Monday, December 6, 2010


-- Literacy --

Dave and I are big supporters of literacy. Over the last 10 years we have had 
the honor of participating in our local literacy organization through book donations
(more than 100 books per year) - some of which came from taking on book 
review projects (which I no longer do), media copies of books we received for 
some of the radio how guests, and books we receive from friends or family 
members who are well aware of our voracious appetite for reading. We've also 
had the pleasure of having a variety of literacy and world of writing  related 
discussions on this blog and on our radio show over the last 4 years or so. This 
passion is one of the reasons behind our book Purple Snowflake Marketing - How
to Make Your Book Stand Out in a Crowd. This is our small way of participating 
in this important aspect of a conscious society. 

Anyway, one of those radio show guests we've featured in the past is going to be 
our guest on the blog today as well. He's here to share information on what the organization has been doing since the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio Show 
interview that aired on Feb 25/'09: Literacy Bridge Organization
To find other writing and literacy related interviews simply scroll through the 
archives available at:

Cliff Schmidt, Literacy Bridge’s executive director, has experience as a grassroots
lobbyist for organizations working to end global poverty, such as CARE and  
RESULTS. He was also a former industry standards representative for Microsoft, 
the open source programs manager for BEA Systems, a nuclear engineer, and a 
submarine officer for the US Navy. Whew! This is one fella with a lot of experience!

* Find information about the Literacy Bridge Organization at: 

Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Project

By Cliff Schmidt

Illiteracy and access to knowledge are two of the key problems that inhibit 
socio-economic development in developing countries. Rural people lack the 
vital information they need to improve their lives, and because most are illiterate,
they cannot benefit from many traditional educational methods (such as reading 
text on how to increase local food production). Furthermore, lack of electricity 
and poor roads isolate these regions and further complicate development efforts.

Literacy Bridge is addressing this problem through our low-cost audio computer 
— the Talking Book. We designed the Talking Book to address the short and 
long-term needs of those we serve: it gets vital knowledge into remote 
communities immediately. Talking Books enable rapid device-to-device content
distribution within and between individuals and communities. Simply plug one 
Talking Book into another Talking Book (or a computer) via built-in USB to 
transfer lessons. Content is distributed freely.

Literacy Bridge has been field-testing our Talking Books in Ghana since 
January 2009 with two primary groups: subsistence farmers who lack information 
necessary to maximize crop production, and children and illiterate adults who 
need help improving their reading skills. These two groups make up the majority 
of people living in rural communities across Ghana, and include well over 1 billion
people globally.

The results so far have been staggering: farmers use Talking Books to produce 
up to four times their typical crop yields per acre of land, and children are actively
engaged in literacy learning, using Talking Books to play back lessons at various 
speeds, skip ahead or backwards within and between lessons, define key
vocabulary words and engage in multiple-choice style question-and-answer 
sessions and other interactive activities.

Recent Technical Developments
Literacy Bridge is making several technical developments to the Talking Book,
including the implementation of a powerful content management application, 
designed to help manage audio content across multiple topics and languages. 
The audio content management application will empower local organizations to
easily distribute audio content to the Talking Books.

When used in the field, Talking Books gather different statistics such as how 
lessons are used, and how helpful the lessons are (i.e. user ratings). This
provides important feedback for anyone who wants to create effective new 
audio lessons. Literacy Bridge’s audio content management system fetches 
these statistics whenever a Talking Book is connected to a computer, and with
unique device IDs, it can determine on which particular Talking Book an audio 
file was recorded. This allows aggregation of numbers from different devices to
generate meaningful statistics.

Literacy Bridge’s content management application also enables users to import 
audio files from different formats and arrange them in a hierarchical category 
taxonomy for easy navigation. Powerful search capabilities are included, and the 
application recognizes when a Talking Book is connected to a computer. The 
content management application supports seamless export of content to the 
Talking Book, with automatic audio format conversion.

Your Opportunity to Make a Difference
Currently Literacy Bridge employs staff in Ghana, and we have hundreds of 
volunteers, advisors, and advocates globally who support our work with their 
time and donations. We work closely with rural residents, development 
organizations, and government officials – each of whom influences decisions for 
the Talking Book design as well as how it is implemented in rural contexts. Your 
donations provide children and adults in our target communities with access to
the information necessary to make a long-term, sustained impact in their quality
of life.

 * Thank you Cliff, for this wonderful article :)

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