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Sprig Learning Partners With Joyful Literacy To Develop a New Evidence-Based Early Literacy Teacher App

Post-pandemic, there are sporadic glimpses of learning recovery across Canada and the US. But progress is slow. Many young learners in preschool, kindergarten and the early elementary grades are still struggling from missed or interrupted learning opportunities. Now more than ever, research indicates that many students are not reading at grade-level. It is estimated that 25% of Canadian students, and 65% of American students, are not reading at grade level by the end of grade 3 and 4, respectively. Low literacy rates are even higher for marginalized students and the last few years of the pandemic have exacerbated the low literacy challenge.

Sprig Learning was purpose-built to help provide every student with a fair shot at success. To date, we have worked with schools across North America to improve the assessment process in the early years, support teachers and provide all young learners with the chance to succeed in both school and in life. We have helped thousands of early learners acquire the fundamentals of early literacy and numeracy.  

Sprig Learning’s early literacy tools are built around the Science of Reading. To take the next big leap in early literacy innovation, Sprig is excited to partner with Dr. Janet Mort and her Joyful Literacy team to bring you Sprig Reading: Powered by Joyful Literacy! Joyful Literacy is a proven, evidence-based literacy framework that has consistently improved classrooms to 90% grade-level literacy achievement. Wherever it is implemented, the results soon follow! 

Dr. Janet Mort, founder of the Joyful Literacy Framework says, “Our team spent eight years developing and implementing the Joyful Literacy Intervention Framework to prove we could achieve literacy proficiency for struggling early learners. Partnering with Sprig Learning allows us to take the next big step in advancing the cause for early literacy, making it easier for teachers to support a classroom full of diverse learners.”

With Sprig Reading: Powered by Joyful Literacy, teachers will now be able to assess and track all of the Foundational Literacy Skills required for JK to Grade 3 learners to become strong and confident readers. The early literacy platform makes it easy for teachers to formatively assess students and differentiate them into groups according to their need for practice or instruction.

“All students across the world deserve the right to read. When we learned about the Joyful Literacy methodology, and its repeated success locally in British Columbia and in Washington State, we immediately saw the potential to integrate our holistic learning technology, provide scale to the solution and bring this opportunity to all young learners across the world”, says Jarrett Laughlin, Founder and CEO of Sprig Learning. 

Sprig Reading will be available for purchase for the 2022-23 school year. 


Why Now? Impetus for Action.

Why Sprig Reading Now

The pandemic has widened the literacy gap, but it is not responsible for the great divide in reading skills between students reading at grade level and those students falling behind reading standards.

Literacy inequity and access to high-quality early learning education is at the core of the literacy gap that has emerged.

Not enough early learners have access to the type of reading content, instruction, environment and assessment that will increase their likelihood of becoming proficient readers.

With Sprig Reading, teachers will be appropriately equipped to take immediate action. 

With the power to track every foundational reading skill over the course of a student’s early learning experience, every young learner’s potential to ready successfully is maximized, including those who need the extra help, and students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.


What Makes Sprig Reading Special? Time-tested Proven Strategies That Improve Early Literacy.

Why Sprig Reading in Special

Sprig has often written about how to help struggling readers. Topics range from the keys to literacy development in the early years, to thoughtful considerations for building early literacy skills in schools.

Ultimately, there is consensus on what works in achieving early literacy. 

To summarize, there are three main strategies that have proven to turn children into successful readers by the time they complete Grade 3. There are subsets, but these are the three most important strategies. 

  1. Explicit, Systematic and Sequential Instruction.
  2. Extensive Practice With Literacy Skills and Shared Reading Experiences
  3. Assessment and Tracking

Sprig Reading is fully immersed in all three. 

The following three paragraphs address Sprig Reading’s connection to each strategy. 


Explicit, Systematic and Sequential Instruction

Research shows that in order to teach reading, actual reading concepts and skills must be taught in a system that is explicit, systematic and sequential. Such skills and concepts have been identified by researchers in renowned literacy journals.  Organizations like The National Early Literacy Panel have published reports listing all the foundational early literacy skills. 

