Talking Book Pilot Results

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Talking Book Pilot Results

  1. 1. Talking Book Pilot Results Jirapa District, Upper West Region, Ghana January-August 2009 Literacy Bridge http://literacybridge.org info@literacybridge.org
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .................................................................................................... 2 PILOT OVERVIEW............................................................................................................ 2 RESULTS ....................................................................................................................... 2 INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................. 3 CONTEXT ..................................................................................................................... 3 PILOT OVERVIEW............................................................................................................ 4 CONTENT CREATION ....................................................................................................... 4 INTERVIEW RESULTS ....................................................................................................... 5 IMPACT ON LEARNING AND BEHAVIOR CHANGE ....................................................................... 5 INITIAL EXPOSURE AND TRAINING........................................................................................ 6 USAGE AND ALLOCATION .................................................................................................. 7 CONTENT ..................................................................................................................... 7 DURABILITY AND MAINTENANCE ..................................................................................... 7 CONCLUSION................................................................................................................. 8 APPENDIX ...................................................................................................................... 9 HISTORY ...................................................................................................................... 9 Talking Book Pilot Results | 9/1/2009 1
  3. 3. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Talking Book is an affordable and durable audio computer that enables people to record, access, and share knowledge—regardless of poverty, illiteracy, and lack of electricity. The Talking Book was developed between 2007 and 2008 to increase literacy skills and to spread audio information of any kind. The portable, battery- powered device allows users to record and play 70 hours of audio messages, copy messages between devices, access recordings by customizable categories, and interact with learning applications. This document reports on the results of an initial pilot that began in early 2009 and focused on spreading health and agriculture information in a remote village in Ghana. Pilot Overview To achieve the reported results, Literacy Bridge took the following steps: 1. Collaborated with local experts in agriculture, health, and education to produce content for Talking Books. Experts included officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana Education Service, and Ghana Health Service. 2. Delivered 21 Talking Books to the small village of Ving Ving, in the Upper West Region of Ghana. 3. Asked the village chief and elders to form a leadership committee to support their community throughout the pilot. After being trained on the device, this committee was charged with training others, equitably allocating the devices, and reporting any problems to Literacy Bridge. 4. Visited the village every two weeks to provide support, and collect feedback. Results  Impact on Learning and Behavior Change. Of the users who were interviewed, 100 percent described learning valuable information from device recordings. Nearly every user had already seen improved results from applying what they had learned. Examples of agriculture guidance that resulted in an observed behavior change include: o Keep animals in a confined space and use droppings as manure to make soil more fertile. o Plant in rows instead of mounds for most efficient use of soil and moisture retention. o Use a tie ridge pattern to reduce soil erosion from heavy rains. o Clean animal pens everyday to prevent disease.  Initial exposure and training. The current user interface proved effective based on reports from users Talking Book Pilot Results | September 2009 that they needed no training apart from the device‟s audio instructions. Residents were so impressed and interested in the device that most recalled telling friends about the device and the information it contained.  Usage and allocation. Most users listened to the device with friends and family in the evening hours. With 21 devices for 110 households, providing fair access to all groups was challenging, but 100 percent of surveyed non-users agreed the devices were providing value to their village.  Content. Farming was by far the most popular category followed by health and education. Residents requested that recordings be updated continually. Residents also created their own content—most commonly about injustices that they had seen or experienced. In summary, Talking Books effectively created behavior change in this initial pilot study. Farmers listened to the recordings on the Talking Book, changed farming methods to align with expert guidance, and have already witnessed an increase in crop yield. This study also indicates that locally generated information can considerably impact the lives of rural farming families. Farmers trusted the information provided by familiar local sources and implemented the guidance without any additional intervention. 2
