among such a prestigious group of accomplished people and participating in such an important project has been amazing," says Dyck.
She was invited to be an XPRIZE judge after being recognized as an education leader in 2014 by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
"Being a part of such a huge project is both exciting and rewarding," she says of her latest assignment. "The best part of my ISTE Outstanding Teacher award is having this opportunity to be part of Global Learning Xprize."
The project challenged teams from around the world to design an app – in both English and Swahili – that will allow children aged seven to 10 to teach themselves. The initial 193 entrants were whittled down to five finalists, who received $1 million apiece to proceed with testing in Tanzania.
Dyck says each of the 11 judges bring varying viewpoints and expertise, including linguistics, artificial intelligence, gaming design, neuroscience and language development.
"As a judge, I have met with them all and spent a week with them reviewing and choosing the five finalists," she says. "Their insights and perspectives were thought provoking and enlightening."
More than 4,000 children in 150 remote villages have now received tablets with one of the five finalists' apps, and have begun a 15-month trial. At the end of the trial period, the children will be tested to gauge how much they were able to learn using the software. The grand prize winner will be awarded $10 million.
"This could change the lives of so many children and could be the first step in bringing education to many children in developing countries throughout the world," Dyck says.
Judging the finalists begins in February and will be an ongoing process until the final results are announced in April 2019.