A Digital Literacy App for Young Learners
Designing an adaptive, game-based experience for classrooms in Brazil
Design an app that helps level the playing field for Brazilian kids.
Gatópolis, a digital game and diagnostic tool that teaches reading through games and helps teachers address learning gaps.
Gatópolis stimulates reflection—not memorization—and a little healthy competition too!
All too often, children pass through the early years of school without fully learning to read and write. From that point on, poor reading comprehension and language articulation hinder every aspect of their education and limit their career opportunities. It’s known as “functional illiteracy,” and it’s an acute problem in Brazil.
To help level the playing field for kids at this crucial stage of development, the Lemann Foundation, a nonprofit focused on broadening access to quality education, approached IDEO to design a digital literacy platform.
Gatópolis helps children ages four to seven in Brazilian public schools learn to read and write through fun, adaptive, tablet-based games. To keep kids engaged longer in reflective exercises, the games introduce open-ended questions and nudge students towards correct answers by providing hints based on known vocabulary, like their own name, classmates’ names, and known words.
But Gatópolis is much more than an educational game—it’s also a groundbreaking diagnostic tool. This is a key component for many public school teachers in Brazil, who are responsible for large classes of children at varying levels of reading and writing proficiency. Teachers are often overwhelmed and typically have neither the time nor the resources to provide what each child needs.
Gatópolis was designed to help educators teach reading and writing to young students by encouraging reflection over the typical trial-and-error exercises. IDEO worked closely with educators to develop a diagnostic algorithm that identifies patterns in the mistakes a child makes in a Gatópolis game. The app instantly measures every student’s level of proficiency, adapts games accordingly, and gives teachers suggestions for grouping students by level, as well as activities that are appropriate for each group.
Gatópolis was funded by the Lemann Foundation and is distributed for free through Google Play, giving children a boost that will last a lifetime.
Teachers can easily glance at a student's progress and proficiency level.
More than 1,000 kids tested the learning platform during the pilot phase.
The diagnostic prompts students to write a word in every game cycle, helping to identify learning patterns.
Each student's Gatópolis homepage works as a dashboard, showing achievement by the number of stacked buildings.
We assessed the effectiveness of the game in early pilots in low-income public schools.