Ph.D. Thesis Defense, "Co-designing family-centered literacy technology in rural Côte d’Ivoire"

Michael Madaio

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 9:30am
Virtual, streaming via Zoom
Amy Ogan, Co-Chair (HCII, CMU)
Justine Cassell, Co-Chair (LTI, CMU)
Ken Koedinger (HCII, CMU)
Neha Kumar (Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)
Despite an overall rise in global literacy rates, these gains have not been evenly distributed. Rural communities in low-resource contexts---as in cocoa-growing regions of Côte d'Ivoire---face unique challenges in fostering children's early literacy. Although families and the home environment are critical precursors for early literacy, in multilingual contexts with low adult literacy in the language of schooling, parents and other caregivers may face challenges in supporting children's literacy. Given the ubiquity of low-cost mobile devices in Sub-Saharan Africa, educational technologies may be able to complement the support that children are receiving for their literacy development at home. However, it is not clear how such technologies may be designed in ways that most effectively fit into families' existing literacy practices, nor how children and their families will use such technologies at home in multilingual agricultural contexts.

In this dissertation, I present insights from a multi-year, iterative design-based research program in which we co-designed and deployed a voice-based technology to support family literacy in rural communities in Côte d'Ivoire. I present insights from our co-design process with Ivorian families, as well as results from 3 deployments of our system, Allô Alphabet, with over 1,500 families in 8 villages over several years. Using a mixed-methods approach involving semi-structured interviews as well as quantitative analyses of surveys, assessments, and system log data, I investigate motivating and inhibiting factors and patterns of use for children and families’ adoption of Allô Alphabet.

This thesis makes contributions at the intersection of the learning sciences, human-computer interaction (HCI), and information-communication technology for development (ICTD) with implications for family learning with technology beyond the Ivorian context. I discuss implications for designing technologies to support family literacy, particularly voice-based systems in multilingual contexts, as well as the role that multiple family supporters play in mediating children's use of educational technology at home, in communities with low literacy in the target language. Finally, I close with a discussion of neocolonialism in the ICTD field and the need for decolonization in educational technology and international development research.

Dissertation document:
Queenie Kravitz

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