Educating the whole child involves more than just closing academic learning gaps. It also means supporting children’s overall mental health and personal development, empowering them to develop into independent, confident learners. Safe and supportive school learning environments, positive relationships with peers and teachers, and involved, nurturing caregivers all contribute to a holistic and well-rounded education. Children in conflict regions often lack these supports, as schools are forced to close and families face immense stress and uncertainty.

Beyond helping children in conflict zones keep on track with their education, EdTech solutions can support them in building the skills they need to thrive, despite their difficult circumstances. EdTech has the capacity to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of these children and build their resilience. This requires purposeful design backed by educational research, a well-thought-out implementation strategy, and monitoring and evaluation processes to improve the technology.

“EdTech has the capacity to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of these children and build their resilience.”

EdTech that supports the whole child

Syrian children who used the game-based learning app Antura and the Letters while living in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan not only improved their literacy in Arabic, but also showed increased independence, motivation, and patience. One of the creators of the app, Francesco Cavallari, elaborates: “An independent evaluation revealed that the game positively impacted how children identified their emotions and how they conducted themselves. So as their language skills were improving, their psychosocial skills were improving even more.”

Through designs that encourage interactivity, EdTech can also help children develop positive relationships with peers in and outside their communities. Mike Clarke, Senior Director of New Media at Scholastic and co-founder of the Scholastic-owned Storyvoice app, highlights this as a key benefit of Storyvoice for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, as he states, “In our virtual, live read-aloud events, we often have participation from kids in multiple countries. For a joyful moment, through the power of story, students can connect with peers with similar interests and feel seen.” In one show, Clarke recalls, “a Syrian student in Lebanon read together with a Palestinian student in Gaza, and today, they are best friends.”

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EdTech can also create opportunities for caregivers to provide a supportive and nurturing learning environment, which might be difficult without technology. “Digital books, for example, have made it possible for parents to read with their children on mobile devices even within conflict-affected zones,” says Roberta Michnick Golinkoff. Golinkoff is leading the team behind Stories with Clever Hedgehog, which offers free e-books for families fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. “When parents read with their children, an important bond is built between them, encouraging a feeling of closeness. Shared book reading also reduces parents’ stress levels, and helps children escape into their imaginations for a brief time.”

“EdTech can also create opportunities for caregivers to provide a supportive and nurturing learning environment, which might be difficult without technology.”

The community benefits too

The teachers in Syria who participated in the Off2Class English-language capacity-building program found that the EdTech solution not only increased their language proficiency, it also enabled them to build their own supportive communities of peers. Moreover, it connected them with teacher volunteers based overseas, allowing them to access emotional support beyond their local communities. Kris Jagasia, co-founder and CEO of Off2Class explains: “You start with the English language, but many teacher volunteers naturally take on the role of life coach, social worker, or psychologist.”

Cultivating a local EdTech ecosystem can provide extra benefits, says Atish Gonsalves, Global Lead for Research & Innovation in Education at the International Rescue Committee. A vibrant local EdTech ecosystem can minimize a community’s reliance on external solutions, enabling children to continue their education with locally relevant solutions. “Locally driven EdTech solutions developed by innovators and educators affect the educational outcomes of children during the conflict, but they also contribute to the growth and sustainability of the local EdTech ecosystem in the long term,” he says. “And if you invest in the local ecosystem, you will have stable partners on the ground who can develop and implement solutions that will be available the next time the need arises – for example, in the event of a natural disaster.”  

How to achieve impact

Achieving impact in education and beyond hinges on how well these EdTech solutions are implemented on the ground, in volatile environments with limited digital infrastructure. How can EdTech overcome the unique challenges posed in conflict-affected areas? I explore this question in part three. 


Atish Gonsalves, Global Education Research & Innovation Lead, International Rescue Committee
Atish Gonsalves is a social technologist, entrepreneur and the Global EdTech Innovation Director at IRC’s Airbel Impact Lab. Atish is also the Founder of Gamoteca, a collaborative digital platform that enables organizations to create their own mixed-reality learning gamesWith a background in software engineering, AI and human-computer interaction, Atish’s experience includes leadership roles at technology and international non-profit organizations including the United Nations. Atish has implemented a number of successful EdTech solutions that have helped democratize learning for millions of learners in difficult contexts.
Twitter: @atishgonsalves
IRC Lab:
Gamoteca Website:

Kris Jagasia, CEO & Co-Founder, Off2Class
Kris Jagasia is the co-founder and CEO of Off2Class, responsible for directing company strategy and vision. He has built the commercial teams at the company including, sales, marketing and customer success.
Launching in 2015, Off2Class focused on creating high-quality content and resources to save teachers time and power language learning for the digital-first student. Rather than simply converting course books into basic web products, as was the case with many traditional publishers, Off2Class focused on re-imagining content and tools for the needs of online teachers.
Kris developed the product’s unique go-to-market strategy, building a strong customer base with institutions (schools, universities) while also still selling directly to teacher entrepreneurs.
Twitter: @Off2Class

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Project Director, Stories with Clever Hedgehog
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff is known for her research on language development, the benefits of playful learning, the effects of media on children, and early spatial development. She is currently the director of the Child’s Play, Learning, and Development laboratory at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE, USA. She lectures all over the world and is passionate about the dissemination of educational and developmental science for the betterment of children and families’ lives. A member of the National Academy of Education, and having won numerous awards for her work, Roberta is committed to making a difference in the lives of Ukrainian children disconcerted and displaced in this time of war.
Twitter: @KathyandRo1

Francesco Cavallari, Founder & President, Video Games Without Borders
Francesco Cavallari has 20 years of experience in the games industry having held both technical and leadership positions at Ubisoft. In 2015 he founded Video Games Without Borders, a nonprofit organization and a global community of people who believe in digital games to change the world for the better. Francesco supervised the development of “Antura and the Letters”, a smartphone game to improve literacy among Syrian children that are out-of-school because of the conflict. winner of several international awards. The game is completely free and open source and it has been adapted to learn a foreign language with the goal to also help Afghan and Ukrainian children.
Video Games Without Borders:
Antura and the Letters:
Twitter: @FrancyCavallari

Mike Clarke, Co-Founder, Storyvoice and Senior Director of New Media at Scholastic 
Mike Clarke is the co-founder and host of Storyvoice, Scholastic’s online platform connecting authors and kids through weekly live read-aloud shows. Launched as a tool to help Syrian refugee children in Lebanon practice reading, Storyvoice has grown to help over 800,000 kids across forty-plus countries experience the joy and benefits of reading with others. Prior to Storyvoice, Mike led a UN-backed innovation lab in Lebanon focused on refugee communication technology and helped launch multiple impact-driven hackathon programs with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before his work in Lebanon, Mike spent four years leading product teams at two venture-backed startups in New York City, USA, and Chennai, India. Mike has a BA in political science and religious studies from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and is a former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar, completing graduate coursework in international relations at the University of Cape Town and Arabic language training at the American University of Beirut.
Twitter: @storyvoicelive

Improving access to education for conflict-affected children around the world is an urgent and continuing topic of concern for us at BOLD. This series is a part of a larger conversation that we will continue to explore and share important insights into.

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