Check Out the Made-in-Texas App Targeting Low Adult Literacy Rates

DALLAS (Nexstar) – A long-term study has shown that students who don’t read well in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, an event that could impact their lives in the later years. come.

That’s why nonprofits like the Barbara Bush Foundation are working to improve student literacy skills and are turning to technology for solutions to close this gap for struggling adult readers.

BBF has partnered with Southern Methodist University and the Dollar General Foundation to develop a game app that aims to improve users’ comprehension skills by targeting the root causes of literacy issues.

In Texas, about 28% of adults have low literacy, which is measured by the ability to read above a sixth-grade reading level. Nationally, about 54% of adults, ages 16 to 74, lack these basic skills, which equates to about one in five Americans.

Diane Gifford is a clinical associate professor of education at SMU who was the mastermind behind the reading building blocks in the trio’s app, called Enigma. She said they initially started the game focusing on words and sounds, as understanding phonics is often the missing piece of the puzzle in a struggling reader’s abilities.

“A lot of people lack skills and we miss that all the time,” she said. “But with adults it’s made worse because they’ve spent their whole lives lacking skills.”

Gifford worked closely with Corey Clark, who is the deputy director of the game lab at SMU. Together, the duo has been developing Enigma for years. It all started as “Codex”, which was an award-winning app in a global competition called XPrize.

“The games themselves are engaging, they’re a place to fail. They’re a safe place to fail,” he said. “So it’s perfect for educational practices. We use that same type of loop engagement to try to make sure someone is having fun and swinging between boredom and frustration, to keep them engaged.

Enigma is designed to be fun for adults. It uses hidden objects in the Atlantis-themed game that users press to reveal sounds or letters, with the aim of matching the corresponding sounds and letters. This advances the user to the next level, but is also designed to improve their phonetic comprehension skills.

“Individuals may be able to read whole words like cat or dog, but they have no idea that cat is made up of three sounds, which is ‘kAt,’ and that connection is key,” Gifford said.

Clark said their Enigma pilot, which runs through winter 2022, is one of the greatest educational pilots of all time.

Robinson said Enigma is a game-changer for improving adult reading levels because it meets people where they are, as opposed to a traditional classroom format that has some accessibility limitations.

“The game is exciting. It reduces shame and stigma,” she said. school, you’re trying to put dinner on the table, so we wanted to address access first.

Although the app is largely aimed at struggling adult readers and second-language learners, BBF hopes that Enigma can be a resource for teachers, students, and anyone else who needs it.

The foundation hopes to officially launch the app in mid-2023 and plans to have it as a free resource, through donations and grants.

About Shirley L. Kreger

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