At SXSW EDU: The Role of Technology in Addressing Low Literacy


Austin, TX — British A. Robinson, President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, served as a panelist today at the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival. The panel, Envisioning the Future of Adult Literacy, brought together industry leaders to discuss how innovative technology tools are being used to help address low literacy in America – a challenge that impacts more than 54% of American adults.

 “Edtech is a powerful way to help adult learners span the digital divide and experience a new world of learning. It removes the stigma and shame associated with low literacy and can break multigenerational cycles,” stated Robinson. “Our partnership with Microsoft, T-Mobile and SphereGen is a perfect  example of what is possible when corporate ingenuity and innovation align with the science of learning.”

The partnership between the Barbara Bush Foundation, Microsoft, SphereGen, and T-Mobile will explore the potential for use of eye tracking and eye tracing technology from mixed reality head mounted displays to aid in the identification of low literacy and more effectively measure the progress of literacy interventions.

Panel moderator Andrew Sugerman, Barbara Bush Foundation Technology Advisory Council member and President of Sketchy, said, “When we unlock edtech’s amazing potential, we can create much more scalable solutions to battle low adult literacy rates and help people experience the joys of reading.”

Ellen Hisken, Senior Mixed Reality Specialist at Microsoft, focused on the ability of her company’s products, like the Microsoft HoloLens 2, to enhance literacy learning and assessment through eye tracking technology. “Education is a priority for us. We are very excited to use HoloLens 2 and other technology to help make learning easier, less intimidating and a lot more fun.”

Ted Dinsmore, President of SphereGen Technologies, emphasized the importance of using digital technology to address low literacy by explaining, “This partnership is a prime example of hardware and software working together to get the right help to the right people. It is a first step toward tackling the literacy problem in this country and we are thrilled to work with Microsoft and the Barbara Bush Foundation.”

The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival is a reflection of the world’s most critical social issues as seen through the lens of education, bringing together thought leaders from private, public and nonprofit organizations. Earlier in the week, President and CEO British A. Robinson also participated in a panel titled Literacy: The Key to Equity and Economic Recovery, alongside panelists representing Dollar General, Bessemer Trust, and the American Library Association.


 About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity. To learn more, visit

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