Building a “Google maps for learning”

My Work

I have spent over five decades of my life in wonderment about how complex systems emerge from simple principles. I have had the opportunity to be part of teams or lead them in many cases that have innovated with research and developed technologies that hundreds of millions or even a billion people use. But, all of those addressed complicated systems that have predetermined solutions where replication is scaling. They did not tackle truly complex systems where replication is not scaling. So, capitalizing on my education, professional and life experiences, and my passion, I ventured out to understand how one can influence complex systems, to accelerate progress toward desired outcomes. Specifically, I have focused on learning and complex learning ecosystems. I seek to understand why and how humans learn, what are the barriers to establishing a tight closed-loop between research and practice in learning, and how can we engage all stakeholders to enable systemic change. 

Building on my decades of work at Google, Yahoo, and Xerox Research developing products addressing complicated problems such as Google Maps, Google Translate, and other Language Technologies, Yahoo Finance, Sports, and the creation of digital rights management technology at Xerox Research, I have spent 10+ years working on developing technology, and products that enable science and practice at Gooru.

What is Gooru?

Gooru is a non-profit education research and technology organization with a mission to honor the human right to education. Gooru, working with educators, researchers, content, and technology providers, has co-created the free and open Navigator – a “GPS for learning” (Navigator Overview) that provides learners with personalized adaptive pathways to their learning destination. Navigator also provides real-time actionable insights to teachers, school leaders, administrators, curriculum designers, and researchers (Mission Control). 

Navigator – “GPS for Learning”

Gooru uses big data to locate a learner’s current knowledge, skills, and dispositions in real-time in relation to a specific learning space and navigates them to their desired learning destination. Gooru’s free and open Navigator application tailors learning paths, offers curated suggestions, brings together online and offline resources to provide the appropriate route for each individual, and tracks outcomes to provide a deep understanding of all learners and their mindsets.

We call this approach Navigated Learning. Gooru’s Navigator applications bring a GPS-like experience to learners, instructors, administrators, parents, and curriculum designers by providing all of them with real-time evidence of learning so they can coordinate their efforts to improve outcomes for learners.

By providing instructors, educators, and school leaders with real-time data, Navigator improves learning in vastly different environments, Navigator includes six applications that provide appropriate information to learners, instructors, parents, leadership, admins, and curriculum designers. By providing all of these parties with real-time data, Navigator enables collaboration to improve learning in vastly different environments. In addition to these apps, Navigator includes a research portal for scientists and an open-source developer site for tech partners.

Diagram: The learning route includes a full variety of interoperable services that consistently log data into the institution data lake, which is then used to locate the learner and make reroute suggestions.

Navigated Learning Collaborative

All institutions can leverage the free and open Gooru Navigator with their proprietary content and for their cohorts. These practitioners align their existing courses with competencies and immediately begin to leverage the Navigator tools for all stakeholders. Gooru established the Navigated Learning Collaborative (NLC) for all practitioners to pursue individual success with the open and free Navigator and use their cross-disciplinary expertise to support each other. NLC also brings to researchers consented, anonymized data from millions of diverse users.

Diagram: Gooru Navigator has eight tools for the different stakeholders (learners, instructors, school leadership and guardians/parents) as well as ecosystem players (curriculum designers, administrators, researchers and tool developers)

Diagram: Gooru Navigator has eight tools for the different stakeholders (learners, instructors, school leadership, and guardians/parents) as well as ecosystem players (curriculum designers, administrators, researchers, and tool developers)

Center for Navigated Learning

Gooru Navigator has been developed to be an integrated research-to-practice platform that enhances the application of scientific research to understand and improve learning. Researchers from leading universities, lab school districts, and many other learning providers are participating in the Center for Navigated Learning (CNL) to co-create Gooru Navigator that is backed by science and informed by practice.

Navigated Learning Schools

Online schools that provide core curriculum instructions for grades 2-12 integrated with instructors, tutors, and coaches support and award diplomas. Navigated Learning Schools (NLS) scale with AI by providing students with suggestions of learning pathways, related resources for every competency, and enrichment activities. NLS offers 3 tiers of services – free access to the core curriculum, a small fee for a diploma with access to the core curriculum, and a larger fee for teacher and coaches support along with a diploma and access to core curriculum.

Navigated Learning Exchange

Experts in many aspects of learning such as Tutoring, Hands-on learning, Entrepreneurship, Social-Emotional Learning, and Core Subjects, can plug in their interoperable services with Gooru Navigator. These service providers can reach the users of Navigated Learning Schools with their services. Navigated Learning Exchange provides complete business scaffolding to the service providers in terms of reach to users, revenue collections for their services, and ensure high-quality fulfillment of the service for the learners

Global Presence

More than 60 collaborators across disciplines and geographies are using the Navigator to reach over seven million learners (Navigator Impact) in primary, secondary and higher education (US K12 and colleges; India primary education; China K12 education), skills training (India and Morocco) and professional learning (US Department of Defense, Silicon Valley tech company).

Evidence of  Impact

Research data from the past iterations to the current implementation of Gooru’s Math Navigator have shown it to be an effective supplemental experience to support and accelerate student growth. The findings from Leadership Public School published in the Christensen Report showed that “learning growth in math was 2.82 times the national growth norm during the first year of Math Navigator’s implementation [as measured by NWEA MAP].” Learners in two different districts and age groups (5th grade and 9th grade) using Math Navigator in the 2018-19 school year were found to have statistically significant learning gains on NWEA MAP correlated to competencies gained in the Navigator (Songer, Newstadt, Lucchesi, & Ram, 2020). Additionally, with 6th-8th graders in the same pilot year, for each competency gained on Math Navigator, there was a corresponding 1.5 points increase on CAASPP scores. 

Finally, in the 2019-20 school year, 6th-8th grade students in a rural lab school district were on track to demonstrate grade-level proficiency by the end of the year as compared to previous years’ scores only after three months of implementation based on Winter 2020 NWEA MAP scores. Last year’s winter MAP scores in this district were an average of 7.76 points below the mean, and this year’s winter scores were 1.23 points below the mean – a 6.53 point differential which would be in excess of a full year’s average growth for 7th and 8th graders (7.7 points gained is considered a full year’s growth for 6th grade) (AERA paper submitted). Research on student social and emotional learning (SEL) development within Math Navigator is part of our ongoing research agenda with Professor Teya Rutherford (University of Delaware).

Let’s collaborate. I am eager to hear from you.

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