8 Educational Apps from MENA that Are Changing Classrooms and Education
Educational apps image via Shutterstock
The children of Generation Z are growing up with apps and digital media as a critical component of their lives alongside television, internet, and smartphones. Exploring the potential of educational apps represents a huge opportunity that companies, big and small, international and local, are jumping at. So what does our region have in store for our kids? Here is a list that covers different types of apps from various Arab countries.
Lamsa is an iOS and Android Arabic interactive educational app launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012 by Badr Ward. Over the course of three years, Lamsa has evolved into a sustainable platform with more than 100 e-books and regularly updated educational content featuring animated stories, rhymes, interactive games, and captivating videos in Arabic for children under 6 years old. The app has a limited free trial period, after which, users have the option to subscribe and enjoy unlimited access.
Country of origin: Saudi Arabia
Date of launch: 2012
2- Rawy Kids
Competing head to head with Lamsa is Rawy Kids, an app that offers a comprehensive library of interactive, entertaining Arabic stories for children. Rawy's differentiation is allowing writers and artists alike to access the platform and use animation, comics, interaction, and narration to create rich and engaging stories. The company maintains a mutually-beneficial relationship with its artists by sharing revenue and allowing them to maintain ownership of their work. As such, Rawy ensures its content is continuously enriched while creating revenue for the artists.
The app follows a freemium model and is compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile.
Country of origin: Egypt
Date of launch: April 2013
3- Kitabi Book Reader
Kitabi is an interactive freemium mobile application launched in 2013 by EduLab, an e-learning software company in Lebanon established by Dani Awad and Elie Shaaya. Kitabi allows Lebanese students to purchase e-versions of school textbooks, which would cost around $14—somehow similar to the prices of hard copies. Users interact with their digital books by highlighting texts, adding notes, and searching for keywords, thus making learning more practical. The platform can also enrich books by embedding animations, videos, and interactivities.
Edulab launched the app in collaboration with the Syndicate of Scholar Publishers Union in Lebanon, and has partnered with several local publishers to make their books available on Kitabi app reader, including World Heritage Publishers, Al Ahliya, Dar Al Banan, among others.
Country of origin: Lebanon
Date of launch: November 2013
In the much-crowded free language teaching applications for children, Zee’s Alphabet is an interesting free app launched in 2014 in Dubai by Growl Media to teach the Arabic alphabet.
Zee's Alphanet helps children aged 3 to 5 years learn the fundamental writing and reading skills of the Arabic language in an exciting and interactive 3-step way: Observe, imitate, and demonstrate. It has been so far downloaded 1,000,000 times across the MENA region. Even though Zee's alphabet has many rivalries—think My Arabic Letters by Beelabs and Huroofi by Barmajiyyat—with the easy interface and great graphics, you should keep an eye on it.
Country of origin: UAE
Date of launch: June 2014
Developer: Growl Media
Keefak is an app that teaches users to speak and understand the Lebanese dialect of Arabic- not how to read or write Arabic. It contains 20 courses available in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. To ensure their pedagogical relevance, all the courses are prepared by Antoine Fleyfel, author of several books for learning Lebanese. The app first introduces users to the basics of the language with vocabulary lessons, then exposes them to a number of texts, followed by grammar rules, and finally assesses their knowledge acquisition with application exercises.
According to creator Hadi El Khoury, there are "15 million reasons" why a product with such a narrow offering makes sense, referring to the huge Lebanese population scattered worldwide. Keefak is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. Users can download the free version of the app and upgrade to pro for $4.99. Keefak Junior has been recently released following the high demand of Lebanese diaspora struggling to teach their children their mother tongue.
Country of origin: Lebanon
Date of launch: March 2012
Developer: Dash Tag
6- Sho'lah - شعلة
Sho'lah is the first Arabic personal brain trainer released recently by Kuwaiti serial entrepreneur Abdul Rahman El Sayed. It helps users train their memory, attention, and problem solving skills with over 15+ educational games covering five major cognitive areas. It also allows users to compare their performance with others.
Sho'lah is free to use, but users can upgrade to a premium training program to expand on their mental training and gain more insights on their brain’s performance. The app faces fierce international competition, with Lumosity, Eidetic, and many others gaining increasing traction from users worldwide. However, with its smart and Arabic-only interface, Sho'lah might actually succeed in tapping into a massive user base.
Country of origin: United Arab Emirates
Date of launch: December 2015
Developer: Elektron Games
BabNoor is an Arabic language cloud-based prototype app for children with autism, hearing and speech difficulties, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, and similar conditions to help them communicate. The app eventually intends to replace the traditional reference cards for children with special needs and reduce dependency on therapy. All content on the app has been validated by speech therapists and follows the global standards of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
The app can be customized for institutional and personal needs. The Dubai Autism Center will receive an initial batch of tablets preloaded with the app throughout the academic year 2015/2016. Once public, the Babnoor app will initially only be available on iOS.
Country of origin: United Arab Emirates
Date of launch: Limited launch, October 2015
Developer: Flagship Projects
Focused on children aged from 5 to 9 years old, Loujee is a smart toy that assimilates and responds in Arabic in a fun and interactive way based on Arabic speech recognition technology. Loujee has two main parts: the plush toy that you can order online through the official website, and the compatible iOS app. Once the iPhone or iPad is inserted inside the plush toy, Loujee comes to life and responds to kids' touch and actions, talks to them, listens, and plays. The app can understand almost all Arabic dialects with a 92% accuracy, according to the toy's official website, and is programmed with a wide variety of educational facts, stories, and games that stimulates the children's brains. The toy's price ranges between $50 and $80 approximately, depending on the device users want to insert in it.
Country of origin: Syria/ UAE
Date of launch: 2015
Read the full article in the Spring 2016 Issue of ArabNet The Quarterly.