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION In rural areas, the most efficient means of disseminating knowledge is often by driving a pickup truck over unpaved roads. Local government and NGO extension workers travel to villages where they share knowledge about health and agriculture. This method of delivering information is expensive, costing US$20-$40 per trip. It is also inefficient because each visit occurs infrequently and covers dozens of topics—causing many residents to forget information that is not immediately applicable. Furthermore, printed materials are not helpful in these scenarios as only a small percentage of those served by extension services are literate. Solving this problem requires a cheap and durable way to distribute audio information to illiterate residents. The solution should leverage the existing network of extension workers and allow the most impoverished families to access the knowledge they need—when they need it. With all of this in mind, Literacy Bridge collaborated with numerous extension services to invent a solution that precisely fills this need: the Talking Book, a rugged audio computer designed to cost US$10 when mass produced. With this device, users can:  Record and play 70 hours of audio messages.  Copy recordings between devices—allowing extension workers to give messages to a single resident to distribute throughout a community.  Use interactive audio applications, such as multiple- choice quizzes and audio hyperlinks.  Access recordings by customizable categories—allowing users to organize messages into broad categories (agriculture, health, education) or to narrow the scope to suit their needs (disease prevention, birthing guidance, sanitation). Beginning in January 2009, after extensive iterative development with Ghanaian residents and organizations, Literacy Bridge piloted the Talking Book in the Jirapa District of the Upper West Region of Ghana. The pilot was funded by Literacy Bridge‟s private donations. Devices were distributed to district health clinics, primary schools, and a rural village. This report focuses on the small village of Ving Ving, based on numerous site visits, focus groups, as well as informal and structured interviews. In brief, the results of the pilot exceeded Literacy Bridge‟s expectations. Users not only listened to the device and learned the vital information it contained, but also applied the guidance in practice. Furthermore, users have already seen improved results from applying what they had learned. Context Talking Book Pilot Results | 9/1/2009 Ving Ving was chosen as the first pilot village because it closely aligns with the Talking Book‟s rural target market. Approximate demographics include:  Literacy level: < 5%  Occupation: 100% subsistence farmers  Electricity: No access  Crops: corn, beans, peanuts, millet, and rice  Population: 990 people,110 households  Extension visits: once per year  Education: ~450 children of primary school  Access to technology: <10% own radios, 1- age with ~200 actually in school 2% own mobile phones 3
  5. 5. Pilot Overview In January 2009 after working closely with the village chief, elders, and residents, Literacy Bridge had a series of community meetings to launch the Talking Book pilot (see the Appendix for more history). The details of the pilot included:  Leadership committee. The chief and elders created a committee of 10-15 men, women, and children who were considered to be leaders among their peers. Literacy Bridge trained the committee in two sessions, each lasting two hours. The role of the committee was to support the residents throughout the pilot including training new users, managing the devices, and collaborating with Literacy Bridge. The committee also provided initial feedback on the device, which Literacy Bridge has already incorporated into the devices.  Allocation. Distribution of devices amongst residents was left up to the leadership committee. Literacy Bridge‟s only requirement was that the devices be exchanged frequently and fairly (regardless of gender, income level, and so on). The committee discussed options until they came to the following consensus: if a resident wanted to use the device, he/she would approach a committee member to work out the checkout timeframe. Residents would be asked to give their name and estimate when they would return the device1.  Devices. Literacy Bridge left 21 devices that had been localized into Dagaare, the local language of the region. Each device was pre-loaded with recordings (also in Dagaare) from experts in agriculture, health, and education. See the following section for more information about the device content.  Continual support. Literacy Bridge‟s country director visited the village every two weeks to provide support, collect feedback, and refill the supply of batteries. Literacy Bridge provided batteries as needed to encourage residents to use the devices as much as possible for maximum feedback 2. Content Creation Prior to beginning product development, Literacy Bridge had started working with various Ghanaian organizations including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Ghana Education Service, and Ghana Health Service. Since 2007, these organizations have helped develop the Talking Book requirements and design. In addition, they created the first recordings for the device in the following categories:  Agriculture. This category included recordings about harvesting and livestock. The guidance ranged from facts about proper seed spacing, how to fertilize your crop using animal droppings, and guidance around creating ridges of soil instead of mounds. All of these recordings were provided by the Jirapa District MOFA office.  Health. This category contained recordings regarding nutrition, antenatal care, and health for children under five. Specific topics included monthly antenatal guidance, an overview of a balanced diet, and sanitation best practices. These recordings were provided by the Hain health clinic.  Education. This category included poems, textbook excerpts, and educational storybooks. The recordings Talking Book Pilot Results | September 2009 were in English (unlike the rest of the recordings) because English is the language taught in schools beginning in the third year. Topics ranged from community development to solar energy. Recordings of the number system and the alphabet were included to allow students to practice along. These recordings came from Hain Junior Secondary School, various authors, and students at Ghana‟s University of Development Studies.  Stories. This category contained local stories, which were more focused on tradition and culture than the other categories. Some of these recordings were humorous and included topics such as the importance of education and how the world is changing due to technology. Other stories created during the pilot included those with morals, such as one teaching children why they should not steal. These stories were provided from a variety of sources including the radio and Ghanaian citizens. 1 Until Talking Books are affordable for all households, Literacy Bridge will continue to refine how devices are allocated to ensure all residents are reached. For example, another model being explored is circulating devices to each household for one week at a time, every three months. 2 Future pilot studies will require users to purchase their own batteries. 4