Sprig Reading focuses on the following seven Foundational Skills that require mastery: 

  • Phonics.
  • Phonemic awareness.
  • Shared reading and concepts of print.
  • Rapid automatized naming.
  • Vocabulary, oral language and word study.
  • Fluency.
  • Comprehension.

In this interactive teacher platform, the act of reading is broken down to its various components, and those components are assessed and taught by the teacher. This is also referred to what is known as the Science of Reading. Hundreds of essential literacy skills are presented in foundational skill-sets and in a science-based sequence.

Explicit, Systematic and Sequential


Extensive Practice With Literacy Skills and Shared Reading Experiences

Without the actual habit of reading, the lessons taught about reading do not blossom into the ability to read. The skills and concepts taught in class must be practiced, assessed and practiced again, so the child improves on all Foundational Skills. 

The application of reading skills is also related to studies which say that early learners must be exposed to a certain number of words growing up, and their parents must be involved in their education and read to them. It’s when children get this combination of practice and exposure, that they begin to flourish as readers.

Sprig Reading ensures that every student gets enough practice in all of the skills in the foundational skill-sets. Educators are able to effortlessly track all these skills and celebrate progress with parents. They can recommend activities that work on certain reading skills to parents, which can be practiced at home with their children.


Assessment and Tracking

Assessment and Tracking

Children must learn hundreds of reading skills by the end of Grade three to read fluently.

The Sprig Reading App, powered by Joyful Literacy, allows teachers to readily assess and track all essential skills and group children for targeted instruction.

Formative assessments and targeted instruction have been two major pillars of success when it comes to early learning. Sprig Learning has written extensively on both. 

Sprig Reading’s circle charts empowers educators to both formatively assess and differentiate instruction. In the app, they are given instructions on how to assess students for each skill, and they are able to plan weekly, organizing children according to skill mastery, need for more practice, and need for explicit instruction

It’s a complete reading skill curriculum based on the Science of Reading, packed into a powerful app that can be accessed anywhere at any time. This data-driven tool allows educators to digitally plan, assess and track skill mastery for diverse classrooms. Learning is accelerated and interventions are applied as necessary. Every child makes progress, even those vulnerable in preschool and kindergarten. 


More Reasons Why Sprig Reading Is Unique

Why Sprig Reading is Unique

Sprig Reading is a comprehensive early literacy teacher app, designed by educators using both practical classroom experience and academic research experience. 

Dr. Janet Mort packs years of invaluable experience designing a Science of Reading-based curriculum into the creation of the Sprig Reading app. Dr. Mort was awarded the Order of BC for her early learning literacy achievements. Teachers feel confident about the connections between the existing research-based best practices and their instruction in the classroom.

Every last Foundational Skill is thoroughly defined and teachers are provided instructions for teaching strategies and follow-up assessments for those foundational skills. 

What previously needed the purchase of several instructional materials and resources, can now be digitally implemented for schools and classrooms with a subscription only. Further training in the form of professional development is available to those who require it. 

Sprig Reading takes the direct, explicit, sequential and diagnostic way of teaching, and simplifies it into an intuitive ready-to-go solution that benefits both the teacher and the student.

The end result is that every child makes meaningful progress. They are given access to a state-of-the art reading program based on the Science of Reading. The educator is also put in a position to help every struggling reader, including those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, leading to what we hope is true literacy equity. 

Sprig Learning is thrilled to partner with Joyful Literacy to provide teachers with the tools that help solve this all-important issue of reading mastery. More details, announcements and exclusive previews will be released over the next several weeks.

Signup up to stay updated. Let’s provide every child a fair shot at success!


Further Resources:

To access further information about the Joyful Literacy framework, see Dr. Mort’s books as listed below. 

