Unanimous jury in selection of EduApp4Syria finalists

The jury unanimously selected three suppliers as finalists for Phase 2 of the competition to develop a literacy mobile app for Syrian refugee children.

The finalists will receive funding and technical expertise over the next phase to develop their prototypes into complete games that can help Syrian children learn to read and improve their psychosocial wellbeing.

The finalists are the following:

  • Cologne Game Lab
  • Kukua
  • Apps Factory/The Center for Educational Technology

Learn more about their concepts and work below

The EduApp4Syria finalists were chosen from among the five suppliers that received Phase 1 funding to develop testable prototypes of their games following a highly competitive initial bidding round with 78 participants. 

In addition to the jury’s assessment, expert advisors affiliated with the competition provided input to the selection of the finalists. These advisors have expertise in areas relevant to the goals of the project, and include game designers from Zynga’s Words With Friends studio as well as Arabic language experts and specialists in education in crises and conflict.

Testing with children

In early August, 40 Syrian refugee children (aged 5-10) living in Norway tested the game prototypes, yielding important findings about the user friendliness and engagement potential of the games.

“It was a great experience to conduct this testing with Syrian children,” explains Dr. Alf Inge Wang of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) who oversaw the testing and leads the technical coordination and jury process for the EduApp4Syria competition.

“They represent our end users and it is so important that we assess the potential of these games also from their perspective. Sometimes children see the world very differently from us adults.”

Aims to reach children out of school

Syrian children aged 5-10 who are out of school due to the conflict represent the main target group. These children live primarily inside Syria or in nearby countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, as well as in some transit camps in Europe.

The primary aim of EduApp4Syria is to reach these children with engaging smartphone-based learning games that can help them acquire basic literacy skills in Arabic and improve their psychosocial wellbeing.

“Although Syrian parents are generally very concerned about their children’s education, parents or other caretakers do not necessarily have the time or capacity to teach them how to read in Arabic,” says Liv Marte Nordhaug, Norad’s Project Manager for EduApp4Syria.

“The approach of this project is therefore to reach children where they are with a strong pedagogical and fun learning supplement that requires very little adult supervision. This is challenging. Not only must the parents find the games appropriate, but the children must also like and connect with the games in order to want to play them and return to them frequently”, she continues.

Games to be released in March 2017

Over the next three months, the three finalists will receive funding and technical expertise to further develop and improve their games into complete beta versions.

Up to two teams will be selected as winners following final testing and jury assessment in December 2016. They will receive funding and expert input to help refine their beta versions into games that can be released internationally late March 2017. All the games funded as part of the EduApp4Syria project have open source licenses to encourage maximum use and further creativity.

The three selected learning game concepts are:

Descriptions are based on summaries provided by the suppliers.

Antura and the Letters (Cologne Game Lab, Germany)

Antura wa al Huruf” (Antura and The Letters) uses the properties of play to achieve its pedagogical and psychosocial goals, featuring principles such as stealth learning, flow and player psychological modeling. The narrative context tasks the player with helping an old keeper watch over the living letters – wild little creatures. With the help of the keeper’s dog, Antura, the player embarks on a journey through multiple mini games, which correspond to content from Syrian elementary school curriculum.

The project is the result of the successful collaboration of three partner entities: Cologne Game Lab (German university), Wixel Studio (Lebanese development studio), and Video Games Without Borders (international nonprofit organization). Their team, the majority of which is composed of Middle East and North Africa residents and refugees, is a mix of scientists, entertainment game veterans, and humanitarians.

The Do Not Harm humanitarian approach guides their production and distribution choices, evidenced by the inclusion of numerous focus groups and playtests with Syrian families, and the continuous involvement of field experts.

SIMA (Kukua, Italy)

The approach followed by Kukua for SIMA’s development continues to rely on three key pillars. First, exciting game dynamics that will drive higher levels of retention, making learning really fun. Second, a strong pedagogy and Syrian curricula adapted into the game by Syrian literacy experts and cognitive psychologists will allow children to follow a structured educational path. Third, the game narrative is based on Syrian local culture and written by a Syrian storyteller, so that users can easily identify with and be enthused about the overall storyline and characters. The psychosocial well-being aspect of SIMA was designed by a psychologist with specific expertise working with refugees.

Finally, a user-centered design approach places Kukua’s target users at the center of each game. SIMA’s development relies on constant and rigorous testing in the field. Team Kukua spent several weeks in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon, testing in informal settlement camps and spending time with Syrian refugee children who played with SIMA and offered invaluable feedback on engagement levels and educational outcomes.

Feed the Monster (Apps Factory, Romania) - updated

Feed the Monster is an innovative smartphone puzzle game that helps children learn Arabic. The game is designed in a way that does not require any prior knowledge. It gradually guides the player from the Arabic alphabet to vowels, words, and reading short text paragraphs, drawn from the Syrian Arabic language arts curriculum. In addition the game focuses on improving the socio-psychological wellbeing of kids by introducing them to various skills and techniques that helps them to manage and control their emotions through the use of SEL (Socioal Emotional Learning) mini games.The immersive game experience is achieved through a journey of discovery and friendship.

The storyline describes a world where friendly monsters were sent to exile by 'Harboot' (a known evil character) who concurred their land and cast a magic spell that turned them into eggs. In order to proceed in the game, kids need to correctly solve the letters\words puzzles and by doing so, help the monsters evolve and prosper.

The project is being conducted as a collaboration project between three partner entities: Apps Factory will be responsible for the development, publishing, and roll-out of the App, the collection of usability data, future modifications of the game, and the support of any additional language versioning. The Center for Educational Technology brings longstanding experience and expertise in developing content, methods and techniques to teach Arabic language acquisition. The humanitarian organization 'International Rescue Committee' (IRC) guides the technical approach and design of the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) elements and contents in Feed The Monster. The IRC will provide technical guidance and involvement in the evaluation and testing of the application with Syrian refugee children.

Published 07.09.2016
Last updated 05.12.2016