  6. 6. INTERVIEW RESULTS Literacy Bridge interviewed over 25 residents to gain insight into what went well during the pilot and what could be improved. Interviewers asked users to recall exactly what they learned and requested proof of the implemented guidance. This research is not exhaustive and may be biased by the selection of residents, which was provided by the village‟s leadership committee3. To mitigate positive bias, Literacy Bridge emphasized that feedback would be used to improve future pilots and would not affect how many devices were brought to the village. Impact on Learning and Behavior Change Literacy Bridge staff asked residents to explain what the device had taught them. Staff then asked whether they had applied the guidance in practice and if the results differed from previous methods. The results that Literacy Bridge received in this area were especially strong. The most notable results of behavior change were from farmers.4 Farmers outlined the information that they had learned—providing details about their new practices. Furthermore, 16 of 17 users said they had applied a new practice and had seen improved results5. Time and time again, farmers recited back the specific information that they learned and applied. The following is a list of the guidance farmers mentioned, which resulted in a behavior change:  Keep animals in a confined space and use droppings as manure to make soil more fertile.  Plant in rows instead of mounds for most efficient use of soil and moisture retention.  Use a tie ridge pattern to reduce soil erosion from heavy rain.  Plant corn in May or June instead of in July or August.  Weed crops three weeks after sowing.  Clean animal pens everyday to prevent disease. Because this pilot was a feasibility study, Literacy Bridge did not take baseline data or compare against a control group. However, many farmers performed their own experiments to test the new guidance, essentially creating their own control group of crops; they used their old methods in some sections and the new methods in others to observe the difference. The following pictures show one such example where a farmer planted corn using traditional methods in one section (left) and then planted the same crop at the same time using guidance from the Talking Book in an adjacent section (right). Talking Book Pilot Results | 9/1/2009 3 Future studies will use random selection for user interviews. 4 There are additional examples of health-related behavior change not covered in this document. For example, women reported learning that they should not let stagnate water or dirty clothes sit for time because it breads mosquitoes. 5 The one person who did not apply the guidance said that lack of resources was the reason. 5
  7. 7. Farmers were anxious to show Literacy Bridge staff their farms with similarly striking results. The visual proof of behavior change was more than Literacy Bridge expected so early in the Talking Book program. These results are particularly compelling for the following reasons:  Residents were accurately quoting many recordings that were introduced seven months earlier but not reiterated by personal visits during the pilot.  Residents did not have access to related information from other sources during the pilot study.  During the evaluation, our staff witnessed improved crop yield from actions taken five months earlier. At that time, residents did not know that Literacy Bridge would return to test them regarding what they learned and applied. Therefore, it is unlikely that the evaluation influenced the observed behavior change. Initial Exposure and Training From the beginning of the pilot, residents showed great interest in the device. For example, they spoke about how impressed they were with it including both how it could speak and the information that it contained:6 7 “I was very happy because I learn a lot of things from the device.” “I was very happy about it. I was happy when the device started narrating the messages.” “When I heard about it I thought it was fine and I wanted to talk into it.” Word of mouth played a large role in the initial acceptance. Residents reported discussing the device amongst each other and to residents in other villages. Most said they would tell friends about how important the device was because it contained immediately relevant information. They also taught others what they learned:8 “I talked with my friends about how I had learned how to feed children, give them proper nutrients, and a balanced diet.” “Yes, I told them about farming and how to acquire fertilizer from the appropriate quarters. You can go to the agric office to get fertilizer.” Most residents said the device was visually appealing and liked the variety of colors, though many wanted it to be small enough to fit into a pocket9. Residents call the device one of two things: 1) “Fo waa bu yaani,” which means “welcome” in Dagaare and is the greeting the device says when turned on, or 2) “talk book,” mimicking what Literacy Bridge staff call the device. Talking Book Pilot Results | September 2009 As mentioned above, the leadership committee was responsible for training residents. However, this burden was alleviated over time as residents taught each other. Peer-to-peer training consisted of simply: 1) showing the new user how to turn on the device and 2) explaining that they should listen to the instructions which would guide them through listening to and recording messages. Some would also explain a subset of the buttons to provide a little more information. With this guidance alone, users could operate the device immediately upon turning it on and patiently listening to the instructions. Most new users were able to navigate comfortably around the device after one hour of use. 6 Do you remember the first time you heard about this device? [If yes] What was your first impression of it? That is, what did you like or not like about it? 7 The quotes stated in this guide were provided through translators who spoke both Dagaare and English. Note that the moderators did not speak perfect English, which is likely the cause of some of the grammatical mistakes. 8 Have you talked to other people about the device? [If yes] Describe what types of things have you talked about? 9 The first Talking Book can be hung around the neck or shoulder, but Literacy Bridge is working to reduce the size of the device because of this feedback. 6