The Joyful Literacy Interventions Framework: Closing Literacy Skill Gaps

Joyful Literacy and Parent Power: You can teach your child at home.

Joyful Literacy Interventions: PART ONE Early Learning Classroom Essentials

Putting on the Blitz: Our Breakthrough Methodology!: Joyful Literacy Interventions – Part Two

What Can Sprig Learning Do for You?

Sprig Learning has a new video on its homepage!

Watch it here. Get a glimpse at a holistic early learning platform. 

Sprig Learning creates holistic early literacy and numeracy programs to provide every child a fair shot at success.

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, principal, a school district or community leader, an education innovator, or perhaps all of the above, Sprig’s products are designed to help everyone involved in early childhood education. 

When early learners succeed, everybody wins!


Everyone Wins

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built company with a mission to improve student success. As the main focus is on students, everyone ultimately wins!

Sprig Learning means so many things to so many people. 

We break it down in the following sections, how Sprig’s programs impact everyone involved in early childhood education. 


How Students Win

How Students Win

Students win because Sprig programs work on the critical early literacy and numeracy skills needed to unlock the greatest learning opportunities. 

Early on in their formative years, Sprig’s Language and Math programs focus on the early literacy and numeracy skills that are fundamental for all students, and critical for those that need it most.  

Sprig takes a proactive, strength-based approach that is inclusive for all types of learners in the classroom. 

Sprig’s holistic approach to assessment uncovers new insights that help teachers identify and build on the learning strengths of students to address their unique needs and gaps.

The innovative approach aims to mitigate implicit biases during the assessment process, through a 1-on-1 engaging conversation between the student, teacher, and a puppet! 

For students who often don’t see themselves or their culture reflected in the curriculum, Sprig develops culturally responsive educational materials that reflect unique languages, cultures and customs.


How School Leaders Win

How School Leaders Win

School leaders win because they are able to provide their schools with leading-edge, instructional curriculum, resources and technology, by working with Sprig.

Sprig’s early literacy and numeracy programs enhance instruction, align to local curriculum, and act as an innovative resource for educators to more efficiently manage their classrooms. 

Data is critical to making the right decisions and there is a transformation happening. There is a movement for increased data transparency that helps develop a comprehensive understanding of student performance and identify personalized connections to the curriculum in order to make a meaningful difference in their learning.

Sprig Learning creates learning profiles for every learner that are dynamically updated and monitored. Timely data analytics support education leaders and teachers to target those students in need and connect them with the right instruction, at the right time, and at the right level and intensity.

All students reach the foundational early learning milestones and become well prepared for the transitions to later grades where there are tougher standards. Ultimately, the schools and school districts are able to demonstrate ongoing growth in student achievement.

The implementation of such a proactive and inclusive literacy program, like Sprig Language for 3-6-year-olds, brings downstream cost savings to school districts by limiting the need for costly,  targeted reading interventions or reading recovery programs in the later grades.


How Teachers Win

How Teachers Win

​​Teachers win because Sprig Learning’s tools enhance their ability to efficiently manage a classroom full of diverse learners.

Sprig Learning makes it easy to differentiate instruction for students using technology, classroom resources and hands-on activities.

Educators are able to maintain and assess digital portfolios of their students which include information about their learning needs, strengths, and interests. 

This information is gathered from a holistic assessment conducted at the beginning of the school year, which is an integral part of the program. 

Sprig’s AI Engine combines and analyzes assessment data, not just from the student’s perspective, but also from the perspective of teachers, family members and other members of the community who supports a child’s learning.

With an insights-rich learning profile and a comprehensive view of each student, Sprig’s AI Engine supports teachers to fully personalize a learning pathway for every student and improve proficiency in both early literacy and math

Sprig also provides teachers with a host of physical and digital classroom materials. Many of these resources such as storybooks, language development cards and puppets are available for purchase at the Sprig Store


 How Parents Win

How Parents Win

​​Parents win because Sprig helps every caregiver contribute to the success of their child by supporting their learning at home. 

