LIFT students Damon Richardson (foreground), and Jesus Santos (center) tested beta versions of the game last spring, providing valuable feedback to Corey Clark, SMU Guildhall Deputy Director for Research (left) and Lisa Hembry, LIFT CEO/president, (right). “Our adult learners face numerous challenges learning to read, including time, money and transportation, says Lisa Hembry. ‘Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis’ is a tool that adult literacy providers can use with students who don’t have the time, money or transportation to regularly attend literacy classes.”
The SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) team was named yesterday as one of eight semifinalists advancing in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.
SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Guildhall graduate video game development program are working with LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills. The SMU and LIFT team, PeopleForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016.
Drawing upon the education experts at SMU’s Simmons School, game developers at Guildhall and adult literacy experts at LIFT, the team developed “Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis. ” In the game, players become archeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis. By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.
Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014.
Testing of the eight semi-finalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May of 2018 and the winner will be named in 2019.
Photos by David Leeson