SMU Smart Phone Game is Finalist in Xprize Competition

Yolette Garcia, associate dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU’s Guildhall graduate video game development program.

Designed by SMU and Dallas-based nonprofit adult literacy provider Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), “Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis,” a smartphone game designed to teach low-literate adults to read, was named one of five finalists in the Barbara Bush Foundation‘s Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition.

A recent pilot study at SMU found that low-literate, English-language learner adults who played the game for two or more hours a week significantly improved their literacy skills after eight weeks.

“Clearly we are very proud to have advanced in this important competition,” said Stephanie Knight, dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “We are committed to finding a successful, accessible teaching tool for low-literate adults. And we know we are on the right track when we hear that one of our study participants gets to hear her children clap every time her reading skills improve enough for her to advance in the game.”

More than 36 million adults in the United States are low-literate, reading below the third grade level, according the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Low literacy skills are linked to inequality, higher unemployment, reduced earned income and poor health.  According to LIFT, one in five Dallas adults are low literate.

“‘Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis’ is an innovative way to use mobile technology to make literacy curricula more accessible to the millions of low-literate adults in this country,” said Linda K. Johnson, president and CEO of LIFT. “A significant key to its success is that the game is fun.”

In January 2019, X-Prize will present the team with the most effective app with $3 million, plus $1 million apiece to the apps with the best performance among native English speakers and non-native speakers.

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