Sprig provides parents with online and mobile access to at-home learning activities that are personalized for their child. These activities are recommended by their teacher and designed to improve early literacy and numeracy outcomes while fitting into the everyday lives of parents.

Solid fundamentals are the basis of lifelong learning. With Sprig Learning, parents enjoy the ability to be more actively involved in their child’s education.

In schools using a Sprig program, parents and caregivers are able to participate in the assessment process through surveys that help understand a child’s access to learning outside of the classroom. It is a part of the holistic assessment process mentioned earlier. 

But even if your child’s school does have a Sprig program in their classroom, parents can sign up and access hundreds of targeted early learning activities through Sprig Home.


Let’s Talk

Let's Talk

Sprig Learning is an organization like no other. With Sprig, you can:

  • Access early learning resources intentionally designed to help students meet and exceed developmental milestones.
  • Understand the diverse learning needs of all students through holistic, formative assessments that combine hundreds of data points.
  • Meaningfully engage with the student, the parent, or with any other caregiver who has a role to play in the child’s education.
  • Personalize the student’s learning journey—not only through differentiated instruction, but through culturally enabling learning materials, which reflect the diverse languages and cultures of students across North America.

No other learning platform allows you to understand, access, engage and personalize quite the way Sprig does. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to broaden educators’ toolkits and provide equitable access to high-quality learning for all students. Sprig designs programs that do just that—so everybody wins! 

Have any questions? Please let us know here, and we can set up a time to discuss. 



Sprig Learning Partner wins Governor General’s Innovation Award

Indigenous education authority, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, recognized for its innovative approach to learning.


OTTAWA, ON (May 20, 2021) —The Mi’kmaw education authority in Nova Scotia is one of six recipients from across Canada to win the prestigious Governor General’s Innovation Award. Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey is recognized for their ground-breaking work and excellence in innovation as it pertains to elementary-secondary education.

Since 2018, Sprig Learning and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey have worked in partnership to design and develop innovative education technology resources for Mi’kmaw students, teachers, and families across Nova Scotia.  Together, they have developed an award-winning language learning app, been recognized internationally by Apple for its innovation to revitalize Indigenous language and culture; and now winners of this prestigious award in 2021.

“We are so thrilled to see Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey recognized as innovative trailblazers in this country,” says Jarrett Laughlin, Chief Executive Officer of Sprig Learning. “As an organization, they are constantly looking for opportunities to improve the learning environment for their students.  This has resulted in student success rates that are among the best in the country.”  

Language and culture have always been a big part of innovation for Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. 

“Language is the foundation of any culture. For Mi’kmaw, our language holds the stories, songs, dances, protocols, family histories and connections,” says Blaire Gould, Executive Director at Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey.  We always seek to find innovative ways to develop speakers, both young and old.“

The innovation partnership continues in 2021! Sprig Learning and Mi’kmaw Kina’matneway are developing a series of animated shorts. The videos share Mi’kmaw stories and traditions and will be available in both English and Mi’kmaw languages. The partners are also set to release an interactive iOS math app geared to help young learners develop foundational early math skills.  In 2022, expect to see a new augmented reality app that supports students to learn Mi’kmaw and develop early literacy skills.

A virtual event celebrating the 2021 GGIA Laureates will take place on May 20, 2021 during Canadian Innovation Week.  To register for this virtual event follow this link.


About Sprig Learning

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built education technology company that believes all children should have what matters most: a fair shot at success. Sprig Learning provides early learners, educators and parents with the tools and resources needed to build a foundation for lifelong learning—both at home and in school. Sprig Learning’s unique approach to assessment and learning considers each child’s entire learning environment—their home, school, and community. Our early years programs uncover new insights into students’ strengths, challenges, and interests which personalize a learning pathway for each and every learner. Winner of best Language Learning App, Sprig Learning is becoming known as a leader in early years programming.


