;

Accessibility

Our App is being developed to help existing speakers of English who need help with their reading and writing. This has some challenges of its own. The App is designed for low literacy users, this means we cannot use text for instruction, navigation and guidance. To meet this challenge we are using voice instead of text and trying to keep the interface as simple and intuitive as possible and building in some options for customisation. As much as we can, within the constraints of the platform and the needs of low literacy learners, we are trying to address different accessibility needs. We think some of our existing and planned design decisions will help, as well as a learning design and tutor voice persona that is encouraging to the learners and does not require every activity to be completed. In our user testing and community engagement activities it will be really useful to get to get feedback and ideas about how we might improve things.

Educational Approaches

We are also developing new F2F courses and resources with our partners that are designed to teach adults how to read and write in a structured way. The App will support these new courses. In contrast to some other educational approaches, our courses aim to give the learners an understanding of how the language works. This ‘nuts and bolts’ approach focusses on developing four key literacy skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also covers basic grammar, spelling and Alphabet awareness. It works with learners of all ages who have struggled with very poor Literacy skills. It takes guess work away and offers a structure that students can use when out of class and in turn raises confidence. The teacher support training materials reflect this approach and are intended to give confidence to teachers, especially those in community education settings, who may have little experience of these methods, or indeed of literacy development support.

The new courses under development are designed to be customised, using the ‘Social Practice’. approach that is common in Scotland. This means students and their teachers can have an input to the choice of content, with the resources being flexible enough to be personalised and localised by teachers for their learners. This approach can help calm students and allow them to learn in a more welcoming and inclusive environment, sometimes a first for many. 

You can find out more about the Citizen Literacy partnership and our plans by following these web links.

What the Citizen Literacy App is and is Not

What the App is.

The Citizen Literacy App has 2 main purposes: 

  • To be used independently by learners to get a ‘taste’ of what an adult literacy class might be like before they choose to attend a local class in person.
  • Supporting learners to practice their exercises in between their F2F classes on our Citizen Literacy courses 

What the App is not.

The Citizen Literacy App on its own is not a magic cure for low levels of adult literacy in society.

About Citizen Literacy

Citizen Literacy originated in a community education initiative that began in Glasgow with the work of a teacher, Diane Gardner, who started creating adult-centric literacy courses and learning resources after being unable to find anything suitable. You can read more about Diane’s journey here [link]. Her work has since grown to include Citizen Literacy, a partnership that is dedicated to creating and sharing training courses, digital tools and services to help adults improve their reading and writing skills.

The scale of poor adult literacy skills in modern society can be a shock to those not already familiar with the issues. Across Europe about 20% of the population struggle with poor reading and writing ability [1]. In the UK according to government figures [2] nearly 6 million people of working age have poor literacy skills. This situation has serious implications for individuals, their families and wider society in whole range of different ways. This situation is not inevitable, some European countries and regions in the developing world have achieved nearly 100% adult literacy rates.

There are some negative stereotypes about adult literacy in the UK that we need to dispel. Of our learners, most are in employment and own a smartphone. They employ ingenious strategies for coping and have to be very resilient, they are also keen to learn.

Development Plan & Roadmap

We don’t think any single educational approach, service or product is going to solve the problem of low adult literacy levels – the causes are multiple and diverse. But here is what we are working on, as our contribution to improving matters:

  • App for learners to practice with between classes, using their smartphones – currently out for testing
    • free to use with no adverts, no user registration, and no use of private data. available as a ‘common good’
  • App for teachers to use in class with a smartboard or on a PC etc. – an enhanced version of the smartphone app that can work in a web browser as a ‘web app’
    • free to use with no adverts, no user registration, and no use of private data. available as a ‘common good’
  • Structured literacy courses for adults (for F2F delivery), that have a progression pathway for learners built into them. Starting with complete beginners at Entry Level 1 through Entry Levels 2 & 3 to Level 1 skills (English education levels)
    • Uses the 4-skills approach reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • Training resources for teachers to deliver the F2F courses – there is a shortage of teachers who have the skills and confidence to use these methods

To help teachers to prepare to use the Citizen Literacy courses, resources and tools with their students all the learning resources and formative assessments are being made available online together with training videos – for a modest fee.

Sustainability Planning

Our work, so far, has been made possible through charitable funding. In return, we are forming a social enterprise non-profit company to continue our work. Our aim is to generate enough income to cover our costs in developing and supporting our resources and services. 

Our online tools for use in class and personal learning are going to be free – with no adds and no user data captured – and are mapped to our courses. These are provides as a common good.

Course materials and training will be charged for at a sliding scale depending on the size of the organisations we are dealing with. Custom technical design and development and educational consultation services will also be available for paying clients. Any surplus generated from that work will be reinvested in the company to create and maintain the learning resources and extend our free offer.

More Information; The Citizen Literacy White Paper

We have also produced a ‘White Paper’ that goes into more details about the scale and nature of the adult literacy challenge in the UK and to provide a context and background for our ideas, activities and the approach we are taking to contributing towards a solution.

Background: A Teacher’s Story

My name is Diane Gardner, I created my first course ‘City Phonics’, at the City of Glasgow College in response to a   student who had very poor Literacy skills and who, in fact, couldn’t read at all. She could recognise only two words: her first name and that of her favourite football club. I am embarrassed to state that it took me a few weeks to realise the depth of her need as she had beautiful handwriting and copied everything I wrote on the board very slowly and methodically but when challenged, couldn’t read anything she had written! 

I scoured everywhere for adult -centric reading and writing resources and after realising there weren’t any decided to create my own, using a Phonics based approach and starting at the very beginning. The Literacy students I had at that time were all about the same level as this student so a whole class approach worked well from the outset. I had an ESOL background so decided to include basic grammar and spelling and after feedback from the students built in Alphabet awareness, as very few of them knew their alphabet or alphabetical order. 

Creating an Adult Literacy course to teach learners from scratch worked well for me, because I could find no resources to teach adults how to read and write.  The only structured Adult Literacy programmes available at that time relied on students already being able to read and write to some extent and therefore were of no use to me or my students. After numerous iterations the course and associated staff training materials were finished or so I thought!   My celebrations and relief were short lived when the students asked if they would be getting a certificate through the post once they finished it. I hadn’t thought about getting the course accredited so we got in touch with City and Guilds and after a rigorous quality visit they were happy to accredit the programme – the first of its kind in the UK.

The original course and the new courses I am developing with partners are designed to teach adults how to read and write using Phonics met in a structured way, focussing on the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, with students being assessed on all four as well as alphabet awareness. I have seen it work with all students of all ages who have struggled their whole life because of their very poor Literacy skills. It takes guess work away and offers a structure that students can call upon when out of class and in turn raises confidence and opportunity to gain a qualification, usually their first. 

The new courses under development are designed to be customised, using the Social Practice approach that is common in Scotland. This means students and their teachers having an input to the choice of content, with the resources being flexible enough to be personalised and localised. This approach helps calm students and allows them to learn in a welcoming and inclusive environment, sometimes a first for many. 

Staff training as well as all the learning resources and formative assessments are being made available online together with training videos. This will hopefully help teachers to access the course and materials and prepare to use the Citizen Literacy courses, resources and tools with their students in the future.

© Citizen Literacy 2020 | info@citizenliteracy.com