African Storybook: The First 18 Months of the Project


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Presentation by African Storybook Initiative Leader, Tessa Welch, on the first 18 months of the initiative. Presented on 26 June at the African Storybook Summit at the University of British Columbia.

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  • Hub at each of 12 pilot sites: Netbook and Projector and External hard drive, possibly use solar power
  • Our assumption of project progress
  • African Storybook: The First 18 Months of the Project

    1. 1. The First 18 Months of the African Storybook Project Tessa Welch 26 June 2014 ASP Summit, University of British Columbia
    2. 2. Our vision is for all African children to have enough stories in a language familiar to them - not only to practise their reading skills, but also to learn to love reading. We aim to address the shortage of stories for early reading in local African languages by providing not only a digital library, but also tools for digital storytelling – both versioning (translation and/or adaptation) and creating. The African Storybook Project An initiative of Saide funded by Comic Relief
    3. 3. Involvement of UBC in this project • Dr Bonny Norton – research advisor – heading up the African Storybook Project Research Network (ASREN) • Dr Juliet Tembe (UBC graduate), in country- coordinator, Uganda; • Dr Sam Andema (UBC graduate student), policy advisor to the ASP Steering Committee • Doris Abiria (UBC graduate), pilot site coordinator; • Espen Stranger-Johannessen (UBC graduate student), consultant researcher.
    4. 4. Why the African Storybook Project? The project is intended as a contribution to addressing the stark inequality of literacy achievement illustrated in the following graphs based on analysis of results of South African learners in various systemic tests. The pattern of inequality emerges as early as the third year of schooling, and continues right through to the twelfth grade.
    5. 5. The ‘bimodal distribution of achievement’: an issue of class Nicolas Spaull . (2012). Poverty and Privilege: Primary School Inequality in South Africa. (Stellenbosch Economic Working Paper 13/12
    6. 6. The ‘bimodal distribution of achievement’: how it plays out in terms of language in SA
    7. 7. ASP has to address the marginalised majority • To contribute to literacy development in Africa, the agenda of the project cannot be driven by the minority – the top 20 – 25% (or the African language diaspora). • ASP has to be concerned about the majority – the 75-80% who are marginalised in terms of mastery of the language of wider communication and the use of technology.
    8. 8. We have to remember the 80% as we work with/in local African languages. • African languages as a basis for sound literacy development – leading to better foundation for acquisition of the language of wider communication. Not African languages primarily for cultural preservation or social cohesion (though these are benefits as well). • Wariness about ‘standard’ versions of African languages – often the standardised dialect is as alien to children as a language that is not local.
    9. 9. • Technology is easily assimilated by the top 20% . • We also need to avoid ‘greenhouse’ technology experiments for small samples of the 80%. • The challenge is systemic implementation for the majority. We have to remember the 80% as we work with digital tools and methods of delivery
    10. 10. • It is the 20% who buy books, but we need to encourage reading for the 80% who can’t buy books – not just at school, or associated with temporary projects where funds have limits. • If we use open licensing, and place versioning and storytelling in the hands of the 80%, we may be able to facilitate access to the quantity of material in the variety of languages needed to include them in the reading market. We have to remember the 80% as we decide on publishing models
    11. 11. • Literacy development doesn’t come ‘naturally’ as a result of changes in policy, curriculum or even the provision of resources where there were none before. • It requires learning how to use the new resources and the local language to stimulate literacy development. And this is one of the important reasons that we need PARTNERS. We have to remember the 80% as we work with partners
    12. 12. A digital platform for access and use of stories for early reading • Target audience of platform: people who work with children, not children themselves. • Built in Drupal, and open source code we have developed to be made available by the end of 2014. • Developmental design of website in consultation with the pilot sites and other users.
    13. 13. Main feedback on preview site/s over 6 months • Too slow for low bandwidth situations (esp Uganda) • Doesn’t allow users to upload own illustrations Response for next release (October): • Mobi site for reading – with ability to download in epub (not only PDF) – and bigger range of print options • Stripped down story creation tool – users will send us illustrations to upload.
    14. 14. Stories to access and use Overall goal – a sustainable way to provide stories good enough to be used for literacy development Purpose with 120 ‘start-up’ stories: • Critical mass for children to use in pilot sites • Test sources of stories, and amount of work involved in digital publishing • Work out what it takes to supply sufficient ‘exemplars’ of stories – picture stories, stories that children can read on their own – for the 80% (largely unfamiliar with such stories)
    15. 15. Sources of first 120 stories 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