Media Contact

Andrew Fraser, Media Relations

Ontario Partners with Canadian EdTech Company to Support New Math Curriculum

Sprig Math Focuses on Building a Deeper Understanding of Mathematics in the Early Years.


OTTAWA, ON (March 10, 2021) — Leading educational technology company, Sprig Learning, launches Sprig Math to support teachers, students and families as they navigate the new Ontario math curriculum. With the approval of OECM, Sprig Math is available to be implemented across all Ontario school boards for September 2021.

Sprig Math is an early learning program that supports students, from kindergarten to grade three, to develop a deeper understanding of early mathematics skills. This program helps all students develop a positive identity as math learners and supports them to build a strong foundation in numeracy. Most importantly, Sprig Math focuses on the foundational math processes that transcend all grade levels.

“We are excited to launch Sprig Math for this upcoming school year,” declares Jarrett Laughlin, Chief Executive Officer of Sprig Learning. “This program is the first of its kind, focusing on the underlying math processes–like problem solving, reasoning and communication–that serve as a crucial foundation for students.”

As young learners across this country struggle to maintain math skills beyond grade three, teachers require new tools that help complement a new curriculum. In 2019, nearly 1 in 5 students who met the math standard in Grade 3, did not meet the standard when they were later assessed in Grade 6.

“Math is about action and process. As the math curriculum gets more complex in the later grades, a focus on process supports student learning. It is important that young learners have the opportunity to learn math through verbs, actions, and processes,” concludes Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, St. Francis Xavier University and John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Mathematics Education. “Sprig Math supports teachers to assess, understand, and deliver instruction in the underlying math processes.”

For more information about OECM’s latest Digital Learning Tools Agreements available to Ontario’s education sector visit oecm.ca/math-skills-digital-tools. To contact Sprig Learning and learn more about our latest early years math program, visit SprigLearning.com/sprigmath.


About Sprig Learning

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built education technology company that believes all children should have what matters most: a fair shot at success. Sprig Learning provides early learners, educators and parents with the tools and resources needed to build a foundation for lifelong learning—both at home and in school. Sprig Learning’s unique approach to assessment and learning considers each child’s entire learning environment—their home, school, and community. Our early years programs uncover new insights into students’ strengths, challenges, and interests which personalize a learning pathway for each and every learner. Winner of best Language Learning App, Sprig Learning is becoming known as a leader in early years programming.


Media Contact

Andrew Fraser, Media Relations

COVID Slide: How COVID-19 Affects Young Learners

COVID-19 brought the entire world to a standstill. Arguably, the education sector was the most impacted. School closures for nearly six months are having a profound impact on young learners.

According to UNESCO, approximately 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures across 195 countries due to COVID-19. While school closures were in the interest of children’s physical health, students are impacted differently depending on their ability to access consistent, support-based remote learning opportunities. It is estimated that this has widened existing gaps in learning needs for many marginalized students, when compared to their peers.


The ‘COVID Slide’

Researchers from across the world are using historical studies on summer learning loss to estimate the impact of academic achievement from school closures due to COVID-19. They have termed this the ‘COVID Slide’.

An analysis from Illuminate Education found coronavirus school closures have likely caused a COVID slide of two to four months of learning loss.  The gaps are expected to be less pronounced for students who have frequently interacted with teachers compared to those who did not. Specific to young learners, the research suggests students will have significant gaps in both reading and math skills, with reading loss of about two months across the K-2 grades, and greatest for kindergartners.

NWEA research suggests students will return to school in 2020 with roughly 70% of the academic progress in reading skills relative to a typical school year. The impact on math skills is expected to be worse as students are likely to return with less than 50% of the normal skills acquisition, causing students to be a full year behind from what we would observe in a typical year.


The impact on marginalized students

September is here. In North America, teachers are welcoming students back the way they  do: with open arms and nurturing hearts. Of course this year, their classrooms look different and there is a focus on physical distancing and other measures to keep children safe.

