Innovative EdTech approaches to provide education to hard-to-reach learners

By All Children Reading Innovators

This blog contains a summary of responses from innovators who were asked by All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) to share how their EdTech solutions address challenges in relation to equity and inclusion. A partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government, ACR GCD has established itself as a sandbox for innovation and a leader in EdTech for literacy by supporting innovators in developing, implementing, and scaling game-changing solutions, tools and approaches to address gaps and barriers to child literacy in and outside of school to improve reading outcomes in low-resource contexts. The innovators participated in a consultation hosted by ACR GCD regarding the 2023 GEM Report currently being developed on technology and education.

Little Thinking Minds | Integrated International

Before the introduction of the ACR GCD-funded Qysas program in Jordan, the average statistic for reading in the Arab world was one book per year, or an average of 17 minutes a year. The interpretation of that statistic traditionally has been that the Arab culture is not a reading culture. But after Little Thinking Minds and Integrated International introduced Qysas, kids were reading 100-150 books during the school year, which indicates that the low levels of book reading is an access issue. When students have access to engaging books at an appropriate level, they read.

Evaluations also showed that the project’s use of EdTech is generating statistically significant and robust improvement in literacy rates. Locally designed, the innovators report the path to scaling has also been reliant on local partnerships, local understanding, and a customized and localized approach.

In 2018, through a collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, the innovators launched a new digital library for kindergarten through grade 3 to align the content with their Arabic curriculum at grade level and introduce concepts of social cohesion to support integration of refugees in the double-shift schools, to accommodate both Jordanian and Syrian learners. The Let’s Live in Harmony library of 118 books is now being implemented in 100 double-shift schools; 25 tablets containing the interactive library were allocated to each school and rotated from classroom to classroom, reaching 15,000 children.

With support from UKAid and USAID, Let’s Live in Harmony is being institutionalized through integration into the extracurricular weekly block for literacy strengthening, while teachers and supervisors being trained on the delivery of the program receive professional development points.


NGO SIL LEAD, is the creator of Bloom, a library of and platform for creating accessible books in any language. The platform, which has been enhanced through several ACR GCD awards, provides individuals and organizations the wherewithal to enhance any book with accessible features. Users can open a book in Bloom and add image descriptions, audio, sign language video and more. There are now more than 11,000 books in more than 480 languages that are free and open digital content for others to use and contextualize.

For example, under the USAID LEA project in Guatemala, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, 600 books were developed that have hundreds of thousands of reads. The books are put into Bloom Reader and then a systematic distribution process utilizing WhatsApp was used to push books out to families during the pandemic. Their own research showed that children that had access to the books actually had learning and reading gains rather than loss during the pandemic.



Benetech empowers communities with software for social good. In 2014, through one of its ACR GCD-funded projects, Bookshare India, Benetech recorded audio storybooks in Marathi, an underserved language in India, to accompany printed books so that children could listen to the audio to improve Braille literacy. With advances in technology, Bookshare now includes more formats in nearly 100 languages.

Digital content is the best way to reach learners with print disabilities, as it can be used offline and with low bandwidth. But different users have different needs. People consume reading content in different ways, based on the devices they have access to. Benetech provides five formats to the reading content so users can pull down content in the way they want to consume it. Combining all these formats in one in master digital accessible books is also cost effective because it meets multiple peoples’ needs.

Bookshare is now being used to provide content in digital, accessible formats along with other technology, such as laptops and smartphones, to read ebooks and audiobooks, and the project is training educators, librarians, resource center staff and students with visual disabilities how to use both the device and Bookshare and other electronic devices that allow individuals with print disabilities to read.


Curious Learning

Curious Learning localizes, distributes and measures use of digital learning software, including Feed the Monster, a literacy gaming app developed through a competition conducted by the Norwegian Government and ACR GCD. Curious Learning adapted the open-source code and has made the app available in more than 50 languages with 600,000 users globally.

Curious Learning’s approach is particularly relevant for hard-to-reach populations. The traditional approach to education and learning views schools as the single-entry point to children’s learning, whereas smartphone technology can facilitate the opportunity to reach children with content in their homes, via parent and caregiver devices, which can have a powerful impact. A World Bank intervention that provided $40 smartphones preloaded with Feed the Monster and the Global Digital Library to 3,000 children in northern Nigeria improved reading outcomes for children in low resource contexts in as little as five days.

Using digital advertising tools, Curious Learning helps parents find out about the free learning content usable on their existing smartphones. This means that apps can be placed in the hands of children at very low cost, which is infinitely more scalable than proprietary models. For example, Nepal has high cell phone penetration and low data costs, but there were no organic downloads of Feed the Monster. Through an $10,000 advertising intervention on Facebook targeting the entire country, 135,000 kids were reached with Feed the Monster in Nepali within six months.

A Ukrainian version of Feed the Monster was released in March. Ukraine and neighbouring countries receiving Ukrainian refugees were targeted using Facebook and Google, resulting in over 100,000 downloads within two months. By early June, the app had been downloaded 130,000 times, with over 85,000 active learners. The average advertising cost per download is $0.15.

While the efficacy of Feed the Monster has been proven by multiple research studies, a test has also been embedded in the app with a letter sound assessment in Ukrainian to help verify learning at scale.

Visit to read the interview from which this blog was compiled.

Consultation Report on the 2023 GEM Report


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