In Rural China, Students Use Phones to Learn to Read
In many parts of the developing world, mobile phones have leapfrogged literacy, reaching places books and newspapers are rarely seen. In rural China, researchers with the Mobile & Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE) Project are using those phones to teach children how to read.
Scholars from Carnegie Mellon, UC-Berkeley, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences worked with children in Xin’an, an underdeveloped region in Henan Province, China, using two mobile learning games, inspired by traditional Chinese children’s games. MILLEE later repeated these studies with young children at a privately run school in urban Beijing. Both runs suggest that phone-based games could be a useful tool in teaching literacy.
According to Carnegie Mellon’s Matthew Kam, despite their comparatively small screens and low computing power, mobile phones could become a major educational resource as wireless carriers and mobile phone manufacturers move aggressively to extend mobile phone penetration across the globe. And if the educational benefits of mobile phones can be demonstrated convincingly, he added, consumers will have an additional motivation for getting mobile phone service, which could further spur mobile phone adoption in developing countries.
First, MILLEE researchers had to create games that would be meaningful and useful for children with little to no experience with either writing or computers. They analyzed 25 traditional Chinese children’s games to identify elements, such as cooperation between players, songs and handmade game objects, for use in the games.
They eventually developed two games: Multimedia Word and Drumming Stroke. In MW, the app provides hints to the children for recognizing characters: This might be a hints at pronunciation, a sketch, a photo or another multimedia object. In Drumming Stroke, children pass the mobile phone to one another to the rhythm of a phone-generated drum sound. Each player writes one stroke of a given Chinese character by following the exact stroke order.
Nokia has sponsored a MILLEE project teaching English literacy to rural children in India using mobile phone-based games, begining with 800 children in 40 villages in southern India’s Andhra Pradesh. MILLEE is also working with the University of Nairobi to explore how the games could be adapted to English literacy learning for rural children in Kenya.
Culturally inspired mobile phone games help Chinese children learn language characters [Carnegie Mellon via EurekAlert]
The MILLEE Classroom [Millee.org] Image via MILLEE.
- Text-Free Computers Find Work for India’s Unlettered
- Why India’s $35 Tablet May Be Just a Dream
- If Afghan Troops Can’t Read Cat in the Hat, This War Is Screwed …
- Learning Literacy with Lego
- 5 Huge Green-Tech Projects in the Developing World
- Wired 10.02: The Ever-Expanding, Profit-Maximizing, Cultural …
Also on Wired.com