Six digital learning best practices recognized by the UNESCO Prize for ICT in Education

An exceptional award ceremony was organized at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 24 June to celebrate the six winners of the UNESCO-King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the use of ICT in education. After a two-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event brought together winners from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 editions to showcase the use of technology to improve teaching, learning and performance global education.

The long-awaited award ceremony took place in the UNESCO Conference Hall, Room I, in the presence of HE Majed Bin Ali Al-Noaimi, Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Education, and the members of the International Jury of the Prize. The ceremony attracted hundreds of enthusiastic participants from UNESCO Member States, academic institutions, technology companies, students, researchers, etc. laureates, rewarding innovative and impactful projects from all over the world (Brazil, Spain, People’s Republic of China, Finland, India and United Republic of Tanzania).

In his speech, HE Majed Bin Ali Al-Noaimi hailed the Prize as one of the longest partnerships between the Kingdom of Bahrain and UNESCO. As the minister pointed out, “the winning projects showcased technology initiatives aimed at extending educational services in various circumstances the world is experiencing.”

Ms. Stefania Giannini underlined the importance of the Prize stating that “when it was created in 2005 to highlight best practices in the use of technologies, this Prize was a pioneer. Today, with the acceleration of the digital revolution, it is a global benchmark that continues to evolve with our rapidly changing times. Reflecting on her valuable role in global advocacy, she reaffirmed that “we need to share and scale up proven solutions to leave no one behind and transform education systems, and today’s winners offer a rich and inspiring array of paths to follow”.

A Seminar was also organized on the same day to present the six winners and a finalist project. In light of the Education Transformation Summit and its Action Track 4 on “Digital Learning and Transformation”, the event also contributed to the broader discussion on the direction of use digital technologies to enhance open digital learning.

Good practices in using digital technology to achieve the common good of education

Since its inception in 2005, the Prize has called for nominations under an annual theme designed to guide the use of technological innovations to address the fundamental challenges countries face in achieving the vision of SDG 4 – Education 2030.

The theme for 2019 was The use of artificial intelligence to innovate in education, learning and teachingand two winners were announced in 2020:

  • “Letrus Writing Skills Program”, Letrus, Brazil: Letrus helps improve the Portuguese writing skills of primary and secondary school students through an adaptive online learning platform. Since 2014, the tool has been used in 957 schools by 1,327 teachers and 116,677 students, contributing to an average improvement of 10% after writing five essays on the platform.
  • “Dytective”, Change Dyslexia, Spain: “Dytective” is an AI-based screening tool for early detection of dyslexia in Spanish and a game-based learning environment for practicing essential skills to support dyslexic learners. Since 2016, thanks to the free screening tool, more than 250,000 people in 42 countries have been able to detect dyslexia for the first time.

The theme for 2020 was The use of artificial intelligence to improve the continuity and quality of learning. Two winners were selected in 2021:

  • Project “One College Student Per Village”, Open University of China, People’s Republic of China: Since 2017, with the help of AI-based solutions, the program has created quality online and offline learning environments for students residing in rural China. In 2020, 538 online and offline learning environments were created in 31 provinces with 825,827 learners enrolled in the program.
  • “CITY”, Center for Learning Analytics, University of Turku, Finland: The AI-enhanced platform supports teachers and learners’ individual learning paths. In 2020, 48% of Finnish schools are using the platform with approximately 300,000 students and over 14,000 registered teachers who have collaboratively created over 4,000 lessons and 130,000 exercises through the Teachers to Teachers initiative.

To draw lessons from the education response to the COVID-19 crisis, the theme for 2021 was The use of technology to enable inclusive and crisis-resilient learning systems. And the two winners were selected in 2022:

  • “Inclusive and Accessible Education Initiatives”, Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), National Council for Educational Research and Training, India: The Initiatives provide multimodal access through television channels, radios and several web portals and applications, reaching more than 1.5 million schools, 240 million students and 8.5 million teachers. The learning content, which is also available for learners with special needs, includes 360 digitized textbooks available in 11 local languages.
  • “Digital Education Programme”, Ubongo International, United Republic of Tanzania: The program leverages the power of entertainment, technology, research, and child-centered design to bring effective, localized learning to school-aged children and their parents. Since 2014, Ubongo’s TV and radio programs have reached 27 million families through multiple platforms, achieving an 84% TV saturation rate and a 50% radio saturation rate in Tanzania.

UNESCO Prize for ICT in Education: Piloting the use of ICT as a common good for education

Since 2005, the UNESCO-King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for ICT in Education, supported by the Kingdom of Bahrain, has awarded 26 innovative projects from a wide range of institutions and organizations. Two projects are selected each year from among hundreds of applications, which have undergone a rigorous selection process and have been nominated by National Commissions for UNESCO or NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO. An external review of the Prize carried out in 2020 confirmed that the Prize has particular added value in promoting universal access to information and knowledge, expanding learning opportunities through technology and promoting equitable and quality education for all.

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