Thesis Proposal: Michael Madaio

Michael Madaio

HCII PhD Student

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 10:00am
Gates-Hillman Center 4405

Thesis Committee:
Amy Ogan, Co-Chair (Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University)
Justine Cassell, Co-Chair (Language Technology Institute, Carnegie Mellon University)
Ken Koedinger (Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University)
Neha Kumar (Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and School of Interactive Computing,
Georgia Institute of Technology)

Significant research has demonstrated the crucial role that parents and adult caregivers play
in supporting the development of children’s literacy in the home environment. However, in
developing contexts and low-resource communities, adult caregivers may lack sufficient literacy
in the target language to provide the most effective support for their children’s literacy at
home. As mobile devices become increasingly ubiquitous across developing regions, they have the
potential to supplement children’s literacy development in low-resource areas where local schools
struggle to reach every child. However, the majority of this work has designed technologies to
teach children literacy directly, while not designing methods to engage the adults that frame
and support their children’s literacy, which becomes even more critical for low-literate adult
caregivers. Côte d’Ivoire is one such developing context, where adult literacy rates lag far
behind the regional and global average, but where access to mobile phones - even in rural
agricultural communities - is comparably high.
In the first stages of this thesis, I have conducted two studies as part of a design-based
research process to understand and scaffold low-literate parents and caregivers in supporting
their children’s literacy development in rural communities in Côte d’Ivoire. Our first study used
interviews, storyboards, and prototyping methods to understand the ideologies and preferences
of rural Ivorian parents for French literacy and learning on mobile devices in several rural
communities in Côte d’Ivoire. Then, in the second study, we deployed an early version of a
voice- and SMS-based early literacy instructional system using low-cost mobile phones with 40
families in one village in Côte d’Ivoire, to understand how children would use such a literacy
system and how their families would engage in the learning process without explicit scaffolding
for their support.
Following these two studies, I thus propose a third study to deploy and evaluate the use
and impact of a voice-based literacy system that provides scaffolds for parental support for
their children’s literacy, designed based on findings and implications surfaced from the first two
studies. I propose to conduct a longitudinal randomized controlled trial, with 32 schools in 8
villages in rural Côte d’Ivoire for 4 months, with learning gains assessed via a pre- and postassessment
and children’s performance on system’s lessons, supplemented by data on parents’
usage of the adult supporter system and home observations and interviews conducted throughout
the study.
Through this iterative design-based research process, this thesis intends to contribute by
providing further evidence for the important role parents and adult caregivers play in their
children’s literacy development, providing initial evidence for the efficacy of scaffolding the
engagement of low-literate parents in their children’s literacy - contextually grounded in rural
communities in Côte d’Ivoire - and providing design guidelines for designers of technologies for
early childhood literacy in developing contexts, designers of learning technologies for families,
and designers of educational scaffolds for low-literate parents.


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