Mobile phone games could provide a way for Chinese children to learn how to read, especially in rural areas. Research at Carnegie Mellon University found that two of the games showed promise with children in Xin’an, an underdeveloped region in Henan province. Further studies in Beijing also showed that kids who played the games increased their knowledge of Chinese Characters.
The studies were run by the university’s Mobile & Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies Project. “We believe that the cooperative learning encouraged by the games contributed to character learning,” said CMU’s Matthew Kam, assistant professor in the School of Computer Science’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and project director, in a statement. “The results of our studies suggest that further development of these games could make inexpensive mobile phones important learning tools, particularly for children in underdeveloped rural areas.”
Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 1 billion Mandarin speakers. Unlike languages that use alphabets, Chinese has characters that each represents a syllable or word, and often both. About 6,000 characters are commonly used, but the shape of each character provides few clues to its pronunciation and different dialects pronounce the same character differently.
The researchers analyzed 25 traditional games played by children in China to identify elements, such as cooperation, songs and handmade game objects that could be used to design two educational mobile phone games.
. In one, Multimedia Word, children have to recognize and write a correct Chinese character based on pronunciation hints, a sketch, photo or video.
. In a second game, Drumming Stroke, children pass the mobile phone one by one on the rhythm of a drum sound played by the mobile phone, with each player required to write one stroke of a given Chinese character by following the exact stroke order.
Kam and other CMU researchers are collaborating with Chinese computer scientists to further explore the mobile gaming’s potential as an educational tool. This isn’t the first time mobile games have been used as an educational strategy. A similar project was initiated in India, and the CMU team is also looking at starting one in Kenya. Kam says if the mobile games work as learning tools, it could spur the development of both mobile phone networks and greater usage in many underdeveloped areas.
SOURCE: IBTimes (19/10/10)