Over the spring and summer, students who thrived during the unplanned remote-learning environment will return to their classrooms along with their peers—many who struggled over the same period. Many students may have experienced difficulty with internet connections, accessing computers, finding support from their families, and in some cases, simply accessing adequate food and shelter.

The shift toward remote learning at home during the pandemic exposed long-standing inequities throughout our education system—highlighting divides between socioeconomic, geographic, and racial cohorts.

The wide variety of experiences at home over the past six-month period will be magnified in 2020, highlighting the existing academic gaps and diverse learning needs and abilities of students. Many students who find themselves behind their peers will need extra support from their teachers as well as their families at home.


What can schools and educators do?

This school year will bring a lot of exceptional challenges for educators. In a class full of 20 to 30 students with an increased gap in learning needs and abilities, it’s going to be more challenging than ever for teachers to support each and every student – especially those who require extra support.  Schools should look to immediately address the following:


Holistic Assessment:

Identify early and often the learning needs and abilities through the use of formative assessment in the classroom. Take the opportunity at the beginning of the school year, while students are in-class to conduct assessments:

  • Be mindful of direct and indirect cultural biases that arise from the existing assessment tools you may use in your classroom;
  • Look to adopt holistic assessment approaches (like Sprig Language) that take a more comprehensive approach to understanding learning beyond the classroom, and look to support learning in the home and community.


Personalized Learning:

Schools and school districts will need to support teachers with innovative tools that will support the delivery of personalized learning for each and every student. Going back to school will require more differentiation than ever before – we need to look at technologies to support this:

  • Use data gleaned from early assessments to help inform differentiated instruction to ensure individual learning gaps and needs are addressed immediately;
  • Our Sprig Learning Engine can help teachers to do this at scale to ensure no students are left behind.


Support Parents at Home

In the early years, parents are pivotal to a child’s educational success, and this has never been more true than it is today. Given the reliance of at-home learning leading up to this school year –  and increased dependence as the pandemic continues – schools and teachers need to dedicate time and resources to provide the necessary support for all parents but especially those who need it most:

  • Resources should include simple, easy to follow instructions for all parents and need to recognize the added stress all families are under during this pandemic;
  • Parents need help navigating curriculums and in understanding their child’s learning needs – which requires consistent communication between teachers and parents;
  • Look to Sprig Home as a tool that can provide parents of young learners with access to simple, easy-to-implement learning activities that they can complete with their child; turning everyday moments into learning opportunities.
  • For more on supporting parents at home, read: ‘When Parents Get Involved, Early Literacy Grows’ by Maureen Taylor, Sprig’s Strategic Advisor of Learning and Governance.

As schools reopen, everyone must be prepared to support students, especially those who may be academically behind. Every learner is truly unique. In order to adequately support them, we need to understand their individual strengths, challenges and interests across a multitude of learning environments.  Support is essential in all areas: their school, their home and in their community.  We need to work collaboratively to determine the best way to assess and utilize data to help us mitigate the potential impacts of this pandemic.


About the Author

Jarrett Laughlin, CEO & Founder, Sprig Learning

Jarrett has worked with educational organizations across the world developing holistic and innovative approaches to measuring success in education.

His recent passion involves mobilizing research into action through socially innovative, community-based projects through his educational technology company, Sprig Learning.

Innovation meets Indigenous pedagogy: the Canadian company revitalizing Indigenous languages

This article was originally published at https://www.canadadownunder.org.au/sprig-learning/

Jarrett Laughlin comes from a family of Canadian educators. As someone with nearly two decades of experience in the Canadian education sector, his passion and work are dedicated to closing the learning gaps for marginalized students.

During a routine parent-teacher meeting when Jarrett’s son was five years old, the teacher told Jarrett that she was concerned about his son’s oral language development.

The teacher was unable to assess his son Jacob, because he didn’t talk at school.

Jarrett knew where this was going. He knew there would eventually be discussion about putting Jacob on an Individual Learning Plan, but he also knew Jacob’s speaking skills were not the issue.

