All children are born with a great deal of curiosity and talent but not all for them have opportunities to nourish them.
KIDDIFY — Meet Dr. Paula Laurel Dara Jackson, a global nomad who understood the transformative power of travel at a very young age, thanks to her family’s multiple relocations. Due to her father’s job, she literally became a global citizen by the age of 15, having lived in several countries such as Canada, USA, Trinidad, Jamaica, Namibia, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and many countries in Europe, finally settling in the German capital city of Berlin. She began her career as a concert pianist and left it behind to follow her two passions: education and children. After attending Oxford University, Cambridge University, and the University of London and completing a PhD in International Education, she went on to consult a number of multilateral organizations, NGOs, and schools around the globe about restructuring curriculums and rethinking teaching methods.
Most recently, she has put her consulting aside to create her own educational start-up: KIDDIFY, a platform that seeks to create opportunities for children around the world to share their skills and talents and to break down the metaphorical distances that humans create. Understanding how crucial travel is to creating a sustainable, productive globalized society, KIDDIFY enables children to virtually “travel” to different countries to discover the world through the eyes of their peers via videos.
Read on to learn more about Paula, her new educational start-up venture, and her desire to instill the love for travel in children early on.
1) Tell me a little bit about your background and how you became interested in education.
Well, I have always held a passion for teaching and education. My dream was to change the world by creating millions of schools around the world where every child would be able to learn what THEY wanted to do and the teachers would be there to facilitate it not delineate!
My favorite game as a child was ”School-time” where I would pretend that I was a teacher and convert our playroom into a cool classroom where I would offer “sessions” to my brothers. This interest really emerged through my travels. My parents took my brothers and me on trips to various countries around the world very often. I was exposed to different languages, cultures, and foods. These experiences really fed my curiosity and the more I experienced, the more I wanted to learn and understand.
One thing, however that always bothered me though were those, which related to the poverty, disaffection, and social inequality I observed in many countries. I thought that education was key in addressing these issues, and have always been interested in its potential to empower. And through this understanding of how transformative the intersection of education and travel can be, KIDDIFY was born.
2) What was the inspiration behind KIDDIFY?
Some of my educational research explored the potential of technology in education. This work formed the basis upon which the concept for KIDDIFY was formulated, coupled with my own childhood experiences.
As a child, I was a world traveller and a creator; writing stories, plays, songs, creating puppet shows, cooking and talk shows. Kids around the neighbourhood of all ages came flocking to my home to catch the latest “episode” which I presented to them. Soon enough they all were inspired to join in, adding their own bits and pieces or creating their own shows. We all helped each other out, learned from each other and we all felt special because this was our world–our space for us and by us! This is really what KIDDIFY is all about.
3) What does the platform aim to achieve?
We aim to achieve four main goals through KIDDIFY.
ONE: Since not every child has the chance to actually travel to see the world, our aim is offer children an opportunity to discover the world through the eyes of their peers via videos.
TWO: Enabling students to become experts at things that they enjoy doing offers a great sense gratification and empowerment.
THREE: We aim to inspire.
FOUR: We wanted to serve the critical need of connecting the offline lives of the students with their online activities. We aim to enrich their online experiences, making it more creative, valuable, and enriching.
4) Can you give us an example, from A-Z as to how this works?
Last month, I introduced KIDDIFY to a somewhat “difficult” school here in Berlin. I showed them a few clips of kids doing their own tutorials and they were all mesmerized. I asked them if they could create their own tutorials, and the overall response was saddening — “We could never do anything good. We are not smart and none of us have any talents.” I left the school despondent. The next morning, the teacher called me crying asking me to come immediately. ALL of her students had gone home and created their own tutorials. Mark, for example, the class bully (and least likely KIDDIFY candidate, according to his teacher), asked one of his classmates to come over and film him using his iPhone. The result: Mark created his own cooking show series and made crepes, with amazing instructions and wonderful music in the background. Other kids made tutorial shows on language (Arabic), drawing, and photography. The teacher learned a lot from them and the tutorials keep on coming in because they are so proud of what they can do and share. So, the kids send us the tutorials, we check it to make sure the content is ok, then we edit the videos, translate them into different languages and place them into the various sections of our platform for others to enjoy. Videos are categorized by topic and country and can be shared amongst “friends” on the site. No comments are allowed, but we have a “usability index” to rate each video. The point is that you give kids a stage, and they simply shine, and these kids are shining! Now, we just need to get the platform built, so that I can present these wonderful videos to the world!
5) How can people get more involved?
KIDDIFY is currently doing a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo and seeking donations to build the platform. Please check it out at: http://igg.me/at/kiddify/x/1292050. Every dollar can make a difference.