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Social Impact Projects

Our technology for inclusion

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When we started building software for digital books, our goal was to make books fun for children: we didn't want to change the world, we just wanted to make a complicated thing simple. Then, in 2015, our friend and client, Caspar Armster, came to see us at the Frankfurt Book Fair to show us a project created by his wife, Anna Karina Birkenstock: a digital book, Das Wilkommens ABC, made for the refugee camp volunteers in Cologne, where our friends work with their children. Everything started from a simple observation: content on a smartphone is quickly available to a volunteer. In this case, it is used to establish the first contact with a child who has been living a nightmare, often no longer has family around him and does not understand a word of what is being said to him. They came up with a small dictionary that was designed by twenty German illustrators. Easy and effective. So, we too looked up from our keyboards and started to investigate…

01

BENVENUTI ABC

Welcoming refugee children

…we founded that there were 11 million children in the world who live as refugees far from their country of origin and that refugee children are exposed to violence of all kinds. They are enlisted by armed gangs or terrorist groups and sometimes disappear into thin air. And then there are the children of Syrian refugees. Their plight was brought home by the awful picture of Aylan, the three-year-old child who died on the beach in Bodrum.

It seemed evident that we should replicate what Caspar and Anna did, and ask the Italian creative community to help us make an essential dictionary with interactive animation and audio in Italian and English.

We launched a "call for creatives", and more than 120 illustrators and creators designed, animated, and in some cases learned how to work with digital for the first time. Then came the translations, the voices, the artists, the assembly, a website and an app for Apple plus one for almost all other smartphones that have Android. Today, anyone can download for free an illustrated dictionary of nearly 200 interactive boards and can use it on a browser on a tablet or smartphone.

This dictionary is for all the volunteers, educators and teachers who greet migrants every day. And it seemed obvious that we immediately needed to open a dialogue with "Fondazione Migrantes", a Foundation committed to welcome refugees, and work with them on the project to put something useful into the hands of the volunteers and the children.

Benvenuti ABC is an excellent digital product but what's even better is that within the space of a few months so many professionals from outside the migrant reception world have decided to dedicate their time and their talent to the community." During the first public presentation of Benvenuti ABC in the historic building on Cottolengo street in Turin, where every day dozens of people come looking for help that ranges from accommodation for the night to an explanation of Italian bureaucracy, we spread a white sheet on a wall. We screened our work in front of dozens of illustrators, volunteers and journalists. It was beautiful because we all felt the warmth of many small things coming together; we realized that you could do extraordinary things if you work together and move in the same direction. Many people raised a hand and proposed ideas to make it better by adding new words and including other languages etc.

Then we made two other versions of Benvenuti ABC, always collaborating with creatives and teachers to add new words, animated images and audio to the latest versions. Two Greek teachers in 2017 led the construction of the Greek version. The situation of migrants in Greece is terrible, there are over 40,000 refugees stranded in the five reception camps, including that of Moria where the environment, especially for minors accompanied, it is inhumane.

In Turin, we have a large Chinese community. The manager of a large public school asked us to work with his teachers to build together a version dedicated to their community. Children who had difficulty communicating with their classmates thus conducted a whole lesson in front of an interactive whiteboard explaining to their classmates how to pronounce everyday words in Chinese, learning them together in English and learning to say them better and better in Italian.

Benvenuti ABC allows a quick view of common words, numbers and colours, establishing quick comparisons with equivalent words in our language. A real added value is the ability to listen to the pronunciation of words; also, the use of animations facilitates a more relaxed atmosphere and provides a useful tool for educational needs. Giving value and meaning to the knowledge of languages for foreign students is a driving force of integration.

120

Illustrators and creators

200

Interactive boards

> 100.000

Users online

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02

CPIA

Digital content for migrant students

Pubcoder collaborates with the team that works to improve the reception of young unaccompanied and rejoining minors (YUMs) between 16 and 18 at CPIAs (Provincial Centres for Adult Education). Innovative learning activities in extracurricular time are focused on discovering the city of Turin, improving language and digital literacy, empowering global citizenship and inclusion through outdoor education to art and cultural heritage. In three years they have supported and brought to the Certificate of Lower Secondary Education ‒ with an Italian level of A2 ‒ no less than 300 young foreign minors. Seventy per cent among them are unaccompanied and or seeking international protection coming from Kurdistan, Sub-saharan Africa, Syria, Egypt, Morocco. Ten per cent among girls are victims of trafficking, coming from Nigeria. Every year 100 minors follow learning innovation programmes, totalling 20 hours per week in extracurricular time.

