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Can Technology Help Teach Literacy in Poor Communities?


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Students in Uganda using a tablet computer.

Researchers have found tablet computers can help improve the performance of students in economically disadvantaged countries on standardized tests of reading preparedness.

Credit: CuriousLearning.org

For the past four years, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, and Georgia State University conducted three studies to determine whether tablet computers equipped with literacy applications could improve the reading preparedness of children in economically disadvantaged countries. The results in all three cases, presented this week at the ACM Learning at Scale ([email protected] 2016) conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, show tablet use was effective in improving participants' performance on standardized tests of reading preparedness.

One test was set in a pair of rural Ethiopian villages with no schools and no written culture, and another was conducted in a suburban South African school with a student-to-teacher ratio of 60 to 1. The third test took place in a rural U.S. school with predominantly low-income students.

In the African tests, students who used tablets scored much better on the tests than those who did not use. In the U.S. deployment, the students' scores improved dramatically after four months of using the tablets.

"The whole premise of our project is to harness the best science and innovation to bring education to the world's most under-resourced children," says MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal. She says the researchers are currently analyzing the data collected from the trials.

From MIT News
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