Touchable Earth is the first app where kids teach kids about the world.
Information is presented first hand in portrait photographs and videos of children aged 7-11, or 14-18, living in each place.
Kids learn important facts such as the geography, capital and the meaning of the flag and anthem. They also gain unique insight into the daily lives of kids across the world. Sections include following a school day, visiting families in their homes, and seeing the games they play for fun. Famous locations are visible in 360 degree panoramas.
Touchable Earth demonstrates the concept of global citizenship to be more than a two dimensional picture of other people in other places. It presents the children of multiple cultures without prejudice. It fosters a redefining of ‘we’ and ‘us’ to foster empathy towards all who call our planet home.
Fostering curiosity with a purpose – 3 Key Themes:
Touchable earth improves children’s understanding of people and cultures across the world. In particular it promotes:
Global citizenship by fostering curiosity and inspiring children to learn about others.
The content shows the project to be as much a study in similarities as much as differences. Children see this and their natural curiosity about the world is encouraged.
Girls’ education – through equal inclusion, of girls in the creation of content and participation the program.
We are addressing the overwhelming male narrative in education resources by showing girls as equally capable at teaching.
Anti radicalization– through interaction with diverse cultures advancing tolerance.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
The content is currently available in an iPad app. It contains over 200 videos from 6 countries.
Between July 2014 and 31 October 2015 another 500 videos were shot in Mongolia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Russia, Macedonia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mali. A new version of the app containing the new content, which will be free on android and iPad, is in final development.
In October 2015 UNESCO Dakar office announced a partnership with Touchable Earth to use the app with their Anti Radicalisation program.
In 2016 we hope to expand the places involved, language support, and use across the globe.
Major changes in landscape:
1. Tablet revolution. Digital media is cheaper to produce, distribute and access than ever before.
2. Pedagogy. The power of peer learning is better understood. Kids love learning from kids. It plays to their natural curiosity and presents information in a context they understand.
Touchable Earth is at the cutting edge of these. The idea was to use tablets to literally put the world in children’s hands.
Combining this with peer learning allows us to retell the story of the world to a new generation. We are able to tell it in a positive way that ignites their curiosity, breaks down barriers, and prevents intolerance from taking hold.
- Developing critical thinking in children.
Touchable Earth increases what children know about the world. More importantly it equips them with tools to critically analyze information which is a useful skill in all aspects of life.
- Normalizing diversity – By seeing information, ideas, and solutions presented equally across race, religion, and gender, children become less likely to dilute a message based on identity of the messenger.
- Asking different questions – Children see the value in asking questions such as ‘how are we the same’ in addition to the default ‘how are we different’.
- Broadening the answers – The world is unexplainable with multi choice answers. We encourage children to think subjectively as well as objectively.
- Global sense of identity - We encourage teenagers to think about their relationship to people and problems across the world.
- Cultivating empathy – By hearing from others with similar problems.
- Inspiring Engagement - Issues which impact them
The main challenge will be inclusiveness.
As awareness of the project grows more places want to be included. Within them many ethnic or cultural groups want to be included.
We have been clear from the start - include everyone. Ideally I would like to lessen the reliance on national identity so we can (one day) include practically every ethnic or cultural group in the world on par with wikipedia except all taught by kids. Managing the growth in terms of focus, avoiding conflicts (e.g. I have managed to keep 'history' and religion out of the app so far to avoid different versions of history) becomes harder.
In terms of content production we are partnered with the largest schools organisation in the world, https://iearn.org/ who provide us contacts in 130 countries so access to schools is relatively easy.
The program has been incredibly well received everywhere we have filmed. Pupils, parents and teachers and excited to share their lives and cultures with us.
The main lesson learnt is the sensitivity around national borders and identity. We must remember that nation states are a relatively new concept. In many places community or culture is more important than nationalism.
We addressed this by using the word 'places' rather than 'countries' in the app. As such we could make a chapter on 'Iraqi Kurdistan'.
Another issue arose with 'Macedonia'. Greece is vehemently opposed to the use of that name instead calling it 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'. We may face issues with the app in Greece by allowing Macedonian kids to say they are from 'Macedonia'.
These issues reinforced our resolve to continue with the project as these are the conflicts we are seeking to avoid in the future.