City of Glasgow College is leading a project that brings together the UK’s leading literacy experts and software developers. The college is developing a new smartphone app as part of its ground-breaking City Phonics programme for adult literacy learners. The new app, Citizen Literacy, will help adult literacy students practice in their own time and support face-to-face training sessions. Diane Gardner, Head of Applied Research in Adult Literacy at City of Glasgow College, who is academic lead on the project said: “It’s the first phonics-based adult literacy app to include the four-skills approach; reading, writing, speaking and listening, with an interface especially designed for low literacy users’ interactivity.” Technical leadership on the project is being provided by City of Glasgow College’s newly established Learning and Teaching Academy, under the guidance of John Casey, Senior Learning Technologist, who explained: “The app uses handwriting and voice recognition that allows learners to practice exercises linked to their courses. We wanted to make this literacy app more inclusive. Current systems struggle with regional accents, so we have adopted AI tools to tune our app to an individual user’s local accent.” The project is being funded by Ufi Charitable Trust, which supports the use of technology in vocational education, and Nesta, the UK innovation foundation. Kyle Usher, Nesta Programme Manager for Scotland, said: “The potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to be used to address social issues and inequalities in Scotland is huge. Nesta are delighted to support this project that will enable adult learners to improve their literacy. We believe it is an excellent example of how AI can improve inclusivity and have a positive impact on people’s lives.” The app is based on City of Glasgow College’s successful City Phonics programme which is City and Guilds accredited and offers a fresh approach to teaching adults to read and write. Since its initial launch in 2018, the programme has been taken up by organisations who have partnered with the college to deliver classes right across the UK. City Phonics offers a first step in literacy for the beginner adult learner. “Being able to read and write is so very important. It’s something everyone needs to be able to do for work and to take part in their lives on a day to day basis. In Scotland one person in 28 are unable to progress because of their lack of literacy skills,” said Diane. The Citizen Literacy app is due to go live in autumn this year. For further information and details on how to access the app, please visit the project website.