CoWriting Kazakh: Learning New Script with a Robot

  • Sandygulova, Anara (PI)
  • CohenMiller, Anna (Co-PI)
  • Summers, Danna (Co-PI)
  • Alizadeh, Tohid (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Yessenbayev, Zhandos (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Johal, Wafa (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Dillenbourg, Pierre (Other Faculty/Researcher)

Project: CRP

Project Details

Grant Program

Collaborative Research Grants Program 2020-2022

Project Description

Kazakhstan has recently adopted a state program for the development and functioning of languages for 2011-2020. This new trilingual education policy aimed at development among the Kazakhs of fluency in three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. Additionally, a recent decision on the transfer of Kazakh language from Cyrillic into the Latin alphabet was approved by the Kazakh authorities in October 2017. While there are clear reasons for these reforms, there are numerous risks facing the transfer, including risks to increase inequalities in education services (e.g. preference for schools with teachers better trained in English or for Russian-speaking schools), to cause illiteracy in adults in their native language, and to cause disinterest and lack of motivation to write and read Kazakh among Kazakh and non-Kazakh children and adults. Beyond familiarity with local conditions, assessing and managing these risks requires understanding the effects they can have on a variety of those affected including children, teachers, and adults, who on the one hand are comfortably able to read the basic Latin script (e.g. English), but on the other, will not recognize crucial distinctions projected onto familiar graphemes.
Since 2014, the CoWriter project has explored how robotic technologies can help children with the training of handwriting via an original paradigm known as learning by teaching (LbT). Since the children act as the teachers who help the robot to learn handwriting, the children practice their handwriting even without noticing it and stay committed to the success of the robot via the Protege effect. Previous research have shown the motivational aspect of the LbT with a robot for handwriting. We believe that the CoWriter activity has the required innovative aspect to it and, hence, it can boost the children’s motivation to learn a new script and its associated handwriting.
The proposed interdisciplinary, collaborative project aims to assess and manage the risks relating to the new Language Planning in Kazakhstan in order to address challenges of a) teaching and motivating children to learn a new script and its associated handwriting, and b) training and providing support for all demographic groups, in particular senior generation.
Short titleCoWriting Kazakh
Effective start/end date1/1/2012/31/22


  • social robots
  • education
  • human-robot interaction
  • machine learning
  • datasets
  • children
  • learning


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