JOLLY: Jokes On-line to improve Literacy and Learning digital skills amongst Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

Proposal Summary

The JOLLY collaboration will develop innovative web based technology to improve English comprehension and digital skills amongst disadvantaged Filipino children transitioning from primary to secondary school. Disadvantaged children often lack the comprehension skills needed at secondary school due to poor access to resources, learning opportunities or help at home. Up to 40% of 6th grade Filipino students have average to poor mastery of English: one of two official languages. Literacy is significantly related to life chances, long-term aspirations and self-efficacy. Digital skills are also vital in modern technological society, allowing learning across cultures. JOLLY will train students to use digital technology to understand, create and share joking riddles: an approach that has previously
produced improvements in reading comprehension and digital proficiency. JOLLY will motivate children to learn through fun exchanges of humour: a powerful component of Filipino and British cultures.


  • To increase reading comprehension and digital skills amongst learners aged 11-12 years old by using technology to engage them in understanding, creating and sharing joking riddles;
  • To help young people to make the transition from primary to secondary school and increase their chances of using education to break free from the cycle of deprivation and disadvantage;
  • To develop a user centred design process with teachers and learners through which they can contribute to the design of the activities and software we develop to support their understanding, creation and sharing of riddles. This should also increase student and teacher effectiveness and self confidence;
  • To build a collaborative partnership between academic and non-academic partners in the UK and the Philippines that will endure beyond the lifetime of the Newton grant funding;
  • To build capacity across the UK and Philippines through developing the skills and expertise of young researchers, teachers and students.

Details of the work that is to be undertaken in the proposed Institutional Links Collaboration

UNESCO (2011) reports that Philippine government spending on
education only grew by 0.2% from 1999 to 2008, despite the fact that the Philippine economy grew by 5% in the same period. As a result, more and more Filipinos are illiterate, the country has an increasing number of out-of-school youths, and those who do graduate are not prepared for the workforce (Philippines Department of Education, 2008). One of the economic consequences of this inadequate preparation is that a large segment of the population is unable to participate in high-skill, high-value industries such as BPO (Alava, 2010); A clear link between a learner’s understanding of the ambiguity in riddles and their English comprehension has been demonstrated (Yuill, 1988; Yuill and Oakhill, 1988). An trained group of children improved significantly more than those given decoding practice; The role of peer discussion in fostering comprehension improvement has also been demonstrated (Yuill, 2009). 24 children who worked in pairs to discuss and resolve ambiguities in joking riddles showed an increased reading comprehension significantly more than a group of 24 no-treatment controls; Computers have been shown to be effective at structuring and supporting collaborative discussion (Luckin et al., 2012). Specifically technology has been used effectively to scaffold collaborative discussion between pairs of students to promote the joint construction of meaning from ambiguous language (Yuill et. al. 2009); Personal narrative sharing and voicing opinions through online international children’s communities has been shown to lead to increased sense of empowerment, widening of perspectives and development of common forms of communication (e.g. Cassell and Tversky, 2005); Technology is increasingly shown to improve literacy skills of children with varying skills (Cassell, 2004); A wide literature discusses the way in which User Centred Design can benefit stakeholders (e.g. Norman & Draper 1986; Carroll, 2002).

Relevant Stakeholders and Potential Users

Teachers and students: Dr. Rodrigo and ACED have developed digital literacy materials for public school teachers and helped deliver the training in Metro Manila and the provinces. Past collaborations between Dr. Rodrigo and ACED led to the installation of learning software in public schools with the systematic collection of usage data and ACED and its network of schools is eager to learn about new ways in which technology can support learning and to develop teacher competencies both in content and pedagogy. The UK team also has existing relationships with primary and secondary schools and JOLLY will work with them to identify students who would be able to build online relationships with Filipino students. The UCL Institute of Education is the leading teacher-training organisation; this will enable us to effectively disseminate our findings to classroom practitioners. ACED, in partnership with faculty members of the Ateneo, also regularly offers public school teacher training and findings from JOLLY will be disseminated to schoolteachers and administrators as part of these regular training sessions. National & Regional Policy makers: We will work with the Philippines Department of Education and its public schools who are already in partnership with ACED. Existing relationships between ACED and the school system ease access to school leadership, teachers, and students. Existing relationships with policy makers in the UK, in particular the Dept. for International Development will be built upon to communicate what JOLLY can offer disadvantaged learners. Educational Technology companies: Luckin and Porayska-Pomsta work closely with many Educational technology companies, particularly small and medium sized companies and startUps. We will tap into this community to ensure that the work of JOLLY is widely disseminated and further software can be developed. We will assist our partners in the Philippines to develop similar working relationships local companies.


Comments are closed.