Over the summer, researchers, technologists, and policymakers gathered in Accra, Ghana for the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies (ACM COMPASS) to discuss the role of information technologies in international development.
Two IES-funded researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research, Michael Madaio and Dr. Amy Ogan, shared their research on developing voice-based early literacy technologies and evaluating their efficacy with low-literate, bilingual families in the Ivory Coast.
Their research draws on methods from human-computer interaction, the learning sciences, and information-communication technology for development, to design educational technologies that are culturally and contextually appropriate.
Although the COMPASS conference focused on cross-cultural applications and technology for development, the research presented has implications for U.S. based education researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.
For instance, while research provides evidence for the importance of parental involvement in early literacy, parents with low literacy in the target language – as in many bilingual immigrant communities in the U.S. – may not be able to support their children with the explicit, instrumental help suggested by prior research (for example, letter naming or bookreading). This suggests that there may be opportunities for technology to scaffold low-literate or English Learners (EL) parental support in other ways.
At the conference, researchers described interactive voice-based systems (known as “IVR”) that help low-literate users find out about crop yields, understand local government policies, and engage on social media.
This body of work has implications for designers of learning technologies in the U.S. Many families may not have a smartphone, but basic feature phones are ubiquitous worldwide, including in low-income, immigrant communities in the U.S. Thus, designers of learning technologies may consider designing SMS- or voice-based (such as IVR) systems, while schools or school districts may consider how to use voice-based systems to engage low-literate or EL families who may not have a smartphone or who may not be able to read SMS information messages.
In a rapidly changing, increasingly globalized world, research at IES may benefit from increased international engagement with international research, both focusing specifically on education, as well as information technology research that has implications for educational research, practice, and policy.
This guest blog was written by Michael Madaio. He is an IES Predoctoral Fellow in the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research at Carnegie Mellon University. He is placed in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.