Sleeping Dragons

Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history.
You’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people… so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.

-Steve Jobs

The Challenge

As of 2012, there were more than 57 million children not enrolled in school. (Source: UNESCO) Over 770 million adults cannot read and write, with a disproportionate number of them being female. Even in the US, there are 32 million adults who cannot read, and around 20% of all adults cannot read beyond a 5th grade level. (Source: StatisticBrain / USDOE) Not having access to a quality education denies people the very tools they need to improve themselves and their communities. How many future astronauts, doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers, and others are out there waiting, simply deprived of access to an education that would allow them to reach their potential? We see the untapped potential in all of these individuals as “sleeping dragons”, just waiting to be awoken.

Our Answer

The Sleeping Dragons project aims to create an open-source learning engine that runs on desktops, tablets and smartphones. It will be completely autonomous, and the first release will contain modules for learning essential skills like reading, writing and arithmatic in the learner’s target language. As the learner interacts with the system, it will use behavior analysis to perform real-time assessment of the learner’s progress, and this data will be used to customize the speed, difficulty and level of guidance, ensuring they’re always challenged, but never frustated.

Key Objectives

These are what we perceive to be the key elements needed to make this system a success.

  • Focus on the First Principles of Instruction and Active Learning, meaning learning will emphasize achieving goals and performing activities, rather than more passive methods of learning like reading and listening
  • Maximize learner motivation and interest by tying learning to its real-world applications and providing rewards for achievements
  • Assess the learner’s progress and adapt accordingly, speeding up when they excel and slowing down when they are having difficulty
  • Create a lifelong, finely-grained and comprehensive learning record that measures a learner’s level of mastery of specific knowledge and skills rather than the more abstract and subjective grades we use today
  • Allow and encourage failure and trial-and-error. Getting something wrong is not a failure to be punished, but a critical first step towards getting it right. Many great discoveries were the result of mistakes and failures.
  • Cover soft-skills, to help develop empathy, communication and collaboration skills, which are critical in helping create good life-long learning behaviors.
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