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Education / 2013

LOLA the Lifelong Organizational Learning App

LOLA the Lifelong Organizational Learning App

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Individual Systems

Impact on the Educational landscape: inclusive, forward moving, digital.

It’s easy to recall this typical school-day scene: morning bell rings, kids line up, the teacher leads the way into the classroom and students find their places.

For some, however, this is also a time when confusion and isolation begin to set in.

Students’ backpacks unzip, papers, books and pencil cases make their way to desktops, as some find themselves stuck in a maze, frozen, without any idea of which direction to turn. Each year more and more students in Los Angeles classrooms find themselves, as hard as they try, lost in these everyday situations.

These students struggle with executive function.

How do problems with executive function affect learning? Difficult to: make transitions, remember and retrieve information, solve problems, organize thoughts/actions and keep track of more than one thing at a time.

Our solution: LOLA, the Lifelong Organizational Learning App. LOLA presents an App-based solution to the organizational troubles experienced by the increasing numbers of students at large. This is a rare opportunity to assist children while also including parents and educators in the solution process, which, in turn, greatly reduces the time and effort spent supporting, often not yielding the progression towards necessary life skills. Through these proposed efficiencies, LOLA provides a low cost, high reward framework which benefits the entire community involved - but most importantly: the development of lifelong organizational capabilities of a child.

For example: The LOLA work system: breaks down activities into manageable customizable task systems, which makes creating plans and keeping track of more than one thing at once a reality. The LOLA timer: uses personalize reminders in the form of light, images and vibrations. The LOLA messaging buttons: promotes private student-to-teacher communication to help: students ask for help, seek more information when needed, wait to speak and remain on task.

As a result, LOLA, through seamless support and private communication between the teacher and student, eliminates any humiliation associated with being confused along with the shame that comes with being the struggling child. Moreover, other students are spared from the distractions that come when a teacher verbally redirects an off-task student; therefore, the entire classroom community flows smoothly, focuses on the lessons at hand and learning happens.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Achievements in Educational landscape: pragmatic, innovative, collaborative.

Arguably, the most frustrating situations for educators and parents alike include: not being able to support children by giving each child the tools he/she needs to navigate through his or her day with confidence and independence.

Our success story: in the fall of 2012, Karen met Lola, a bright, kind-hearted, eager and willing third-grader, the type of student that inspires any teaching heart. As the first week of the school year unfolded, Karen observed Lola, despite her powers of persistence, struggle consistently with recalling/retrieving information that she needed to followed multi-step directions.

Karen a veteran third grade teacher, knows that by third grade, kids start to take pride in “doing things on their own” and too many reminders by a teacher elicit painful embarrassment. Fortunately, she had just participated in “Structuring the Learning Environment” a special ed professional development series offering strategies to help special needs kids get through “tasks”. Building on what was learned, she began to create work systems on strips of paper for Lola that broke done daily routines and academic situations into “one step at a time lists” and added a little animal clip for Lola to move as she progressed through each step. Karen, in collaboration with Lola's Mom, Carrie, formalized these systems for Lola by posting them in her planner and empowering her to check off her tasks as she went - allowing her to feel far more in control and independent.

It was almost magical: Lola went from being frozen to completely independent, with her “work system” at hand. Building on Lola’s achievement, Karen’s principal requested that she share her strategies with other teachers, who in turn successfully applied work systems with their struggling students.

The recent course Karen had taken, coupled with the perfect timing of having Lola as student along with the professional development she shared with other teachers made Karen realize just how many kids would in the future, benefit tremendously by a "work system" like she had informally developed for Lola, and an idea took root: an App version.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Partnering in the Educational landscape: social, efficient.

LOLA will establish a close partnership with Los Angeles schools and districts beyond. Teacher, parents and students will partner in an unprecedented way, with technology as the uniting tool. LOLA provides the first known technological tool to help students conquer their organizational challenges in such a step-by-step way

LOLA allows for the practice of customizing and accommodating for students with special needs to be standardized through the use of a consistent platform thus making the transition to a new classroom from one year to the next much smoother.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Evaluating the Educational landscape: student engagement, goal oriented, digital.

Alignment with National Common Core and Individual Education Plan Goals. Measured by: Los Angeles schools student retention/graduation rates, teacher effectiveness ratings and district budget reductions within special education.

The creation of LOLA evolved from the urgent need to give students the tools that he/she needs in order to perform tasks necessary to everyday functioning. As this is the fundamental purpose of LOLA, when schools throughout Los Angeles utilize all that LOLA will offer, schools will see an increase in student engagement, increase in promotion of students with proficient or higher skills and an increase of teacher effectiveness on student engagement and classroom management. Consequently, the rate at which students graduate from high school, prepared for success in college and the workplace will drastically upsurge.

Also, by putting technology into the hands of students now only better prepares them to succeed as the new Common Core State Standards assessments which will be given primarily on computers or other digital devices where multiple types of items will be used, including computer-enhanced items and performance tasks, in order to measure the full range of knowledge and skills called for in the CCSS.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

A healthier Los Angeles Educational landscape: digital, efficient, forward moving.

The G o l d h i r s h F o u n d a t i o n has identified in their report that: Education received the lowest rating, meaning that is a significant impediment to human development. This outcome was based on the fact that the public school system in Los Angeles is failing many of its students. Graduation rates are low and too many kids throughout the county are not completing the necessary college preparatory coursework. Enrollment and investment in high-quality preschool is also lacking. On top of this, continued cuts at the state level are making a bad situation worse. Given that education is such a fundamental aspect of human development with far-reaching effects, the stark disparity in educational opportunities for the county’s students is unacceptable. Let’s start with this question: what do current special education services cost in the United States? According to Nathan Levenson, in a study sponsored by the Fordham Institute special education represented about 21 percent of all education spending across the nation in 2005, or $110 billion, compared with 18 percent in 1996. (Layton 2012)

Who are we talking about in Los Angeles? In LAUSD alone, approximately 77,000 students currently have Individual Education Plans, of which some 50,000 students are identified as having trouble with executive function. (Cross & Joftus,2011)

In an era of budget cuts, can we do better? Yes we can! The current implementation of 1:1 aides has not proven effective and so far the main tool used when a child needs help –this is tremendously expensive and not a solution that works towards increasing independence.

LOLA, a universal tool, requiring a relatively small investment will yield not only a huge learning impact on a large number of students, but also make a tremendously positive budgetary impact.

Think about it: the typical 2013 modern-day LA classroom relies heavily on inconsistent, ineffective and costly practices such as: paper agendas, paper lists, verbal cues and one-on-one aides, whereas LOLA creates an individual organizational system opportunity, along with a respectful and private communication system through digital technologies.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

The 2050 Los Angeles Educational landscape: inclusive, tolerant, digital, social, efficient, paper-responsible, pragmatic, forward moving, collaborative, optimistic learning communities.

Imagine a classroom that truly implements technology to assist a student in becoming productive and self reliant– far beyond games and fun apps. Imagine a tool that could remain with a student for his/her entire day from dawn to dusk and transition with him/her from one school year to the next – for a lifetime. Imagine a tool that could address IEP goals all year long. Imagine a paperless organizational tool that facilitates all that: LOLA, the Lifelong organizational learning app.

We know technology will change. We know the world we live in will change. We know that an individual who has trouble with executive function will forever need support in order to navigate through his/her day. The tools that LOLA provide will break open and reframe education in 2013 and beyond by putting an otherwise nonexistent support tool in the hands of such individuals, which, due to customizable capacities, will evolve alongside technological advances and societal needs well into the year 2050.