Sunday, May 4th, 2014

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I'd heard in passing about a place in Ethiopia where children basically learned to read on their own, using tablets containing learning apps. I found out more in this storyfrom 2012 and this one from 2013. Children in two remote villages, with little or no exposure to any writing, figured out how to spell English (and hack tablets) in a short period of time, without any outside input. I'm not sure how far they've been proven to go with this method, but it's certainly interesting. I was also wondering why they went for English rather than the children's native language (Oromo), but one researcher has some good answers: The software doesn't exist in Oromo, and the parents prefer their children to learn English.

Closer to home, my daugther's taken to writing long, illustrated stories involving My Little Ponies on her beloved tablet. She's using autocomplete a good bit, which helps her to insert apostrophes (but not to distinguish "there" and "they're") and hopefully become familiar with the spellings of longer words. Today, she needed help to spell "ginormous". I helped her with the beginning, then watched in amazement as the spellchecker helpfully finished the whole thing for her. That's some wordlist they've got there!

Anyway, this is not the first time tablets have been used to improve literacy. But the Sumerians used round ones...


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