Tale of two studies: challenges in field research with low-literacy adult learners in a developed country

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Efforts to address the problems of literacy are often focused on developing countries. However, functional illiteracy is a challenge encountered by up to 50% of adults in developed countries. In this paper we reflect on the challenges we faced in trying to design and study the use of a mobile application to support adult literacy with two user groups: adults enrolled in literacy classes and carpenters without a high school education enrolled in an essential skills program. We also elaborate on aspects of the evaluations that are specific to a marginalized, functionally illiterate, group in a developed country - aspects that are less frequently present in similar studies of mobile literacy support technologies in developing countries. We conclude with presenting the lessons learnt from our evaluations and the impact of the studies' specific challenges on the outcome and uptake of such mobile assistive technologies in providing practical support to low-literacy adults in conjunction with literacy and essential skills training.

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Publication date5 May 2012
Publication titleCHI '12 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems
Place of PublicationNew York, NY (US)
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-1016-1
Original languageEnglish
EventCHI conference on human factors in computing systems - Austin, TX, United States
Duration: 5 May 201210 May 2012


ConferenceCHI conference on human factors in computing systems
CountryUnited States
CityAustin, TX


  • evaluation methodology, user studies, mobile computing, interface design, educational interfaces, assistive technology, mobile learning


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