By Diane Janknegt, Founder & CEO of Wizenoze
The Current Internet is Designed for Educated Adults
Over the past twenty years, the rise of the internet and the availability of web search engines have changed our society dramatically. Useful information is never more than a few clicks away, and facts can be checked easily using a quick search query. Unfortunately, the positive effect of these changes is not equally available to all. For many people the amount of information can be overwhelming in itself and finding specific content within pages and pages of search results can be daunting.
Additionally, a large proportion of the available information is actually too hard to understand for almost half of the global population – in fact 70% of published written content is not understood by the majority of readers. At Wizenoze we call this the Readability Gap – the difference between the reading level of a visitor and the reading level of the text they are reading.
Wizenoze research has found these problems are worst for students and teachers. For education needs, search results from general search engines are in many cases not relevant: they are too difficult to read, driven by advertisements or comprised of content from unreliable sources. Teachers and students are wasting valuable time searching for good content. Sites like Wikipedia are unsuitable because the language they use is frequently too difficult, and sites like Wikikids are an unreliable source because the content is provided by children.
“The Internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people, and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures,” UNICEF’s executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement. And I very much agree with that statement. The web is not designed for children. It was conceived for and by adults, who at the time had no idea that children would ever spend their time there. But they do: one-third of internet users are children.
We must continue to encourage children and students to use the internet as a great source of information, but we also need to remind parents, teachers and policymakers that most online content is not targeted to their needs. Finding the most pertinent information, presented in an age appropriate way, has to be the aim of businesses like Wizenoze, as a way of improving literacy and learning for at least one-third of the online users.
A Safe Internet is not Good enough
The current online environment for children and students focuses on blocking inappropriate information through filters. Although filtering is a good solution to protect users from harmful information, it is not a solution that helps them get access to information they can understand. The information that gets through the filters is very often not relevant or commercially driven, but more importantly, most of the information is still too difficult to read and understand.
A Web that Matches the Reading Levels
To support the needs of students and teachers, we need a web that can be used for educational purposes. An internet that only presents trustworthy sources/websites that have information written for children, teenagers, and young adults. Information should be easy to read and for multiple reading levels, promoting personalized learning. By giving students access to these websites, users will find information on a wide variety of subjects, at their own reading level; that they understand and; matching their age. This saves valuable planning time, enabling them to learn more about the topics they search for.
The Web for Classrooms
Wizenoze, a start-up that is specialized in Artificial Intelligence and Search technology, created this educational web. We call it “The Web for Classrooms.” It is the largest curated and safe-for-school collection of online content available in the world today. The collection is comprehensively indexed by reading age ability. The Web for Classrooms has 6,545,345 (and growing) English web pages from trusted site sources, hand checked by teachers for suitability for the teaching curriculum. And indexed on a 5-scale reading score. Therefore, it’s the largest educational collection of publicly available online content. It helps teachers to prepare lessons efficiently and supports students to improve their independent research and learning, distraction-free.
21st Century skills
Users of the Wizenoze Web for Classroom develop skills that are indispensable in today’s information society and are better prepared for current jobs. They learn to assess and combine information from a large number of sources. Wizenoze’s integrated search technology helps them to see and make connections between topics and to value different viewpoints. Furthermore, we provide help and tips about how to judge the relevance and reliability of sources.
About the Company:
WizeNoze BV was founded by Diane Janknegt and Theo Huibers in 2013 following 4 years of academic research across Europe. The team of Ph.D. experts spent several years building a proprietary readability analysis engine which identifies the reading level of any text, supporting teachers and children in finding relevant information online that is matched to their reading level.
WizeNoze Artificial Intelligence technology can be embedded into libraries websites, and school platforms. The Web for Classrooms is also available as a standalone product for schools, parents, and educators.
Everyone at WizeNoze is committed to making the world a better place for people on their literacy learning journey. We challenge the status quo and look forward to a day where the power of their AI engine enables all students and teachers to easily find information on the internet that is reliable and matches their reading level. Our technology also enables publishers and writers to create easier-to-read versions of their online content.
Wizenoze is honoured that the core technology has won prestigious funding awards from both Google and the Dutch Government for the impact it is having at a worldwide level. It has been nominated as Start-up of the Year 2017 in the Netherlands, and in November 2017 was selected by The Unreasonable Group and the world’s biggest Education Publisher Pearson to be part of the exclusive Project Literacy Lab group.
About the Author:
After a career of 12 years as an executive at Microsoft Netherlands, Diane Janknegt switched careers in 2013 and founded the ICT start-up WizeNoze BV. Based on years of academic research, Wizenoze has developed The Web for Classrooms – a web reimagined for Schools, Libraries, and Students. The proprietary technology identifies, classifies and discloses information tailored to each reading level. Enabling students, second language learners and people with lower reading skills access to a readable and reliable internet.
Wizenoze has an office in London and Amsterdam and aims to be the global market leader in this area.
Diane has a Master Degree in Dutch Literature from the University of Utrecht. She loves working with young, passionate and inspiring people, has a proven track record in building strong and successful teams and with her positive attitude, she knows how to motivate people. She is part of the Inspiring Fifty Netherlands and is a frequent speaker at events. She has an extensive network in the IT industry and beyond. She is happily married and a proud mother of 3 kids.