SpeechBlocks: A Constructionist Early Literacy App

June 1, 2018

Ivan Sysoev, Anneli Hershman, Susan Fine, Claire Traweek, and Deb Roy. (2017). SpeechBlocks: A Constructionist Early Literacy App. Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children


This paper introduces SpeechBlocks (SB): a smartphone app that allows children to explore spelling principles in an open-ended way. Children rearrange letter combinations through direct manipulations and instantly hear each combination pronounced back, whether or not a conventionally spelled word is formed. We evaluated SB with a group of 16 preschool children ages 4 and 5 in a pilot consisting of 16 sessions over the course of two months. Qualitatively, we found that (a) the app facilitated children's engagement, sense of authorship and self-efficacy, (b) SB evoked significant amount of social interactions between children around literacy activities, and (c) support of nonsense words and remixing contributed to these factors. In addition, fine-grained log data of children's interaction with the app showed promise as a viewpoint into their literacy skills and interests.

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