Literacy Tools | Social Worker Applications | Braille Tutor

The inaugural team will be working with the University Computing Center in Dar es Salaam on three projects:

1. Creating and evaluating culturally-relevant educational technology and games for child literacy.

2. A cell phone application for use by social workers to track information on services provided to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

3. Enhancing and evaluating a low-cost braille writing tutor for visually-impaired students.

Literacy Tools Project

At the time of Tanzania’s independence in 1961, Tanzania had a literacy rate of only 30%. Partially through government campaigns, the current literacy rate in Tanzania has drastically improved since independence to 69.4%. Yet, further improvements to the literacy rate, by way of advancements in education, serves to help raise economic conditions for an impoverished nation.

Many past development projects have been developed to teach residents in developing countries how to use technological devices, including computers. However, a further application is the use of technology to build a person’s literacy skills. The iSTEP team thus looks to develop such a program that enhances literacy skills by playing games on technological devices.

Social Worker Applications

With the increasing number of HIV/AIDS adult deaths in Tanzania, and concurrently, the rising number of orphans and vulnerable children, there is an equivalent escalation in need for social workers to provide care to those affected. Although need is abundant, human and financial resources available to social welfare groups is limited.

Technology can play a role in alleviating some of the tremendous burden placed on social workers who are attempting to serve the millions of children across Tanzania left vulnerable due to the onset of deadly HIV. Accurate data entry into central databases improves monitoring and evaluation of orphaned and vulnerable children, by providing more complete information so to better make informed decisions on how best to tackle this huge problem. If social workers are able to send into databases realistic data, then plans can be enacted to address ground-level realities. Since many people in Tanzania own or have access to a mobile phone, a mobile phone application has practical appeal. The iSTEP team is thus working on developing a mobile phone application to help social workers transfer pertinent information more readily.

Braille Tutor Project

The availability of trained teachers to educate visually impaired students in Tanzania is rather limited. Thus, there is a great need for additional educational resources that enables these children to realize their potential. A low-cost braille writing tutor can be useful to teachers who are lacking resources or overwhelmed by the number of students they are responsible for. The advantages to the robust Automated Braille Writing Tutor are that it is low-cost, has low-power requirements, is easily operated and understood, and works in harmony with the traditional method of learning braille by slate and stylus. The tutor also has language capabilities function in English, Arabic, Chinese, and French Braille.

The idea of the braille writing tutor was conceived through extensive discussions between TechBridgeWorld students and teachers from the Mathru School for the Blind in Bangalore, India. TechBridgeWorld developed the Braille Tutor through extensive dialogue between Carnegie Mellon researchers, blind adults in the Pittsburgh area, and continued discussions with the Mathru School, and feedback from other colleagues and overseas partners.