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Expanding the usability and impact of a literacy system


Nardagani is an interactive online program that helps struggling readers of all ages learn to read English.  I joined the Nardagani team in the summer of 2019.  I worked closely with the founder, Narda Pithelky, and a software development team in India to create the interactive program based on content from the original Nardagani system that existed as a boxed set of paper materials.  


Using my knowledge and experience from Sesame Street and additional skills and knowledge from my recent Masters program in digital media at NYU, I helped the team create an interactive experience that effectively engages and teaches at the same time.  With my guidance, the Nardagani platform was designed to create a sense of movement and “play” within a pedagogical structure.  


I applied basic principles of meaningful game design such as a feedback system and a set of game rules so that the student would navigate and interact intuitively with the program.  I worked on design elements such as when and where to place navigation buttons, animations and sound effects, as well as creating a visual context for the experience that drew in users and made their experience exciting while not distracting from the learning. 


The Nardagani team launched the web application in May 2019. Here are some reviews from users: 


The program helped me teach students with severe learning disabilities to read better and to enjoy reading.  -- Ann from Ketchum, Idaho


This is an exciting, innovative way of teaching English not only to struggling readers but also to ESL students. A ‘must’ for all parents, schools and institutions with struggling readers. -- Magda from Coventry, United Kingdom


I am so impressed by your program.  I have adult friends who have used it to improve their reading skills. It has made them feel more confident. -- Shelby from Jackson, Mississippi

Nardagani Educational Media Program
Child learning with Nardagani
American Museum of Natural History MicroRangers Educational Media
MicroRangers Educational Media Kiosk

American Museum of Natural History

Improving player experience for fun & learning


The American Museum of Natural History wanted to increase the number of families playing its augmented reality game MicroRangers. MicroRangers leads Museum visitors on an educational treasure hunt through the museum.


I conducted “anthropological” user experience research to determine how users learned about and engaged with the game, by following and observing 120 users.   


I produced a treasure trove of visitor interaction summaries that helped the Museum staff interpret my findings on a weekly basis. I then created a set of recommendations to make the game itself more fun and to make it easier for users to access.  


My supervisor at the Museum said “She adapted to the needs as they shifted for the project. [Her findings were] instrumental in helping us understand the player experience.”

Sesame Workshop

Extending a venerable brand by making market-specific media 



To bring Sesame Street to China, I pulled together a production team and coached them to develop their vision for a local adaptation. The result was Zhima Jie, a Chinese version of Sesame Street that added a focus on aesthetics to teaching basic skills and social/emotional development.  

One of the highlights was a new engagement method - an inventive series of animations created by the Chinese team that illustrated the origins of Chinese characters.  


Zhima Jie featured a wide variety of new characters, including a strong female character Xiao Mei Zhu (Little Plum). We cast and trained a Chinese actor to play Big Bird, the first time an international co-production included Big Bird. 


By bridging two cultures together, my team and I made something new, while preserving the integrity of the Sesame Street brand.


South Africa

Soon after the historic elimination of apartheid, the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa, and the passage of a new constitution, Sesame Workshop wanted to bring a Sesame Street adaptation to South Africa.  Our  goal was to create the first non-Eurocentric television series co-produced by South Africans for all South African children. 


I began by locating a production team in South Africa.  I coached them in developing their vision for their own Sesame Street adaptation, and held a brainstorming and curriculum seminar for the South African team and the Sesame Workshop international team to envision the entire project. 


The group came up with the groundbreaking Sesame Street adaptation Takalani Sesame, with many Sesame Street characters as well as several new characters to reach the South African market. This included a very strong female character as well as Kami, a homegrown puppet who had HIV/AIDS, to help destigmatize that disease.


One production challenge was determining which languages to use, for there are 11 official languages under South Africa’s new Constitution. I pulled together a team of advisors - educators and language specialists - to help the production team make decisions. We decided that the title of the series would be in Venda, one of the lesser spoken languages, so that included the Venda-speaking population who normally aren’t represented in any media. To reach other audiences, we determined that the word “Sesame” was almost universally recognized. The series would be mostly in English because it is an official language, and various segments in the show could be in other South African languages - with those segments having simple stories also conveyed simply so anyone could understand it regardless of language.


Reaching all audiences was a primary concern, because many families did not have television or access to it. This led to making a radio show, using the same characters and same bible as for television, with some different stories. Radio shows also used “audio animation” to up the fun factor and engage audiences. There also was significant community outreach done in concert with the series, with educators going into communities with paper, posters, printed materials and interactive hands-on workshops for families and students.  


Locally-based and using multiple media channels, Takalani Sesame’s production paved the way for many other Sesame Street international adaptations.

Sesame Street World Map
Little Plum Muppet
Takalani Sesame Educational Media
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