Building a storytelling app to support literacy amongst deaf children

Amsterdam, August 30, 2019

– Advances in digital technology including tablets, smartphones, and mobile apps have revolutionized the way people interact, communicate, and learn at home (and in classrooms) around the world. Now, an international team of researchers are working to ensure that this shifting educational landscape doesn’t leave deaf children behind and will help support literacy efforts throughout the community. The


, in

Telematics and Informatics

, published by Elsevier, was recently selected by an external advisory board made up of individuals from NGOs to receive the

Atlas Award


“We’re really proposing a framework that uses storytelling (and digital technology) as a way to motivate children to learn,” said Leandro Flórez-Aristizábal, PhD candidate at the Institución Universitaria Antonio José Camacho and University of Cauca, Colombia.

Flórez-Aristizábal and her colleagues are currently working to design and test an interactive storytelling app for sign language-speaking deaf children. To help in this effort, they’ve enlisted the experts: deaf children themselves. By first designing a series of black and white cards depicting images, Flórez-Aristizábal’s research team developed a general storyline, but the sequence of events was up to the kids to decide.

This interactive storytelling approach was tested as a series of case studies, involving children between the ages of 9-and-13-years at the Institute of Special Therapy of Senses in Cali, Colombia. A single student would arrange the cards in any order they chose and tell the story to the rest of their class through sign language.

The researchers then added additional details and colors to the cards for further testing. Eventually the colorful cards were converted to a digital format for use with a tablet or personal computer. The initial findings found that a child’s motivation increased when technology was part of the activity, specifically when rewards in the form of virtual trophies were offered.

“We started with deafness, but we don’t want to stop there,” said Mr. Flórez-Aristizábal. “We want to invite other researchers to join us in this journey and help us develop more prototypes, and adaptations for other disabilities and other educational goals. In this way we’re trying to fill the gap. Ultimately, we want to forget about disabilities and think about different abilities.”

Flórez-Aristizábal added that the aim is to continue working, and ultimately, develop an app with multiple levels and support multiple sign-languages, including Spanish, British and Colombian Sign Language.


Read the full story and interview with the authors on

Elsevier Connect


Notes for editors

The article is “Digital transformation to support literacy teaching to deaf Children: From storytelling to digital interactive storytelling,” by Leandro Flórez-Aristizábal, Sandra Cano, César A. Collazos, Fernando Benavides, Fernando Moreira, Habib M. Fardoun (












). It appears in Telematics and Informatics, volume 38 (May 2019), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request. Please contact Jason Awerdick at

or +1 212 633 3103. Journalists wishing to speak to the authors may contact Leandro Flórez-Aristizábal, Institución Universitaria Antonio José Camacho, Colombia at



Telematics and Informatics

Telematics and Informatics

is an interdisciplinary journal publishing innovative theoretical and methodological research on the social, economic, geographic, political, and cultural impacts of digital technologies. Application areas include smart cities, sensors and information fusion, the digital society and digital platforms, internet of things (IoT), cyber-physical technologies, privacy, knowledge management, distributed work, emergency response and hazards, mobile and wireless communications, health informatics, psychosocial effects of social media, ICT for sustainable development, blockchain, e-commerce, and e-government.

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