Nesta Impact Investments announces its new investment in Ai-Media UK!

As Nesta Impact Investments announces its new investment in Ai-Media UK, Beth Abbott and Eileen Hopkins reflect on the way they are using technology to break down barriers to learning………

skd256418sdcImagine sitting in a classroom. You can hear your teacher, but you can’t understand what they are saying. Maybe their voice sounds garbled. Or they are speaking in a foreign language. Perhaps another pupil’s pen clicking across the room is drowning out their words. For you this is a bad dream, but for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or for those with English as an additional language (EAL), the spoken word in the classroom can be a significant barrier to their understanding. Children with EAL now form a majority in one in nine schools in England; the number has risen by 20% during the last five years to 1.1 million. There are around 100,000 children with ASD in the UK, with around half a million family members directly affected by the condition. With every word misheard and misunderstood, the anxiety levels of these pupils increases and their confidence drops. But at Ai-Media we’ve seen how technology can break down that barrier by giving children access to the spoken word in written form.

Now imagine that classroom again, but in front of you is a laptop or a tablet and the teacher’s words are appearing, in a simplified form, for you to read. You can scroll back and reread anything you’ve misunderstood. After the lesson you can ask the teacher to explain a term you don’t understand. And your teacher can use the transcript to help support your learning. Just like the subtitles for television, Ai-Media’s captioning technology, Ai-Live enables pupils to read the teacher’s words, as they are spoken, and so gives them an alternative method of accessing and understanding their lessons.
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And it’s not just children that can benefit, we are also working with teachers to see how the same technology can help them review their lessons and give better feedback to students. Our first pilot, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, saw us working with ten schools across the UK. Our ambition for education is vast, which is why the investment from the Nesta Impact Investment team is so important to us. Just like us, Nesta is all about opening doors. We help people to reach their potential in education and in the workplace. Nesta helps companies to reach their potential by encouraging creativity, experimentation and risk-taking; three things we know all about at Ai-Media. Our vision is to achieve a global impact and Nesta’s investment shows their belief in that vision. And with their support, we can achieve that impact at scale.

So where do we go from here?

We are now a few weeks into the new school term, and we have already established partnerships with five of the leading specialist ASD schools, including Queensmill, The Helen Allison School, Doucecroft, Phoenix, and Young Epilepsy’s School and College. With those first doors opened and with Nesta’s ongoing support, Ai-Media has the potential, the passion and the commitment to improve educational engagement and outcomes of young people across the UK.


By Beth Abbott General Manager, Ai-Media UK and
Eileen Hopkins Executive Director, Ai-Media UK