    16. 16. Sources of stories – going forward • Maintain contribution from partners • Increase donation from famous authors • Identify out-of-print appropriate stories in local languages (mainly) and re-publish – digital preservation of high quality conventionally published material.
    17. 17. Methods of story acquisition Donated Developed centrally Workshop products
    18. 18. Methods of story acquisition – going forward • Reduce central development. • Maintain donations. • More local language stories from story development workshops (in pilot sites and pilot countries). • Emphasis on levels 1 and 2 read alone – (eg story development partnership with Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy (JHB) – using the Molteno method to develop supplementary readers in South Africa, but also Kiswahili and Luyha in Kenya, and then in Uganda. )
    19. 19. Original language of first 120 stories  need to commission translations 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
    20. 20. African language stories on site mid June 2014 0 10 20 30 40 50 60
    21. 21. Concerns re translation • Quality of most language translations managed largely by Country Coordinators – Need for ‘language moderators’ in languages unknown to coordinators, as well as – Proof reading and light edits of all translations But • Need to beware of alienating ‘standard’ versions • And support site level language curation (eg Atteridgeville)
    22. 22. Work involved in (re-)publishing digitally To be expected: • Engaging authors/illustrators/organisations donating stories on open licences for the works in which they hold (and retain) copyright • Re-formatting donated stories But we need to find sustainable ways of: • Getting stories illustrated • Re-shaping stories
    23. 23. Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial (CC-BY-NC)
    24. 24. Work involved in publishing first 120 stories Already illustrated Commissioned Text suitable Text re- shaped
    25. 25. Strategies for sustainability • Make ‘re-shaping’ an educational exercise, not only a publishing one. • Image bank for user re-use of commissioned illustrations (or part illustrations) in story creation. • Experimentation with user methods of digital illustration (see children using Paint).
    26. 26. Working with local (oral) stories to convert them into (picture) stories on a global platform • The challenge (and time involved) in getting authentic illustrations. - See ‘What goes around comes around’ or ‘The Egg’ (Story produced by UgCLA, but not illustrated • Different notions of ‘suitable’ – censorship? Managing largely through level and illustration.
    27. 27. The girl with one breast Local illustration of this story Another local illustrator used and the story adjusted for a higher level
    28. 28. Delivery of stories Guiding principles: 1. Consider the resources that the majority of African children currently get to help them to learn to read, and aim to exceed this in quantity, quality and variety through the use of technology – but without massive investment in infrastructure or devices. 2. Provide and test low cost models of delivery of the stories, based not on the assumption that the technology is currently available, but on affordability for large scale provision.
    29. 29. Options for delivery 1. On-demand printing through the use of local copying and printing centres; 2. Part-time website access where stories are downloaded and saved on local devices for sharing; 3. The use of low cost hardware devices such as Raspberry Pi (or similar) for storage; 4. Working in collaboration with partners who may already be engaged in technology and literacy and build on these initiatives;
    30. 30. Options for delivery = + OR 5. Projectors and notebooks for schools so that stories can be displayed on a wall for a group of children:
    31. 31. Overcoming electricity and internet challenges • Portable solar chargers • Storage of stories on external drives • Creating hub centres (where there is better access) • Modems from more than one service provider
    32. 32. Encouraging use • Pilot sites (primary aim – testing conditions on the ground for refinement of strategy) • Pilot countries (primary aim – looking at what it will take to implement systemically in a particular country) • Outside our pilot countries (primary aim – long term sustainability, where organisations and individuals use and contribute to the website and stories largely independent of us.)
    33. 33. One of our partners, Pratham Books (India) Purvi Shah and Suzanne Singh • In 10 years: 270 original titles, in 12 languages – 1700 books • Recently released stories under CC-BY licence on ScribD • Now building a platform like ours for the Indian subcontinent
    34. 34. Creating and sustaining an African community for sharing Intensive work in pilot sites testing and refining processes of story creation, translation and adaptation Partners from other countries and projects use the website – creating, translating and adapting to suit their needs Becoming a community for sharing and using local language stories for early reading
    35. 35. How can you contribute? • By contributing illustrated stories for the target audience • By versioning our stories (particularly in French and/or Portuguese) • By giving us feedback that will help us refine our work • By starting discussions in the comments field for each story that will help our users with ideas for use • By assisting us with technical, literacy or pedagogic advice • By supporting us with research on project-related issues
    36. 36. Spread the word! Thank you!