Citizen Literacy is the community engagement arm of the adult literacy programme and development activities operated by the City of Glasgow College and its partners:
Claire Claire Collins Consultancy Ltd
ReachWill Ltd
Micro-phonics Ltd
Scottish TUC Union Learn

Imagine living in a world of words you do not understand? That is the daily reality for many people in the UK. According to the government’s own figures about 15% of the working age populations have very low levels of literacy, this equates to about 6 million people. Other developed countries face similar challenges, but the UK is the only developed country where the literacy levels of 16-24 year olds is lower than that that of people who have retired (OECD 2013). This has a negative effect on individuals, families, communities and businesses. There are some stereotypes about adult literacy that we need to dispel. Of our learners, over 75% are in employment and most them own a smartphone. They employ very ingenious strategies for coping and have to be very resilient, they are also keen to learn.

Our contribution to tackling this problem has been in developing a ground breaking adult literacy training course that is proving very successful and investigating how we can use technology to assist learners and tutors. Right now we are developing a smart phone app that uses voice and handwriting recognition to help learners practice between their face to face sessions. We are also exploring other options such as the use of chatbots and AI to help absolute beginners gain confidence to join a face to face class. There is a national shortage of adult literacy tutors who have the skills and confidence to use the synthetic phonics methods that we are using. We are exploring how we could use technology to deliver specialist training to existing adult education tutors. If you would like to find out more about our work we have written a White Paper that explains the background to our approach and what we hope to achieve.

Our work is primarily focussed on improving the literacy (reading and writing) of adults who are already fluent speakers of English. To be clear, our area of activity is not directed at English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), although some of our resources and tools maybe useful for those working in that sector. This is an important distinction to make. The educational task of teaching an adult who already speaks English to improve their reading and writing abilities is a very different one from teaching English language to learners whose first language is not English.

The Citizen Literacy App project is developing a smartphone app to support adult literacy learners taking their first steps on their journey to read and write. Our work is based on the first phonics-based adult literacy qualification in the UK, accredited by City and Guilds, operating with the NHS, local councils and employers. This will be the first phonics-based adult literacy app that includes the 4-skills approach (reading, writing, speaking and listening), with an interface especially designed for low literacy users. The app includes the use of voice and handwriting recognition. Other creative uses of technology to support adult literacy learners and their tutors are also being investigated. The project partners are City of Glasgow College (Lead), Scottish Union Learn, Micro-phonics Ltd., ReachWill Ltd. and Claire Collins Consultancy Ltd.

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