Espen is involved with one of the most exciting online/offline literacy projects in the world: the African Storybook Project (ASP). ASP is a website that allows users to read, write, and translate children’s stories, of which there are currently 500+ available in 50+ languages. Espen contributes to developing the ASP to improve the early literacy of Ugandan children in English and local languages.

 
Bonny Norton
Hamar
Norway
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

Based on the African Storybook Project, my research addresses the question of how developments in digital technology can advance the goal of improving the early literacy of Ugandan children in English and local languages. I investigate how teachers use digital and print stories from the ASP to promote early reading in local languages as medium and English as subject.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

A public scholar does research for the benefit of the public – either in a general sense or, more often, in a very specific sense, benefiting the specific community s/he is researching. It also means working closely with people outside academia, in my case an NGO based in South Africa, and teachers and practitioners who are involved in their project.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

Being a public scholar puts words on and ideas I have already had, and buttresses connections between emerging scholars and practitioners. PSI recognizes that a cornerstone of research is to benefit the public, and to work with communities on issues that concern them.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

I hope to continue with this line of work after I graduate, either as an academic or a literacy consultant. Regardless this PhD will be a fundamental building block, and this award with be an invaluable contribution to that end.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My research is directly connected with the African Storybook Project. Unlike many previous literacy projects, this one promotes and encourages user participation and open licenses, making it a game changer.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

The website and the project itself are already making a contribution to the 'public good', and my research strengthens this by providing research support for best practices and further development. It also strengthens connections between administrative and practitioner levels, since as a researcher I move between the two.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I've been fascinated with learning and expanding my horizon for as long as I can remember, and a PhD is the ultimate level of education. Even though I never thought particularly about pursuing this degree, I guess I've subconsciously always wanted to.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

When I finally decided to do a PhD I didn't know where to start looking. There are so many countries in the world, and many more universities. Canada came to mind since I like the country (and a friend of mine is studying here at UofT). I had heard of my supervisor through another professor, and when I read up on the program and research here, it was like it was made for me.

 

My research is directly connected with the African Storybook Project. Unlike many previous literacy projects, this one promotes and encourages user participation and open licenses, making it a game changer.