Talking Pen as Multimedia Print Reader (MPR)
Technology for Building Literacy Skills and Dialoguing Social Issues: A Pilot Project
 
Mridula Seth
Aprana Khanna    
 
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Paper Overview

The Multimedia Print Reader (MPR) technology is a giant leap in educational technology. It allows people to hear the text while reading along. The Talking Books MPR technology uses a digital pen which has inbuilt speaker. For non-literate and neo literate learners, the MPR pen can assist not only the learners but also the volunteer-teachers who are unable to provide personal attention in a group multi level teaching-learning situation. The talking book can build an interactive learning environment. It can be used to train teachers and counsellors minimising losses in transfer of learning.

The Lady Irwin College has developed a literacy primer – part of which has been converted into a Talking Book using the MPR technology. The Primer is intended to serve two groups – non-literate women and adolescent girls in urban slums and resettlement colonies; and field level functionaries engaged in development programmes. The Primer has three components - part 1 imparts literacy through selected meaningful words and phrases; Part 2 strengthens literacy through short real-life stories of empowered women; and Part 3 focuses on numeracy. The visuals introducing the themes have messages recorded that can facilitate the field level functionary or teacher for conducting group discussion and reflection for the learner.

The contents of part 1 are built around three thematic areas: a) Food and nutrition, b) Rights and responsibilities; and c) Physical and mental health. Recognising the importance of enhancing life skills, part 2 has 11 stories of empowered women proactively mobilising others to solve the problem in a peaceful and democratic manner. The issues are related to social evils, healthy lifestyle, HIV and AIDS, legal literacy, consumer awareness, citizenship/social mobilisation, and livelihood issues.

Paper presented at the NIOS National seminar Transcending Barriers: Inclusive Education in the context of Open Schooling on March 8, 2011. New Delhi Technology can be very useful for encouraging non-literate and neo-literate learners to enhance their literacy skills and gain knowledge for better living. Sustaining motivation of learners is a big challenge in adult literacy that can be addressed through an audio-visual literacy primer. Managing a multi level group in non-formal education is not easy for the volunteer teachers or preraks. Simple technologies such as MPR pen can help in building an interactive environment for making teachin learning situation enjoyable and meaningful. It can ensure minimum loss in transfer of learning and reaching out to a large group.

The primer has been developed on the basis of several years of field experience. However, the use of the MPR technology needs to be field tested through a pilot study.

Purpose and Process of Primer development

The literacy primer “Padhe Aur Jaane” developed by Lady Irwin College is based on experience of students in the last two decades using the Each-one teach-one and group approach. The primer has been revised keeping in mind the IPCL (Improved Pace and Content of Learning) curriculum recommended by the National Literacy Mission. Multimedia Print Reader (MPR) technology has been incorporated in the form of a Talking Pen.

The Primer serves a dual purpose: impart functional literacy skills to non-literate women and adolescent girls; and facilitate field level functionaries to communicate effectively on selected social issues for women’s empowerment.

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Process of development

Eclectic method, used in the primer, is a combination of the synthetic and analytic methods. In the Analytic method, words, phrases or sentences become the units of learning. These are then analysed into the smallest unit of the language i.e. individual letters or sound symbols. Meaningful words and phrases were selected for initiating discussion. Example, ‘Namak ki Baat’ (talking about salt) for introducing ‘Na’ and ‘Ba’.

Synthetic or alphabetic method, commonly, known as ‘phonic’ method, has been used for learning the alphabets. Structure of the symbol is reinforced with the sound. Learner is encouraged to identify words beginning with the symbol to be introduced e.g., ‘N’ for ‘namak’ (salt), ‘naak’ (nose). This method is culturally acceptable and has been used in traditional method of teaching Hindi.

The words/phrases were selected in the context of three thematic areas focusing on women’s health and empowerment: food and nutrition; rights and responsibilities; physical and mental health. Appropriate visuals were made to initiate discussion related to the topic.

 

Stories of change were collected from the field related to common social issues. Adult educators, field level functionaries and faculty members participated in workshops for selecting the stories in eleven domains. The short stories not only strengthen literacy skills but also provide opportunity for reflection and discussion building their life skills.

The numeracy contents developed by the State Resource Centre Bhopal have been included in the primer with their permission.

The MPR technology involves special coding in the print that is read by the Talking pen. Script was written for part 1 of the primer and recorded in the college studio. This was sent to Bhopal (MP) where Aadarsh Private Limited converted it into a print-ready Talking book. The effectiveness of the talking book will be field tested shortly.

Outcome – an audio visual primer

The LIC primer has visuals and text that provide the sight component while the messages recorded, in a Talking Pen, accompanying the text and visuals provide the audio component. Thus, for the learner, reading the text becomes easy when it is reinforced with the Talking pen enabling it to be used for self learning. The visuals introducing the themes have messages recorded that can facilitate the field level functionary or teacher for conducting group discussion and reflection for the learner.

 
   

The Primer has three components: Part 1 imparts literacy through selected meaningful words and phrases that provide opportunity for dialogue on the issues of concern; Part 2 strengthens literacy through short stories of empowered women; and Part 3 focuses on numeracy. Part 1 can also be used as a Talking Book.