“Jacob is the last of my four children, and at home he’s always trying to be heard and does not stop talking,” said Jarrett.

“He has one level of volume – and it’s really loud!”

“It dawned on me that he must have been shy or uncomfortable in the classroom – not in a space where he was willing to use his voice.”

This moment led Jarrett to reflect on the wider challenges that communities, schools, teachers and parents face in supporting and shaping children during their early learning years.

These foundational years are so critical to a child’s long-term educational success, and Jarrett acknowledged that without intervention that “this could have really influenced Jacob’s learning path and learning journey.”

Working together, Jacob’s teachers and Jarrett supported Jacob and boosted his confidence, so he could demonstrate his oral skills in the classroom.

With over 15 years’ experience working in Indigenous education, Jarrett recognizes that many students – especially those who are disadvantaged or from diverse backgrounds – often struggle to access the personalised support they need to excel at school.

“This [Jacob’s case] was a Caucasian child with a Caucasian teacher in a high socio-economic school. Think about how this happens every day, for thousands of marginalized students across this country.”


Sprig Learning is established

After this experience, Jarrett was driven to establish the education technology company called Sprig Learning. The company founded its first early learning program, Sprig Language, which uses a holistic approach to early literacy and language development by encouraging learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Having worked as a teacher, policy advisor and advocate at all levels of government, Jarrett has witnessed a number of heart-breaking journeys for students struggling to navigate the education system.

This experience has given him a rich understanding of the many educational challenges and opportunities that exist across Canada.

In particular, his passion lies in Indigenous education, where he has worked with Indigenous teachers and communities to identify and address the many disadvantages that are unique to Indigenous students.

“Many Indigenous students in Canada start their learning journey by leaving their communities and are enrolling in unfamiliar schools with unfamiliar teachers, who bring with them innate cultural biases and stereotypes about Indigenous children. In many situations, this scenario caused inaccurate assessments for students and has led to many students getting off on the wrong educational path so early in life.”

“We can do better. Every child deserves a fair shot of success in education.”


Sprig Learning’s Mission

“[At Sprig Learning], we focus on education equity. The foundation of successful learning is not just built on equality, but equity. The unique needs of every student, especially marginalized students, must be met.”

“We focus on the foundational key milestones in those early years that lead to success later in life.”

Studies show there is a strong correlation between reaching early literacy milestones by age eight and completing high-school by age 18.

“Generally, up to age eight, children are learning to read. After that, they are reading to learn. After age eight this is a pivotal point where curriculum often shifts and accelerates. This is the point where many students on the margins are lost, and teachers find it difficult in large classrooms to support these students.”


How does Sprig Learning enhance literacy?

Personalisation is an important element of all Sprig Learning’s programs, and Jarrett explains that Sprig Learning’s technology identifies a child’s unique strengths, needs and abilities.

“The first step is a holistic assessment. At the school, students have a conversation with a puppet – his name is Antle in the Mi’kmaw language.”

The teacher will hold the puppet in one hand and an iPad in another which observes and records the interaction, collecting data. Through this interaction, the technology assesses the child’s vocabulary, grammar, storytelling strategies, clarity of speech and comprehension.

The puppet and iPad are not only a fun way to engage children, but they help limit any cultural, racial or gender biases a teacher may have.

Sprig Learning’s technology then uses artificial intelligence to analyze the assessment results and personalizes a learning journey for each child.

The outcome is a set of personalized learning activities, for each child, that reflects their needs and interests. Teachers are guided to complete these activities in the school, while parents are supported to complete them at home with their child.

“Not only is there a student assessment, but we survey parents, and they [tell us] about how they support oral language in the home. Are they speaking in multiple languages? Are they reading to their child, talking with them, telling stories, counting, singing, rhyming? We engage with the elders in the community and also with the teachers.”

“So, we use multiple perspectives to help understand the child’s oral language learning in the home, the community and the school. It really brings out a holistic understanding about what’s needed to support that child.”

