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Microsoft's new literacy tool teaches language skills in a browser

The program, Accent, only works with Edge but can be customized to instruct different languages or skills.
David Lumb, @OutOnALumb
April 18, 2017
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Microsoft has partnered with the nonprofit organization CHOICE Humanitarian to release a browser-based digital literacy tool, called Accent, for underprivileged populations. It's designed specifically for Microsoft Edge so users can interact with its touchscreen mechanics, tracing out letters for kinaesthetic learning. Ideally, the tool will economically empower folks in undeveloped areas to seize opportunities in business and local government.

Microsoft and CHOICE deployed Accent in underprivileged regions of Guatemala to teach local women Spanish, with fluent teachers to guide the inaugural 18-person class. This is the first step in launching programs using the tool in other communities around the world. According to Microsoft's post announcing Accent, new courses can be customized to teach different languages and skills without needing programming expertise.

Using technology to improve literacy isn't a goal limited to the developing world. Last June, XPRIZE launched a competition with a $7 million reward to find the best literacy tool that could run on mobile devices. It's not just handing low-literacy users smart devices loaded up with programs and calling it a day: XPRIZE's Adult Literacy challenge needed the winning solution to encourage persistence so users stick out the tougher parts of courses. Accent's kinaesthetic mechanics might be the approach that enables radically different groups to reach literacy...so long as they're able to get a hold of enough Microsoft Edge-equipped devices.

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