We currently lack innovative online tuition of L2 Italian for minor youths with poor language and digital literacy skills and scarce device availability. Very recent data prove that 90 per cent of students attending CPIA between 16 and 18 do not possess a tablet nor a PC. Approximately 40 per cent of them have received a tablet ‒ loaned free of charge thanks to the funds provided by the Ministry of Education ‒ that indeed should be returned by the end of the school year and are not available for young adult migrants in Extraordinary Reception Centres (called CAS). The situation is critical for pupils between 10 and 14, too, as almost 35 per cent of families lack devices at home (ISTAT). They need innovative distance learning formats, accessible from any smartphone by users with poor language and digital literacy. The objectives are: to provide distance tuition available to migrant students with no previous formal schooling to develop methods and materials fit for smartphone use as our students do not possess other devices. Social confinement is seriously hampering learning, preventing them from speaking Italian (L2) at school and quickly dissolving their tenuous relations with the outside world. Literacy and learning Italian (L2) are essential for attaining global citizenship or social and school inclusion. Language and digital illiteracy are usually associated, risking to hamper their future careers.

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03

I LIBRI PER TUTTI

Books designed for all

A few years ago, a friend told us about his autistic son who had no books to read simply because none of the major Italian publishers printed books suitable for him. So we went together to talk to one of these leading publishers, and we tried to understand what we could do. In the meantime, Fondazione Paideia was already dealing with these matters and was already building beautiful paper books. A few months later the four most significant Italian Children's book publisher and others came on board along with lots of families who tested and retested and many researchers, educators, librarians who gave their expertise.

"I libri per tutti" (Books for all) is finally the first project in history (and in the world) that sees the greatest (Italian) publishers get together to build a series of digital books for those who struggle a little more than the others.

It's not a fairy tale; it's a real innovation. We've been working for months looking for solutions, with a rare and precious tension towards the result, and with the idea that this becomes a structural activity, and not just a marketing exercise. If everything works, a lot of children will be a little happier today.

The project is promoted by Paideia Foundation which has been committed for more the twenty years in supporting kids and families in difficulty. The objective is to enhance the importance of reading experience for weak readers; kids with complex communicative needs or speech disorder. The project regards children's digital book with text translated using Widgit symbols; standard ebook modified and adapted to specific needs.

In Italy, 10% of preschool children and 6% of children who already go to school have cognitive and linguistic disorders.

Between 0.8% and 1.2% of the US, population has communication disorders so severe that she needs AAC (Beukelman & Ansel, 1995). In the UK, about 1.4% of the population has severe communication disorders which make it difficult to understand (Enderby & Phillip, 1986).

Who is "Ilibripertutti" project aimed at?

  • people with complex special communication needs;
  • people with cognitive disabilities, mainly in developmental age;
  • children with motor, linguistic and attention difficulties;
  • children with autism spectrum disorders;
  • children with Down syndrome, with Angelman syndrome and other genetic syndromes, with severe verbal dyspraxia, some children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders;
  • children in a school context, involved in a meaningful experience of communication, for the development of oral competence;
  • foreign people, for the first approaches with the local language.

Foreign children of recent immigration, who have recently arrived in Italy and entered the school without knowing the Italian language, find themselves having limited participation in school life. They are often remaining isolated and only in some cases managing to communicate and interact with others, through symbolic modalities such as gestures, vocalizations, facial expressions and body language. It has been shown that the use of AAC techniques favours the production of oral language and that the use of images facilitates the understanding of language, supporting learning.

> 100.000

“Books for all" downloaded during Italian Covid-19 lockdown

04

MOBiDYS

Enabling reading for dyslexia

FROG – which stands for FRee cOGnitive ebook, i.e. "intelligent" book, i.e. "100% accessible" ebook is an initiative coming from Mobidys, a French company specialized in accessibility solutions, in partnership with French publisher Nathan.

They have a collection of specially designed children's illustrated books. All books have a built-in menu that triggers an adaptive content for various cognitive disorders, with a particular focus on dyslexia. The menu is always accessible and allows users to start several text and audio manipulations, according to the kind and quality of the cognitive disorder. For instance: highlighting text, highlighting syllabus, dark and light mode on text, letter-spacing, and much more. Technically speaking, this is possible through a combination of two factors: a pre-ingestion manipulation of the text (here is where a pool of experts, led by Mobidys, comes in) with a specific HTML and CSS tagging profile; a toolbar with buttons capable of interpreting and toggle styles and multimedia according to the specifications of that profile. All are tied by the web views local storage, which retains the preferred options triggered by the user/reader.

All of these books are designed within the PubCoder authoring tool and are exported as single EPUB3 files perfectly compatible with the standard and viewable on Books for Apple. PubCoder has contributed creating an application for Apple and Android devices where all of these books can be downloaded and experienced in one single place.

Dyslexia affects 3–7% of the worldwide population; however, up to 20% of the general population may have some degree of symptoms.

05

RICONNESSIONI

Teaching teachers digital skills

PubCoder is a strategical partner of Riconnessioni, one of the largest and most comprehensive actions for educational innovation in Europe (and beyond). Nearly 400 teachers have used PubCoder as part of specific digital content creation training, and many of them have built content with students and other teachers.

Riconnessioni involves all primary and lower-secondary schools in Torino District, more than 400 schools with more than 100.000 students; the project boosts fibre-optic broadband penetration in schools from 15% to more than 90%; involves more than 60% of teaching staff in professional development pathways; attracts and multiplies the resources for innovation in the ecosystem by working with public and private sectors; promotes a new model for digital pedagogy based on the combination of creativity, innovation and inclusion.

A community of teachers, parents, and students is working together to design the school of the future, along with national and international experts. Workshops, seminars, events, and conferences to innovate education with everyone's contribution.

400

Teachers learning PubCoder

400

Schools

> 100.000

Students

06

PRIMO LEVI,
A COLLECTIVE
EBOOK

Co-designing digital content

In 2016 we worked with the University of Turin on an interactive ebook of a work by Primo Levi, because of the celebrations for the centenary of his birth. Together we designed a workshop divided into eight meetings, lasting about four hours each, which included a series of training moments of the whole group of participants and specific activities entrusted to independent working groups. The last few meetings were dedicated to the "construction" of the ebook's material.

The ebook (made available for free in 2017 on Apple Book by the Primo Levi publisher) was built to imagine a new way of use by students. The text is enriched with multimedia insertions and is synchronized with a historical radio reading; also, is given the possibility of reviewing a historical television version taken from the book.

20.000

Downloads on Apple Books

07

CURIOUS GUIDE FOR COURAGEOUS KIDS

Helping families during Covid 19

In the most challenging times, the synergies increase, giving birth to new bridges and links between people. So it happened that the four Italian Children's Museums networked and promoted the "Curious guide for courageous kids" dedicated to children and their parents, to make them better understand what's going on with Covid-19 crisis.

The draft has been submitted to the international association of Children in Museums) and they liked it so much that they're spreading it all around the world. Its unique feature lies in the bilingualism: the Guide is always in two languages, Italian on one side and the other you can read English.

Curious Guide For Courageous Kids is a unique, free and downloadable online support for families made to help them to explain Sars-CoV-2 to the kids. It is told in a way that evokes the great stories for children. A microscopic enemy to defeat that comes from far away, doctors and scientists who turn into superheroes, and the necessary preventative actions are explained to the little readers almost like a game to share with everyone for the sake of the Planet.

PubCoder did the interactive mobile version of the Guide.

08

Accessible Digital Textbooks for All

Unicef drives innovation

UNICEF and its partners drive an innovative solution called Accessible Digital Textbooks for All to make textbooks available, affordable and accessible for children with disabilities in all contexts. Children with disabilities remain one of the most marginalized and excluded groups and, for them, gaining access to quality education can often be challenging.

By adding specific features to digital formats and following Universal Design for Learning principles, textbooks can be made accessible to students who are blind or have low vision, to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to those who have intellectual, developmental or learning disabilities, among others. And it doesn’t stop there: these features can enrich the learning experience for all children.

In the pilot countries, local content producers and ministries are using Pubcoder to author accessible digital content.