[Portrait of an Innovator] For Sarah Sauquet, Literature and Mobile Go Hand-in-Hand

By February 07, 2014
Sarah Sauquet

Following her attention-grabbing session at the December TedX Champs-Elysées Women event in Paris, Portrait of an Innovator focuses on Sarah Sauquet, who teaches literature and has created an app called Un Texte Un Jour (A Text a Day). Her aim: to make people more aware of literature. Her tools: snippets of literature and mobile devices.

An innovator? Yes, and one with a mixed background. Sarah Sauquet’s family are all highly numerate. The daughter of two engineers and eldest of four children, she grew up in an environment “where everyone had a computer on their lap”, but she was fonder of literature. Having passed her baccalauréat, she then did two years of preparatory studies in literature before landing on the benches of the Sorbonne University in Paris. There she was awarded a Master’s degree, which took her from sitting alongside students to standing in front of them, as a teacher of literature. After seven years in the State education system, seven years of thinking about things, that head which is full of ideas has now acquired another hat – which takes up three hours every day. She is now mother to three greedy offspring who need to be fed each day – three apps, two in French called Un Texte Un Jour (A Text a Day), and Un Poème Un Jour (A Poem A Day), and the latest, in English – A Text a Day.

The disruptive idea? She uses a snippet of literature as a format and a mobile device as a tool to raise people’s awareness of classical literature. The app offers a literary text every day, putting it in context with a biography of the author. The app also encourages users to test their knowledge with literary quizzes set according to the individual’s level. Sauquet thought up the idea together with her mother, who runs her own app development company called It’sSauquet. It all started two years ago with a Christmas present that Sarah compiled for her family. “As the only literary person in the family, I gave each member of my family a personalised anthology of literature. Each one received his/her own set of texts.” This woke the family up to literature, and some of them started to read the classics again. Her mother suggested she develop a digital version, and that was the start of this series of literary apps.

Why is she concentrating on apps as a learning tool? “As a teacher I’m interested in ‘mobile’ literature. My mother and I thought hard about the way people read.” Both of them realised that students nowadays read less and less, and if they do read, it is in a very fragmented way. “We thought that the app format was the most appropriate, as people can read it on their mobile devices anytime, anywhere.” She also reckons the ‘gaming’ element is a good bet, as it is a useful pedagogical tool and helps to create loyalty among users.

So how does this affect us? Asked whether she thinks the short format is the future of knowledge transmission she agrees. "Yes, we are moving towards this way of reading. Using snippets is really the way of doing things today. Learning about literature is more about reading widely than reading complete works. If we want the younger generation to continue to read classical literature, and not be put off by hefty tomes, our allies are the tablet, digital, and short texts.”

So what does the future hold? In the near future Sarah would like to develop the ‘serious game’ side. For the moment, the quizzes in her apps can only be played by one person. Her idea is that in the longer term, the app would be able to host multi-player sessions, including on the social networks. There should also be an audio version for use by visually impaired people. Mother and daughter are now also thinking of expanding their ‘A Text A Day’ concept to a wider range of cultural topics.

Crédits photos: TEDX Champs Elysées Women

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