Mobile phone screen with apps

The Citizen Literacy consortium (@citizen_phonics), led by City of Glasgow College (@CofGCollege), has launched a prototype smartphone app aimed at helping tackle adult literacy. The project is funded by Nesta (@nesta_uk), the UK innovation foundation, and Ufi Charitable Trust (@UfiTrust), which supports the use of technology in vocational education. 

The app will help adult literacy learners practice in their own time and at their own pace, as well as supporting face-to-face teaching across the UK and beyond. 

John Casey, Senior Learning Technologist at City of Glasgow College, and project manager, explains:  

“We have released the first lesson (of 30) which introduces students and teachers to the app, giving them a chance to explore its interactivity and essentially test drive it. User feedback will guide our design and development activities and, of course, catch any potential bugs.” 

 The final version of the student app will be free to use, with no registration required, no adverts, and no personal data recorded. 

 “The app is especially designed for low literacy users, so traditional text-driven interfaces are not used. It uses voice and handwriting recognition technologies for learner input, and features virtual tutor voices to provide information and directions to learners,” added John. 

Diane Gardner, Head of Applied Research in Adult Literacy at City of Glasgow College, said: 

 “We wanted to make the app more inclusive. Current systems struggle with regional accents, so we adopted AI tools to tune the app to an individual user’s local accent. The prototype is being tested as far afield as Australia and Finland and feedback so far is extremely positive.”  

The app has been developed by the Citizen Literacy consortium which brings together leading literacy experts and software developers from across the UK. It has grown from City of Glasgow College’s successful City Phonics programme which offers a first step in literacy for the beginner adult learner.  

“One in 28 people in Scotland are not able to progress because of a lack of literacy skills. Being able to read and write is the best thing in the world and it’s so very important. We need this ability to be able to do our jobs, to interact, to live our lives as fully as possible,” said Diane. “Reading and writing opens up the world to people.” 

The project is funded by Nesta, the UK innovation foundation, and Ufi Charitable Trust, which supports the use of technology in vocational education.  

Further information on the app and its test phase can be found on the Citizen Literacy website. 

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