My earlier post on Dyslexie, a typeface optimized for dyslexic readers, got me curious about other dyslexia-related design solutions. A particularly interesting one is Tiblo, an “open-ended learning aid” developed by Sumit Pandey and Swati Srivastava to help dyslexic kids become more facile with words, letters, and phonemes by “connecting” them physically like puzzle pieces.
Each colorful Tiblo is a “modular interactive electronic block” that can record 10 seconds of audio, play it back, and snap with other blocks to form syntactical patterns based on the meaning the kid has assigned to the block. (The blocks are also designed with a broad gridlike surface that kids or teachers can decorate with pictures, letters, pushpins, or anything else they like.) If a child is having trouble reading a written word or sentence, its component parts can be assigned to Tiblo blocks and sounded out individually in the teacher’s voice or the child’s — and then reconnected in other orientations.
“Children [with] dyslexia, besides having problems with standard written text, are also known to have problems remembering sequences, like in spelling, math problems, and stories,” Pandey tells Co.Design. “Also, quite often, children have problems relating to their fine motor skills as well. So by connecting blocks of different colors together and recording voice-based hints into the blocks, the children can build up their own methods of remembering sequences like using color sequences, or using the onboard grid to create visual hints. It also enables the teachers in designing teaching activities which are participatory in nature where children can ‘create’ personalized solutions to given problems.”
Pandey and Srivastava were inspired to create Tiblo while conducting a research project as volunteers at a school for dyslexic children in Ahmedabad, India. They created their prototype out of “circuits from hacked Chinese toys,” says Pandey, which has a practical benefit: “Each prototype block costs under $5, [so] they can be given to children permanently and the children can then personalize their look and feel by drawing or papercraft.”
This all adds up to a user experience that, ideally, makes the student feel comfortable and emotionally invested in the educational process. “We realized that for children who have shifted from a mainstream school, where more often than not they struggle significantly on an academic front, getting their confidence back and getting involved in the classroom is the biggest challenge. That was the single most important driving factor for the design of Tiblo,” Pandey says. “The idea was to develop something that helps children not just on a symptomatic level but on an emotional level as well.”