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DMZ Startup “Rumie” helping provide academic tools to marginalized communities

By Sabhie Qadeer

A DMZ startup is changing the way students of all backgrounds use academic tools in the classroom.

With print textbooks becoming a thing of the past, the Rumie Initiative hopes to provide over ten thousand textbooks worth of material to students in need through its LearnCloud platform. The LearnCloud includes a personalized library of videos and applications that can be accessed at school, at home or on the go.

Working alongside Indigenous communities is a key focus of the Rumie Initiative. “We have a staff member who works a lot with Indigenous communities up north,” says Tiffany Janzen, a Ryerson alumna and Developer for Rumie. “It’s all about what they want to learn.”

Since winning the Google Impact Challenge in 2017, the innovative team at Rumie has expanded from their humble beginnings in the DMZ to an office of their own with a focus on Indigenous communities. Rumie has improved its solutions in many ways by growing its LearnCloud platform according to the needs of Indigenous educators

By allowing educators to choose which content to use in the classroom, students can use Rumie tablets to learn a plethora of new things, from practicing languages to learning how to play guitar.

Photo Courtesy: Rumie

What makes Rumie different from other providers of educational tools is their Content Lockdown feature, which restricts certain aspects of the Rumie tablet to ensure that educational use remains the priority. “If an NGO is working with a refugee camp, and they don’t want them to have access to the Internet, because of whatever their reasons are, we can prevent them from going on to the Internet,” explains Janzen.

Mair Greenfield, Director of Indigenous Programs at the Rumie Initiative, says there are “well over 5000 resources to support community voiced requests for mental health, food sovereignty, Indigenous language, culture, food sovereignty, reconciliation information and Canadian history and literacy, numeracy”.

With LearnCloud now offering content in over a hundred Indigenous dialects, it has also incorporated content from several education organizations including Rick Hansen Foundation, and the Centre for Suicide Prevention

Teachers may contribute to the LearnCloud by uploading their own resources to share with everyone. The Rumie Initiative believes digitizing traditional forms of media (paper, VHS, DVD to PDF and YouTube formats) can foster efforts of Indigenous language and culture preservation.

“In reality, there are so many people, so many communities who don’t have access to [the Internet],” says Janzen. “It’s a huge benefit to them for being able to learn in an offline environment.”

Rumie continues to grow to over 23 countries across the world in its effort to provide free, quality education to those in need.

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