I may just be grumpy.  Or old and kvetchy.  Or a “nasty woman.”  But this recent piece from Forbes really chaps my ass.

I mean, okay, kudos, right idea with corporate responsibility, and alms for the poor, and all that, you model-dating bazillionaire, Mr. Musk.

But think for a second about the infrastructure required to put your Xbox or neuro-turbo what-what into play in a country like TZ?

Hello?  Have you ever even come here on safari??  There is no electricity in most schools.  Certainly no internet.  Not enough classrooms.  Not enough trained teaching staff.  Not enough learning materials, i.e. PENCILS.  Not enough teaching materials, i.e. CHALK.  Too many students.  Unengaged parents.  Uninterested school administrators.  The grossest “bathrooms” you will ever see.

I just feel like before proclaiming yourself the “Education Revolutionizer,” you might want to come and see what’s going on over here for yourself.

Meh.

#### 

Possibly Elon Musk’s Biggest Idea Yet – Revolutionizing Education 

An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write, or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills.  UNESCO estimates that the world will need 1.6 million more teachers globally, a number set to double by 2030.  Enter Elon Musk.

Musk is famous for being the face of such organizations as Tesla and SpaceX.  He is also the co-chairman of the AI research company OpenAI and the CEO of neurotechnology company Neuralink, among other companies that he is involved with.  More recently, he provided $15 million to the Global Learning XPRIZE.  The goal is to develop methods to teach the 250 million children who do not have access to primary or secondary education the means to teach themselves to read, write, and do math within 15 months.

Today, XPRIZE announced the five finalists advancing in the Global Learning XPRIZE and awarded each finalist a $1M milestone prize.  XPRIZE awarded each finalist for the open source, cutting-edge learning software they have developed for the competition.  The five finalist teams will begin field testing their education technology solutions this November in Tanzania.

“Universal access to education is a major priority for XPRIZE, and we are proud to celebrate the change-making teams making impressive strides to ensure every single child has the opportunity to take learning into her own hands,” said Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation.  “The leading solutions born from this competition could provide the key to unlocking literacy for children most in need, giving them access to an education they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

An independent committee of 11 judges chose five finalist teams from 198 companies who applied for the award:

  • CCI (New York, United States) is developing structured and sequential instructional programs, in addition to a platform seeking to enable non-coders to develop engaging learning content in any language or subject area.
  • Chimple (Bangalore, India) is developing a learning platform aimed at enabling children to learn reading, writing and mathematics on a tablet through more than 60 explorative games and 70 different stories.
  • Kitkit School (Berkeley, United States) is developing a learning program with a game-based core and flexible learning architecture aimed at helping children independently learn, irrespective of their knowledge, skill, and environment.
  • onebillion (UK/Malawi/Tanzania) is merging numeracy content with new literacy material to offer directed learning and creative activities alongside continuous monitoring to respond to different children’s needs.
  • RoboTutor (Pittsburgh, United States) is leveraging Carnegie Mellon’s research in reading and math tutors, speech recognition and synthesis, machine learning, educational data mining, cognitive psychology, and human-computer interaction.

“Our five finalists are developing the most promising software solutions to enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, as determined by our panel of expert judges,” said Matt Keller, senior director of the Global Learning XPRIZE.  “As we move to the final field testing phase, we are one step closer to scaling transformative technology solutions that foster child-driven learning and provide a world-class education for all.”

To field-test the five finalists’ solutions, the Global Learning XPRIZE partnered with UNESCO, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Government of Tanzania.  Approximately 4,000 children in 150 villages in the Tanga region of Tanzania will use 8,000 Pixel C tablets donated by Google to test the top software solutions for approximately 15 months.

At the end of the field testing phase, the team whose solution enables the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing, and arithmetic will receive the Grand Prize of $10 million, to be announced in April 2019.  Each of the five finalists will be required to open source both their code and their content which will be free and available for anyone to build on.  By ensuring each finalists’ solutions are open source, XPRIZE also aims to proliferate solutions worldwide at the intersection of technology and learning.