How to create effective and evidence-based tools for literacy skills

In today’s digital age, educational technology (EdTech) is crucial in enhancing literacy skills among learners of all ages. Creating effective literacy learning tools requires a structured approach incorporating academic research, piloting, Randomized Control Trials (RCT), and continuous development that ensures the latest research in reading science is integrated into product design. This blog will delve into each phase of this process to provide insights into creating impactful and evidence-based literacy learning tools.

Phase 1: Desk Research

The journey begins by engaging our diverse stakeholder network of teachers, clinical linguists, neuropsychologists, school leaders and existing literature to identify the need for literacy learning tools for a specific language group. Engaging our network is invaluable for gaining valuable data on recent trends before investing time and resources into developing literacy learning software.
During this desk research phase, we seek to understand the landscape of literacy education, learning theories, and existing literature on reading. This phase involves:
  • Reviewing academic literature on literacy acquisition, cognitive development, and effective teaching strategies.
  • Theoretical work by researchers to map the sounds and script (orthography) in a specific language to prevailing theories of literacy development
  • Identifying reading competencies that require targeting by a literacy tool
  • A robust literature review to ensure the proposed tool is building on existing research and insights
  • • Studying the technology infrastructure of target countries to ensure the software tool is accessible (i.e. internet or device availability).

Phase 2: Design and Development

Armed with insights from the desk research phase, we begin a cross-sectoral and iterative design process between our partner researcher and game developers. We provide a templated and empty version of our literacy game for the researchers.
In collaboration with the game developers and our user interface designers, we integrate the most effective methodology for learning literacy in the target language into our app.
While researchers focus on the efficacy and veracity of the learning content, our designers and game developers provide feedback and critique through a lens of gamification and motivation.
This back-and-forth process produces effective yet fun literacy tools for students. No matter how effective content is, users are never exposed to it if they do not feel motivated to play.
  • Integrating a language’s literacy learning methodology into in-game levels
  • Designing an intuitive user interface and engaging content to cater to diverse learners.
  • Designing the upcoming research project by predicting what kind of data may be required from users to provide that they are indeed learning to read.

Phase 3: Piloting

Once the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is co-created by researchers, game designers and developers based on a theoretical understanding of how to read most effectively, this must be tested in smaller, more cost-effective studies or pilots to gain invaluable insights from students and teachers to iron out bugs, issues and suboptimal design.
  • Selecting a sample group of learners and educators
  • Implementing the learning tool in real-world classroom settings or online learning environments.
  • Collecting qualitative and quantitative data on usability, engagement, and learning outcomes.
  • Analysing participant feedback to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

Phase 4: Randomized Control Trial (RCT)

RCTs are the gold standard method for evaluating the effectiveness of educational interventions. An RCT is a scientific experiment to evaluate the impact of an intervention with a focus on ensuring the researched population is chosen randomly from the target population. The children taking part in RCT go through a normal literacy learning process at school.
  • Prove the effectiveness of the newly designed tool against a control group using an utterly unrelated intervention (such as a mathematics app). If the control group develops their phonemic awareness skills at the same rate as the intervention group, it shows that the literacy tool had no effect beyond normal student development.
  • By using the same assessment for participants before and after the exposure to the tool, researchers can identify the literacy skills that the new tool most effectively targets.
  • RCTs give strong proof to large institutions like ministries of education that it is safe to deploy our tool in a large population
  • We believe there is no bad result from an RCT: they inform future product development and generate literature on the best practices in literacy.

Phase 5: Continuous Development and Improvement

Our work does not end here once the tool is designed, developed, researched and launched to the public. Reading research is an ongoing field, and aligning our content to prevailing theories and evidence in literacy is essential. For example, the role of adults in a child’s use of educational technology has shown to be highly effective. Due to this, we began developing tools for teachers and parents to support their children better.
  • Iteratively updating the tool based on emerging research findings and technological advancements.
  • Tweaking the tool to be more integrated into specific curricula to be better integrated into a country’s education system
  • Updating motivational features to keep up with the tech demands of children today!

The responsible process ensures efficacy and user safety

Creating a learning tool for literacy skills is a multifaceted process that requires careful planning, research, testing, and continuous refinement. By following a structured approach that integrates academic research, piloting, RCT, and ongoing development, developers can create impactful and safe tools that empower learners to succeed in their literacy journey.
Through collaboration with educators, researchers, and learners, we can harness the power of EdTech to transform literacy education and unlock opportunities for all learners.
Content produced by
GraphoGame research and product team
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