As was the issue in his son’s case, Jarrett knows that the right support doesn’t just improve a student’s academic skills, but also their social, emotional and mental well-being.

“When we can really recognize them, identify not just their learning gaps, but their strengths and their interests, the students feel respected and understood. They feel included in the classroom and in the conversation.”

“That trickles down socially and emotionally to so many other attributes,” he said.


Connecting within communities

Today, Sprig Learning is used in more than 100 schools across Canada and supports the learning and delivery of 11 different Canadian Indigenous languages.

Jarrett and his team have worked hard to advocate across Canada and internationally connecting with key decision makers within the government, school districts and community, including curriculum leads, early learning leads, and champions of Indigenous education.

“We do a lot of work to understand the challenges and pain points of education systems and to make sure that our programs are helping to solve their problems. Many of the challenges we hear are around equity and inclusion and providing support for parents and teachers.”

The ability to customise the platform for a range of languages was essential to the partnership in 2015 with the Mi’kmaw Indigenous community.

“With our widespread reconciliation work here in Canada, there is a real focus on the revitalization and reclamation of Indigenous languages which is a key part of the social fabric of this country.”

The Mi’kmaw not only wanted to enhance the English literacy of their students, but most importantly revitalize and grow their Mi’kmaw language with equal importance. Working alongside community and provincial education authorities, the Indigenous community led the way in shaping the program.

It was tailored to suit the needs of the community and incorporated the knowledge and perspectives of the Elders by integrating stories, language and cultural elements.

Jarrett said that the partnership has seen significant improvements for students, and this has been backed up by teachers.

“We are seeing lots of success [in student outcomes] already, including increased engagement, and increased language acquisition.”

“There is a formal study underway with St. Francis Xavier University who will assess the longitudinal outcomes.”

Jarrett is reminded of how one of the Grade 1 Mi’kmaw teachers said that the improvements were clear.

“She said she was already a month into the classroom and already the understanding of the Mi’kmaw language is ahead of where she would normally be two months from now.”


Lessons learned

The partnership has also been fruitful from a business perspective in working with other educational partners.

“My work over the years has helped me reflect on how Indigenous pedagogy and worldview can help support all education systems across the world as they look to improve and reform,” said Jarrett.

“Indigenous education is reflected through holistic, lifelong learning models, which are built on a community-based approach to education that supports each and every learner.”

Of course, closing the education gap is only one part of the reconciliation story. One particular moment that has stuck with Jarrett involves a parent of a child who was undertaking the Sprig Language program.

This parent had a grandmother who attended a residential school as a child, bringing with her decades of terrible trauma associated with this experience. This parent had found it difficult to participate in their child’s school activities or even visit the school. For them, school was not a safe place.

However, when her child’s class had a birthday party for their puppet Antle, the child and their parent both came to the school to celebrate the event.

Initially nervous, the parent stayed in the hallway before being welcomed into the classroom by the teacher and the puppet in the Mi’kmaw language.

This experience demonstrated to Jarrett that the puppet was not just a tool to teach language and build literacy skills, but also allowed people of all ages to break boundaries and build connections between the home and school.


The future of Sprig Learning

With these successes in mind, Jarrett believes that this is only the beginning for Sprig Learning.

During a trip to Australia to speak at the World Indigenous Education Conference back in 2008, Jarrett has seen the similarities between Canadian and Australian school system, realizing the potential for Sprig language in this country.

With a commitment of protecting and preserving Indigenous languages in Australia, Sprig Learning is a program with proven results and the ability to adapt to an Australian context. But whether the next step is to expand in Australia or elsewhere, it is clear that there are benefits to be realised not just by students, but by parents, teachers, and communities worldwide.

When asked about his hopes for Sprig Learning in the future, Jarrett’s passion for equitable education is clear.

“I want to see as many students and families have broader access to Sprig’s early learning programs so that every child can have a fair shot at success in education.”

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