Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Digital Learning to Promote Literacy from Social Entrepreneur Isabelle Duston

Isabelle Duston

Who is the Social Entrepreneur? Isabelle Duston

What is there background? Isabelle is a French native living in Lynchburg, Virginia. Isabelle has an MBA from ESCP-Europe, speaks five languages and started both her business and non-profit from her kitchen table. A mother of three, Isabelle believes in education, digital learning and international collaboration.

Name of Social Enterprise? iLearn4Free (Website: www.ilearn4free.org)

What came about that made them help in social change? In 2009 Isabelle founded Apps of all nations, a company that creates applications for the iPod and iPad in numerous languages. Her first application was iCooking, a series of international cookbooks available in over ten languages including German, Japanese and Spanish. After the success of iCooking, she moved on to create a series of interactive children’s storybooks, called iStory. A mother of three who believes fun and learning can go hand-in-hand, Isabelle pushed the concept that all iStory storybooks would teach a valuable lesson, from the importance of accepting diversity to making new friends. Seeing children interact with these stories is what gave Isabelle the idea for iLearn4Free. She realized that interactive stories and games for mobile devices could be used not only for educational purposes, but to promote literacy in developing nations where children’s access to reading material is limited, and to transcend the digital gap between those nations and the Western world.

iLearn4free

What is your product or service? iLearn4Free is developing a free application, called m4read, that will teach children in developing nations not only how to read, but how to read in their own native tongue.

Isabelle believes that a culture’s languages is the cornerstone of it’s identity. Teaching a child to read in their native language encourages the survival of minority languages, motivates the child to gain literacy skills by making them more relevant, and strengthens local communities — as education is the foundation of any forward-moving society.

In developing countries, there is often a limited access to quality education, as schools are often over-crowded or lacking in adequate resources. When children are provided with books, they are often in English, a language that the majority of the students do not speak. Learning to read in a language they don’t speak proves to be very difficult, frustrating, and often acts as a deterrent. Teaching children to read in a language not spoken at home also creates a disconnect between the parent and the child’s education, as well as a disconnect between the relevance of what the child is learning and their community.

Mercy Care Centre

Additionally, educating a child will empower them and give them the tools they need to move forward. A child introduced to a strong early-learning curriculum will be more likely to pursue higher-education, acquire the necessary skills for a career, and raise educated children. In short, an educated child is an incredible asset to their community.

Date officially launched?
The organization was launched in spring of 2010, and m4read is still being prototyped in English, French and Spanish, with pilots underway. Other languages are soon to follow, including Portuguese and Swahili.

What is the cost per person that is being helped? M4read will be available to children in the US at a small cost. This cost will enable the application to be available for free to children in developing nations.

decreasing that cost by being more efficient?Could others help you and how?

Once the prototype if finished, iLearn4Free will need help with deployment, getting m4read into the hands of children in developing nations with access to mobile phones, and raising public awareness.

What free online or offline tools do you use? The iLearn4Free team uses a collaborative brainstorming process, and since the team is spread out across the globe, this process is virtual. Our graphic designer is in Italy, our animator is in Argentina, our programmer is in Utah, and we have educational experts in France, Ecuador, Kenya and the US. To stay connected, we use Dropbox and Basecamp daily.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

iLearn4Free currently has twenty people working on the project, including free-lancers, project managers, developers, programmers, educational experts and board members.

What is the best advice you never got?

“Have a clear vision and enable other people to follow me and embrace my concept.” –Isabelle.

Isabelle’s mentor and iLearn4Free board member Carlos Salum, founder of Salum International Resources, Inc. and the SIR Conferences, once said to her:

“You are an ‘Ideals Crafter.’ You can’t stop yourself from making the intangible happen, from being a bridge between the idea and the qualified people who will realize it.”

What can you tell other entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference? Learn from mistakes, draw strength from them and use them as fuel to continue moving you, and your project, further. Use the skills of those around you, spread your idea and listen to feedback — both positive and negative.

Written by Zoe Eisenberg, iLearn4Free PR Representative and Content Editor.

Website: www.ilearn4free.org
Contact:
[email protected]

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