In September, I attended Dell's "Social Think Tank on Innovation in Education". Around this time, Dell launched its Education Challenge, "a new competition that focuses on finding solutions to some of today’s challenges in the area of primary/K12 education". Only teams of college students could apply, carrying forward one of the key themes that emerged from the Think Tank: Get students involved in solving the problems that so fundamentally affect them. Last week, Dell announced the four finalists out of 400 entries at Dell World, and selected the top entry to receive $10,000 in seed funding and an entry in Dell's 2013 Social Innovation Challenge.
The winner, Forward Tutoring, will use the $10,000 prize to expand its programs at several universities:
Forward Tutoring is an online platform where students earn credits for volunteering in their communities and redeem those credits for tutoring from other qualified students; tutors in turn can earn scholarships and internships from supporting organizations.
The cost of tutoring has long been a barrier to the students who need it most. Similarly, building an ethic of service and community in our students has never been an easy task. Forward Tutoring is bringing those two efforts together and creating wins at lots of levels for students, schools, and non-profits, and communities:
Nonprofits post and promote exciting and relevant volunteer opportunities for Forward Tutoring users to get involved in.
Students seek tutoring then volunteer in their communities to obtain the tutoring credits.
Academically talented students provide free, live online tutoring for students who need help. After passing a comprehensive qualification process, tutors not only receive volunteer hours for their tutoring time but also become eligible to receive internships and scholarships from supporting organizations and corporations.
The three other finalist groups also brought some very interesting ideas forward and, although they didn't win the competition, their international scope and ambitious missions were quite compelling. Dell's press release described the other groups and their activities:
Gyan Knowledge Lab, which sets up hands-on learning labs for primary students in India to keep them engaged in their education and prevent drop-outs. Gyan Knowledge Lab took home the second place prize.
e-Education for GAZA, which seeks to overcome geographic barriers to quality education for Gaza’s children with learning difficulties through video curriculum, where Gaza’s teachers can connect with education experts in their subject matters.
Next Step Leaders, which provides leadership development training for highly effective teachers in roles such as department chairs or grade-level leaders. Teachers receive 360 degree feedback, personalized assessments, whole group leadership training and individualized one-on-one coaching.
It's always good to see a company literally put its money where its mouth is, especially as Dell continues to advance the conversation around education and the smart use of technology for learning.