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Digital tool to detect early reading issues gets Enterprise Ireland funding

The Alpaca tool is expected to detect reading difficulties earlier and save time for teachers, with a test launch planned for September 2022.

An Irish project to detect early literacy issues in children has received €300,000 in funding by Enterprise Ireland.

Aimed at those who are just beginning to read, the Alpaca tool is designed to identify reading issues at a young age faster and more accurately than current paper-based assessments.

Principal investigator Dr. Jennifer O’Sullivan said Alpaca focuses on prevention rather than remediation of reading difficulties, as delayed reading intervention “can negatively affect many aspects of a child’s progress through school”.

Earlier funding from Enterprise Ireland allowed the team to carry out a feasibility study among teachers, where it received ‘overwhelmingly’ enthusiastic demand. It is hoped that Alpaca will be ready to test in schools by September 2022.

Current assessments involve one-on-one sessions between the pupil and a teacher which can take up to 30 minutes, which can cause losses in teaching time in a larger class. Alpaca is designed to create quick and accurate assessments of early literacy skills among all pupils in a class.

The project has been developed over 18 months between The Learnovate Centre, a global research and innovation centre in learning technologies, Marino Institute of Education and the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin.