The Citizen Literacy App


Chloë (PDN lead) asked me to tell you all a bit about Citizen Literacy that I and my amazing colleagues have been funded by the UfI and Nesta to create – due for delivery this year. It’s a free smartphone app that uses a highly structured and integrated blend of systematic phonics, grammar, alphabet awareness and punctuation for adults just starting out in literacy learning. It is also accompanied by a set of printed resources that include a teacher handbook and student workbooks.

You and your learners can download the first five lessons of Citizen Literacy from both the Google and Apple app stores – for more info please visit our Testing and Feedback web pages.  These lessons act as an introduction to the full 30 lesson course, taking Adult Literacy learners from struggling with poor literacy skills to being equipped to deal with the rigours of Entry Level 2 or SCQF Level 2 in Scotland.  The app is also suitable for ESOL Literacy learners who can speak English but have difficulty with reading and writing.

Learners are introduced to the first seven phonemes which they blend together to create words, sentences and questions. They are also introduced to New Words, basic grammar, basic spelling and punctuation as well as building their awareness of the alphabet and alphabetical order by interacting with the app in a variety of activities and games.

The app has two virtual tutors, Al and Jude, whose job it is to guide the students through the app and it’s Jude who offers immediate feedback to the learners after every interaction, ensuring they are secure in their learning and ready to move on to the next activity or lesson. Each activity is also accompanied by a short ‘explainer’ video for the student to watch – where I explain what the activity is about. Feedback to date has been positive about this mix of virtual and human tutors.

The EdTech aspects of the app are wide and varied as we have been able to embed AI in it to allow voice and handwriting recognition for interactions from the learners as well as a voice driven interface to give instructions and feedback to learners.  As students work their way through it, they build on their digital skills, increasing their confidence as they interact with their phone or tablet, which is a necessity in our ever–growing digital age. These digital  aspects become even more apparent when we transfer them to the Teacher’s App which we will begin to develop soon. The plan is for the teacher to use the app (cost yet to be determined) as a mini VLE, as they will have the ability to contact learners and view their progression or lack of it. This is one of the many digital solutions that Citizen Literacy offers to learners and their teachers. To find out about this please visit:

screenshot of the app showing a simple blue interfaceAs you can see here, the app landing page is text- free to limit confusion and reduce stress. Learners are guided to the supporting videos which we made for every activity (90 + in Lessons 1- 5!) which was a feat in itself due to now working from home and owning two pesky cats!

Citizen Literacy encourages learners to interact with it autonomously which helps them cope with any perceived stigma about low literacy skills. Also, this online, distant learning nature has many advantages as it is available round the clock, meaning that learners don’t have to address childcare or maybe geographical literacy issues.

Finally, we have always planned to offer a classroom – based course to accompany the app and we hope to have student and teacher resources for this ready by the end of July, this year!  The classroom- based course offers a richer, learning experience for both the learners and their teachers with learners being able to interact with each other more for peer learning.

The resources for this will be in the form of a Student Workbook which we will only charge printing and postage for and the cost for the Teachers’ Handbook is yet to be determined but will be fair. There will be online and maybe face- to- face staff training available too – probably consisting of two sessions separated by a week or so to allow tutors to try their new skills out with their students.

Thank you for reading this blog and please get in touch, letting me know what you and your learners think about our work.

Ongoing thanks also to UfI and Nesta as both these foundations recognised the possibilities in enabling us to work together.

Did I mention that the app was free? 😉

Citizen Literacy CIC colleagues

John Casey: Programme Manager

Diane Gardner: Subject Specialist

Will Gregory: Developer

Colin Hamilton: Developer

Citizen Literacy associates

Claire Collins Consultancy: Evaluation research and report writing

Tricia Miller @TRT: Critical friend and editor

Scottish Union Learning: Evaluators