What we’re learning | What we’re reading: Participation & Messaging – How can nudge technologies and messaging apps be used to re-engage students, reduce the number of out-of-school children, and improve learning outcomes?

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This is Part 5 of a six-part blog series inspired by discussions with partners working in the EdTech space who recognise they do not have the information they need to make informed decisions and recommendations. So, we have put together a series summarising what we have learned so far in each of our focus areas: Data for Decisions, Digital Personalised Learning (DPL), Girls’ Education & Technology, Participation & Messaging, and Teacher Continuous Professional Development. We provide some key lessons, an outline of our ongoing work, and some additional resources (written by our partners and by us) for readers who want to delve deeper. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Messaging is considered to be one of the most cost-effective means of increasing learning gains. Emerging evidence also suggests that messaging has potential to improve education in LMICs. For example by promoting interactions between caregivers, children, teachers and peers; as a means of complementing in-person teaching; improving at-home learning; and promoting equity. However, the evidence for this is limited and there is a lack of understanding regarding the factors that make messaging and participation more or less effective and inclusive in certain contexts.

Why is it critical that we explore the evidence and impact of participation and messaging? Because 258 million children and youth were already out of school in 2019. Covid-19 only exacerbated this situation. Many of the most marginalised children who were previously enrolled in schools are at risk of never returning to school. If messaging can be a tool to increase participation, we owe it to this and future generations of learners to fully understand its potential.

Accessing this evidence will increase the impact EdTech could have on children’s learning outcomes and in reaching marginalised learners. Our goal is to develop evidence-based and impactful EdTech approaches to using messaging to improve participation and ensure inclusive and equitable education for all children. 

We are working towards this goal through research, the production of global goods, and provision of advice to decision-makers. Some of our ongoing efforts include:

  • Working with Worldreader in Kenya to identify the most effective ways through which technology can be used by schools to strengthen parental and caregiver engagement with children’s reading. 
  • Carrying out a sandbox with the Keep Kenya Learning team to explore the needs and motivations of caregivers and the extent to which they have the resources, time, and willingness to engage in their children’s learning at home. 
  • Providing advice to UNICEF Indonesia on how to reach marginalised learners using EdTech, including examples of SMS and interactive voice recognition (IVR) programmes. 
  • Working with M-Shule to explore how best to use an innovative educational messaging platform — which combines SMS with personalised learning technology — to improve girls’ education and children’s learning outcomes in Kenya. 
  • Partnering with Craft Education to explore messaging as a means to encourage participation, and specifically, post-Covid returns to school in the wake of lower rates of participation by girls and other marginalised groups.

What are some of the lessons from our work?

What should you read next?

  1. Messaging Apps, SMS, and Social Media: A Rapid Evidence Review (EdTech Hub)
  2. Using EdTech to Support Learning Remotely in the Early Years. Rapid Literature Review of Evidence from the Global Response to Covid-19 (EdTech Hub)
  3. EdTech and Equity: Position Paper (EdTech Hub)
  4. Dialling up Learning: Testing the Impact of Delivering Educational Content via Interactive Voice Response to Students and Teachers in Ghana (EdTech Hub)
  5. Parental, Community, and Familial Support Interventions to Improve Children’s Literacy in Developing Countries: A Systematic Review (Campbell)
  6. Improving parenting practices and development for young children in Rwanda: Results from a randomized control trial (Save the Children)
  7. Parenting interventions to promote early child development in the first three years of life: A global systematic review and meta-analysis (Harvard)
  8. Collaborating to Transform and Improve Education Systems: A playbook for family-school engagement (Brookings)
  9. Education for the most marginalised post‑COVID-19: Guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education (EdTech Hub and UNESCO)
  10. Spotlight: Parental Engagement (HundrEd)
  11. Parental Engagement in Children’s Learning: Insights for remote learning response during COVID-19 (INEE)
  12. Decentralisation policy and practice in Ghana: the promise and reality of community participation in education in rural communities (Journal of Education Policy)

Coming Next: Our reading recommendations for one of our five focus areas – Teacher Continuous Professional Development. And you can always find more in our Evidence Library.

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