Research, Alumni

SIAT alumna runs study with rural Chinese students and augmented reality for learning English

June 19, 2020

Together with her former supervisor professor Dr. Alissa Antle, SIAT alumna Min Fan recently ran her first field study as a new faculty member at the Communication University of China. Dr. Fan will be presenting her study titled “An English Language Learning Study with Rural Chinese Children Using an Augmented Reality App” virtually at the upcoming ACM Interaction Design for Children Conference taking place virtually next week, originally scheduled to be held in London, UK.

As part of her study, Dr. Fan, who received her PhD in Interactive Arts and Technology in 2017, worked with 11 children from a rural, low socioeconomic status school in Beizuo, Guizhou, China. Interviews with teachers in the area had identified that many of the children had difficulty learning English, in part due to the lack of resources and instructional support. However, according to the China Internet Network Information Center 2018 annual report, 89.7% of children in rural China can access the internet, with the smartphone being their dominant device.

At the time this opportunity arose, a team of students that included Dr. Fan and was led by Dr. Antle, had finished the design and informal usability testing of a hybrid augmented reality and physical reading app called AR PhonoBlocks that runs on a tablet. The goal of the app is to support children to learn the alphabetic principles of English. The key features are overlaid dynamic colour cues on 3D physical letters.

Dr. Fan designed a field study to investigate if PhonoBlocks might be usable in the context of rural English Language Learning. Her results were promising, suggesting that children without any prior digital experience could use the app to learn with assistance. An opportunity was identified to also provide scaffolded support for teachers to teach using the app.

Dr. Fan will be presenting her work virtually at the upcoming ACM Interaction Design for Children Conference, June 18-24 2020, originally scheduled to be held in London, UK. Registration for the conference closes Sunday, June 21st.

Dr. Antle runs the TECI (Tangible, Embodied and Child Interaction) Lab at SIAT.