We realized that there were many educational applications online that could help to improve literacy and education levels in general. However, in many LDCs, there is a lack of access to reliable wifi or even a complete lack of wifi. Yet, LDCs were the countries that needed these applications more than developed countries.
What it does
Summary: Users call through their mobile phones to access the literacy service called "Call Me Maybe". Through this service, users can increase literacy skills through listening, reading and speaking.
Users call fixed mobile number. They then select what language they want to learn more on. After selecting the language, they choose the grade that they want to start from. Following which, the user will select the type of literacy activity - listening, reading or speaking. Teachers can play a role in this process by telling them which numbers to press. After selecting either the listening or reading feature, users will receive an SMS text that contains the reference text for the feature. This will allow them to follow and reference to the text. Lastly, if users chose the option to read or speak, they will receive voice feedback on their performance.
Listening: Users can receive lesson plans or real time news articles based on their selected grade. "Call Me Maybe" service will send an SMS to the user. The service will then continue to read out the text and allow users to follow along while on speaker mode and looking at the SMS. This will help to improve listening skills as well as slightly improve reading skills. Moreover, it helps them easily get educational resources.
Reading: Users can choose between storybooks to be read to them. "Call Me Maybe" service will send an SMS of the story text to the user. The service will then continue to read out the text and allow users to follow along while on speaker mode and looking at the SMS. After which, the user will read out loud back into the phone. Feedback will be given on how accurate the pronunciation is. This will help to improve listening skills and more so on reading skills as well as improving their vocabulary.
Speaking: Users will receive the type of conversation based on their grade level. "Call Me Maybe" service will engage in a conversation with the user. After the conversation, the user will receive feedback on their conversation based on the user's pronunciation, intonation, grammar and confidence. This will help them to integrate this skill into daily life and make it more relevant to them.
With these features, it helps to solve the problem of:
- Lack of educational resources: SMS and phone calls are affordable and no extra technology resources are needed for their learning besides a simple mobile phone
- Lack of teachers: Users can now learn without relying solely on teachers. They can now learn at their own pace.
- Lack of wifi: Users do not need wifi to access these tools and therefore it makes it much more accessible especially to the LDCs which have a low take up rate of a smartphone.
How we built it
We created a Node.js backend application that leverages on Twilio APIs. Twilio allows us to associate Google cloud functions with phone calls tied to a single phone number. When the mobile number for "Call Me Maybe" is dialed, Twilio APIs are triggered. The Twilio APIs enable us to implment an IVR menu for feature selection and trigger voice recordings when the user reads back to the service. This voice recording is sent to our Google Cloud Functions through HTTP Post calls. The text type object goes through the Google Cloud Speech API to convert from audio to text. The text then undergoes Google Cloud Natural Language API for semantic analysis, which we use to determine the sentiment level to help us grade the responses of user. The analysis result JSON is then sent to the Google Cloud Storage Bucket for storage. The recordings may be access anytime by the User in the future. Our Node.js application also integrates with feed from BBC news to provide the latest news podcasts that users would otherwise be unable to access without Internet.
Challenges we ran into
Figuring out how to connect Twilio to Google Cloud Functions Figuring out how to effectively resolve the root cause of the lack of literacy
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Able to pick up the use cases for Twilio API and Google Cloud Functions.
What we learned
We learnt that a simple idea with minimal technological resources can be used to solve a crucial problem.
What's next for Call Me Maybe
We can connect users to the jobs nearby that require them to have a certain level of language proficiency. This would increase the number of users that we can retain to use this service. We can also tie in together with the governments to supplement their lack of teachers.