  8. 8. Usage and Allocation Frequency and length of usage differed for all those interviewed, but averaged about two times a week for two hours at a time. Most users listened to the device in groups, typically with family and friends. Many created their own recordings to voice their concerns about local injustices. For example, they recorded themselves speaking about how it is wrong that some girls are forced to elope. Throughout the evaluation, it became clear that allocation could be improved. The device had not been circulated to all interested residents. With only one device per 50 residents, the committee feared that some residents would break the devices. This may have caused them to favor those they thought would handle the devices with the most care. Literacy Bridge is exploring alternative allocation solutions for future pilots. Some residents suggested providing more devices and equally dividing the devices between genders and geographical sections of the village. Content Literacy Bridge asked residents about the types of messages that they preferred. Farming was by far the most popular category followed by health and education. The following quotes summarize a typical response.10 “I like farming issues, because upon acquiring knowledge from the „talk device‟ there is improvement on my farm and my animals.” “I like farming issues because it teaches me how to use animal droppings as manure.” “I am in love with farming issues because it teaches me to farm better.” Of the users who were asked whether they trusted the recordings11, 9/9 residents said they trusted all of the recordings. For example: “I trust all recordings because they all work.” “All the messages are true if you apply them”. In terms of preferred length, most residents said some recordings were too long, though each resident differed on their definition of what that meant. Not surprisingly, residents were most excited about the content at the beginning and wished that the devices were continually updated with new recordings. DURABILITY AND MAINTENANCE After seven months of extensive use, many of the Talking Books became quite dirty and worn, but no device had a broken or cracked exterior. Talking Book Pilot Results | 9/1/2009 The Talking Books used in this pilot required external microphones to record new messages. When plugging in the microphone, some users would force the plugs in too far, which required repairs to the circuit boards of eight devices. Literacy Bridge has strengthened the external microphone connection, but Talking Books no longer require external microphones; so this will not cause future issues. One device had apparently been disassembled by a user and left in the mud before being reassembled (right). Dried dirt covered the circuit board, yet the device still functioned properly. Literacy 10 What is your favorite message on the device so far? Describe for me why the message is your favorite. 11 Are there recordings or specific recommendations on the device that you did not believe/trust? If so, why? What would have helped you trust the information more? 7
  9. 9. Bridge did not identify the responsible user but staff suspect that he/she was curious about the device or may have chosen to investigate a device malfunction (a software bug had interfered with device operation early in the pilot). While the Talking Book‟s ease of disassembly allows for village repair and replacement of parts, users who are unaware of local service options may attempt to take matters into their own hands. One user suggested, “People need to be told that they need to be careful with it because they were not trained in this way.” Based on these observations, Literacy Bridge will include messages in the device explaining the need to handle it with care. CONCLUSION Talking Books effectively created behavior change in this initial pilot study. Farmers listened to the recordings on the Talking Book, changed farming methods to align with expert guidance, and have already witnessed an increase in crop yield. This study also indicates that locally generated information can considerably impact the lives of rural farming families. Farmers trusted the information provided by familiar local sources and implemented the guidance without any additional intervention. Based on these positive results, Literacy Bridge is working with customers to implement larger programs in different contexts. Talking Book Pilot Results | September 2009 8
  10. 10. APPENDIX History This section briefly outlines how Literacy Bridge began working with Ving Ving and how the pilot was introduced. 1. August 2007. Cliff Schmidt, Literacy Bridge‟s executive director, visits the Upper West Region of Ghana for six weeks to study the potential impact of audio technology in rural areas. During this time, he meets Andrew Bayor, a graduate of Ghana‟s University of Development Studies, who is interested in collaborating on the same idea. They meet with numerous villages, NGOs, and district offices in education, health, and agriculture to understand their challenges and to get their feedback on product ideas. Andrew Bayor later becomes Literacy Bridge‟s first country director. 2. September 2007-April 2008. Literacy Bridge assembles a team of engineers and vendors to create the first prototype of the Talking Book. In Ghana, Mr. Bayor continues to meet with local partners and to research requirements. 3. April 2008. Literacy Bridge presents the prototype to future users in the Upper West Region. User feedback on the physical and functional aspects provides valuable guidance for Literacy Bridge‟s ongoing engineering work. For example, Literacy Bridge ensures the device is not too heavy for children and that it is durable enough for the harsh climate. Literacy Bridge also provides local content partners with off-the-shelf digital voice recorders so they can begin recording agriculture, health, and education messages. 4. January 2009. Literacy Bridge brings interns from MIT to the Upper West Region to distribute and test 68 Talking Books. In small villages, the team introduces the device to chiefs, elders, and committees of men, women, and children. They research how users operate the devices and make several changes to improve the software and increase usability. 5. August 2009. Literacy Bridge sends a team of six people to interview participants in the program and observe the results of behavior change made possible by the introduction of Talking Books. Talking Book Pilot Results | 9/1/2009 9

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