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Learn English through 'gilli danda' on mobile

Saturday, 5 December 2009 - 3:18am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Carnegie Mellon project to develop village games for teaching English language to rural folks.

The mobile revolution may aid in bridging the language divide.

A few professors of the Carnegie Mellon University are working on a project to develop mobile games that will help the children and elders in rural areas in India to learn the English language.

The games, interestingly, are not the usual high-tech racing and shooting games the urban youngsters are hooked to on their mobiles, but the ones which are played in the villages, such as gilli danda, kho-kho and chappi.

For this, the Carnegie Mellon team led by Mathew Kam will host workshops in IIIT Hyderabad this month.

Kam’s brainchild, Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE), set up in 2004, will begin its 11th round of fieldwork by involving undergraduates in India.

MILLEE adopts a human-centred approach to designing immersive, enjoyable, language learning games on cell phones, modelled after the traditional village games that rural children find familiar.

As part of the project, the Carnegie Mellon team will rope in 130 students mostly from rural setting who are studying in different universities throughout India.

“We will provide students with the foundational skills for the research internship next summer, which involves skills on human-computer interaction, sciences and educational technology. We will select the best candidates for summer 2010 internships at Carnegie Mellon,” Kam told DNA Money.

These students will help in developing MILLEE cellphone games for English learning.
In the two-week winter school at IIIT Hyderabad this month, Kam and his team will train about 25 local students to develop the cellphone games.

Once they are developed MILLEE village games, under a pilot project, will be test-
played by 400 children from 20 villages in India.

The learning gains of that set of children will be compared with a set of 400 children from another 20 villages. Similarly, the games will be test-played by a group of children from the urban slums to understand how they pick up the language in comparison with village children.

The MILLEE games will target an academic year of the local, official English curriculum. The learning gains will be evaluated against a standardised exam for English in India to benchmark MILLEE learning gains against more conventional teaching approaches.
Also, Microsoft has committed to flying three Indian undergraduates to Carnegie Mellon for their summer 2010 internships. “We are still looking for more sponsors, so that we can make this opportunity available to a greater number of promising students,” Kam said.

“We hope that this exposure will lead local students to consider careers and/or postgraduate studies in these new disciplines that they otherwise would not know about. In the longer term, we hope to grow the pool of local talented manpower in these new areas in India,” he said.

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