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Part 1 has twelve lessons in three units. Unit 1 (Food & Nutrition) is focused on mother’s role, importance of iodized salt, diet in pregnancy, and supplementary feeding. Unit 2 (Rights & Responsibilities) is focused on crime against women, rights of women, gender discrimination, and civic responsibilities. Unit 3 (Mental & Physical health) highlights domestic violence, personal hygiene, fears & superstition, and mental & physical fatigue.

Part 2 is in the form of 11 stories of empowered women. Recognising the importance of enhancing thinking skills i.e., self-awareness, problem solving, decision making, and creative thinking, there is scope for self reflection by posing questions related to the key characters in each story and issues emerging. For enhancing social skills i.e., communication, interpersonal relationships, some activities have been suggested that can be taken up for dialoguing on the selected issues and hands on experiences. The issues are related to social evils, healthy lifestyle, HIV and AIDS, legal literacy, consumer awareness, citizenship/social mobilisation, and livelihood issues. For improving comprehension of the written text, exercises have been included such as filling in the blanks, building words, multiple choice options, games and crosswords.

For monitoring and evaluation, Assessment tests after every four lessons have been included providing feedback to the learners and the facilitators.

The Primer has been approved by the technical committee of the National Literacy Mission.

Challenges and Way Forward

In today’s fast changing high technology world, India is still faced with a mammoth challenge of illiteracy. Despite significant accomplishments of the National Literacy Mission, illiteracy continues to be an area of national concern. Though precise number of non-literates at this stage is not available and will be known only after 2011 census, 2001 census had revealed that there were still 259.52 million illiterate adults (in the age group of 15+) in the country (Saakshar Bharat, 2010). Wide gender, social and regional disparities in literacy also continue to persist. The Government has announced that literacy would be its key programme instrument for emancipation and empowerment of women. Efforts of the Government to give impetus to school education, health, nutrition, skill development and women empowerment in general are impeded by the continuance of female illiteracy.

Technology can be very useful for encouraging non-literate and neo-literate learners to enhance their literacy skills and gain knowledge for better living. Following are some challenges in adult literacy that can be addressed through an audio-visual literacy primer:

Sustaining motivation of learners – adults tend to get discouraged by their slow progress and often drop out. They are reluctant to show their ignorance by asking the volunteer-teacher or peer educator. Talking pen can be a useful tool for assistive self-learning, providing feedback and thus sustaining motivation to continue learning.
Managing a multi level group in non-formal education is not easy for the volunteer teachers or preraks. MPR pen can overcome the problem of providing personal attention to each and every learner in a group multi level teaching- learning situation.
Training field level functionaries in adult education is quite challenging. MPR pen can ensure minimum loss in transfer of learning and reaching out to a large group.
Simple technologies such as MPR pen can help in building an interactive environment for making learning enjoyable and meaningful.
Currently, the MPR pen priced at Rs 4500 seems expensive. However, it can be used in a group situation with learners sharing it and facilitating peer teaching learning process.

Additional Information - What is the Multimedia Print Reader (MPR) technology?

MPR technology allows people to hear the text while reading along. Using such technologies has changed the traditional way of reading a printed book.

Talking Pen     The Talking Pen

The Talking Books MPR technology uses a digital pen which has a inbuilt speaker, head phone, re-chargable Lithium Ion Battery, recording function, 2 GB memory, a USB cable for downloading the files and a charger.

The MPR is an assistive technology that allows for an individual with reading problems to use it any time, any place. The issue of keeping and maintaining several CDs or audio tapes, etc can be eliminated. For individuals with learning disabilities, assistive technology is found via computer applications such as spell-check, proof-reading programmes, voice recognition, and optical character recognition systems. Portable devices such as hand calculators, audiotape recorders are also useful. Cost and portability are important features for use of such devices.

The talking book can build an interactive learning environment increasing pleasure as the printed book would no longer be silent. This technology brings a human face through voice in the learning process, increasing the attention span and concentration level helping the student to overcome the absence of a teacher and helping her to learn on her own, at her pace and convenience, especially in remote and inaccessible areas. This would also enhance the students’ ability to study independently.

MPR can help in improving the attention and reading abilities of dyslexic as well as the visually/learning challenged by adding a new aid for learning. MPR will help students especially with learning languages by teaching them improved pronunciation, intonations by countering regional influences (Mother Tongue Influence).

The Talking Books MPR publications can be printed under any normal printing condition. No extra printing cost is required to print learning material ready for this technology.

For More information: www.AadarshTalkingBooks.com, http://www.youtube.com/aadarshtalkingbooks 

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Conclusion

Technology has not been optimally used for the masses. While innovations in technology have benefitted the educated for continuing education at the higher levels, use of self-learning materials is indeed a challenge especially for basic literacy. Most of the courses offered by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) are mainly for the secondary level. The Open Basic Education (OBE) programme of NIOS has only recently been initiated. Thus, the need for support material for basic literacy is an important aspect requiring innovative tools and approaches to impart education at all levels.

Talking Books MPR technology is a new form of publication. There is need to explore the scope of this technology for strengthening non-formal and distance learning programmes. The MPR pens can be made available to students at the NIOS Centres. Students may get them issued during Contact Programmes and return them after use. Strategies for issue and return, rent or deposit can be worked out to ensure accountability and monitoring of learner performance.

The MPR Talking Book concept offers tremendous possibilities for NIOS to add versatility and innovation to the design of learning material offered to students taking the advantage of new technology at an affordable price.