Ben Rachbach '11 Helps Develop
Educational Games for Children in China
by Linda Hou '13
While most research done with technology and education is focused on enhancing already well-funded schools, Ben Rachbach '11 is working to bridge the literacy gap for children in developing countries. Through a grant from the Swarthmore Foundation, Rachbach helped Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies to research and develop mobile phone-based educational games for children of migrant workers in China.
"I think educating these kids is so important because they have a right to an education," says Rachbach, an honors special major in educational studies and Chinese from Tucson, Ariz. "These migrant schools are just barely scrapping by because they fall through the cracks of the public programs."
Because of household registration laws, children of migrant workers in China are unable to attend public schools. Instead, they enroll in poor, private schools that often offer substandard instruction. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that these children often move from one school to another as their parents move between various jobs.
"I learned that these kids are highly mobile, and that there's little consistency in curriculum between the schools," Rachbach says. "There are two things that would be great. One is a mobile class, like an educational software on a phone, that can move with these kids. [Another would be] a software that could offer individualized instruction to respond to the various educational experiences of the students and to their differing skill levels."
In addition to doing research on assessing the needs of the children, Rachbach worked with a group of scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences to test two mobile games in improving literacy among the children. The games tested were both found to be very successful and Rachbach says he hopes to continue to work on the subject in the future, eventually developing games based on his research.