A Digital Library for the World's Children

February 20, 2009
11:50 am - 1:00 pm
Halligan 111
Speaker: Ben Bederson, University of Maryland
Host: Rob Jacob


The 20th-century model of shipping books to remote areas of the world is increasingly difficult because of skyrocketing costs, ongoing wars, corruption, and crumbling infrastructure. Focusing on digital tools that can deliver Croatian books, for example, to children in Spain offers a great opportunity for building global tolerance and understanding through the universal themes present in children's books. However, these books must be made available through the wide variety of paths that children throughout the world can access. They must be readable on small screens, available in multiple languages, and accessible on educational laptops, and mobile phones. The International Children's Digital Library (www.childrenslibrary.org)addresses these issues, and is being used around the world, on the One Laptop Per Child's XO in Mongolia, on Intel's Classmate PC in Mexico, and even on mobile phones to access a wide range of children's books from around the world. In this talk, I will explain what the ICDL is, how it came to be, and a number of the technical problems we had to solve to create it. We applied computer vision to enhance the readability of picture books, even on small screens. We used local wireless networking to encourage collaboration and take advantage of the fact that there are often several mobile phones available among several chidren. And we are starting a new effort to couple existing automated translation systems with Distributed Human Computation to translate the books, even when no translators between a needed language pair are available.

Bio Benjamin B. Bederson is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and the previous director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and iSchool at the University of Maryland. His research is on mobile device interfaces, information visualization, interaction strategies, digital libraries, and accessibility issues such as voting system usability.