Liquid Mode Field-Test: Readability Technology in Adult Literacy Education

Since 2019, the EdTech Center @ World Education has partnered with Adobe and The Readability Consortium to advance the field of digital text readability. Our contribution to this work is to help mitigate the challenges that adults who are dependent on their smartphones for accessing information online face when reading digital text. Many adults enrolled in English language, literacy, and vocational certification classes in the U.S. encounter this barrier to information.

This publication shares observations from our field-testing of the Adobe Acrobat Reader free mobile application. Specifically, we explored adult literacy learner use of a feature called Liquid Mode. The feature reflows text and gives readers control over that text when reading PDF documents on their phones. We see great promise in Liquid Mode as a tool to help adult literacy learners engage with digital text in PDFs. Its adoption in reading instruction provides practice for learners that can buoy their success with digital texts they encounter in their work and daily lives. Additionally, because PDFs can be downloaded, readers who don’t have regular access to the internet can still read previously downloaded documents on their phones. In that way, it has potential as a tool to support digital equity for learners from historically marginalized communities.

We have field-tested Adobe Acrobat Reader and  the feature Liquid Mode in diverse contexts, reaching dozens of teachers, administrators, and learners in adult education and workforce development settings, and more broadly. Through this research, we found that adult readers feel more comfortable, comprehend more easily, and read more quickly when they can control digital text. Read the final white paper, Liquid Mode Field-Test: Readability Technology in Adult Literacy Education,  to learn more.