A teacher-educator of embedding literacy-and-numeracy practices at Wintec, New Zealand, and faculty at Department of Innovative Technologies in Education at NUST, Pakistan. Also pursuing Ph.D. from the University of Waikato, New Zealand to find innovative ways to improve quality and access to learning using low-cost technologies to empower the underprivileged.
Learning to read using digital games changes lives of street children in Pakistan
A digital game-based study conducted in Pakistan highlights the characteristics of a learning environment designed by students that enabled them to learn to read in a second language (English) and transfer skills to the first language (Urdu) using a pedagogically balanced digital game without teacher facilitation.
Pakistan is facing an educational crisis as millions of children are out-of-school contributing to low literacy levels in the country. This abstract presents one aspect of a digital game-based study conducted in Pakistan to develop reading skills of street children. These children were of ages 7 to 16 years and enrolled in grades one to five in a charity school. Teachers described these children as non-cooperative, disorganised and disruptive. A mixed-method approach was used to collect data. One group of children (n = 96) was given the freedom to design their own learning environment using a pedagogically balanced digital game to develop reading skills in second language English (L2) without teacher facilitation. Findings from the observation data revealed that all children demonstrated responsible and cooperative behaviour in the design of their own learning environment with key characteristics of peer support, problem-solving, and self-paced learning. These characteristics resulted in increased motivation, self-discipline and learner agency. Findings from the survey data revealed not only statistically significant gains in reading competency on five components of English reading: letter sound, non-word reading, familiar word reading, passage reading, and comprehension, but also provided evidence of transfer of skills to the first language, L1 (Urdu). This study provides a proof-of-concept to enhance educational quality, equity, and efficiency by using pedagogically balanced digital games for teaching reading to children who do not have access to effective instruction, formal education or belong to areas having a shortage of skilled teachers. It also has implication for the effective design of digital game-based learning environments that promotes collaboration, peer support, and learner agency. The study has observed a change in attitudes, reading competencies and transfer of skills from L2 to L1 in marginalised children who have never enrolled in mainstream schools due to poverty, age limits, or other issues.