Micro Challenge #38 – Exploring predictive text

1 July 2020 - 3 minute read

Welcome to the thirty-eighth of Altitude Foundation’s #MicroChallenges2020

Today’s challenge will let you explore how your phone predicts your texts

What’s a Micro Challenge?

These challenges are short activities to help you develop, revise or refresh your coding skills, posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Micro Challenge #38

This week, we are looking at how computers ‘learn’ and store new information. It might be useful to review Challenge 11 and Challenge 12 on computer programming.

Most of us use our phones every day to communicate, which means we are very used to using predictive text. But how does predictive text work? This video provides more of an in-depth explanation, but in basic terms: predictive text combines a library of common phrases and words (i.e. it has been programmed to know which words are generally used most frequently, as well as having grammatical structures programmed in) and machine learning, which allows the programme to store the commonly used phrases and words of the individual user. So, for example, if you are often texting about football, your predictive text programme will store and predict the relevant words, like pitch and match, whereas if you are often texting about movies, it might store cinema and Netflix. 

The Challenge:

For today’s challenge, can you think like a predictive text programme? Using your texts/Snapchats/WhatsApp/other messaging apps from the last day, can you provide three predictions for what might follow these three phrases in your phone?

If you don’t have a phone to hand, try saying the starter phrase and write down the words that pop into your head.

Starter phraseOption 1Option 2Option 3
I am…
Yes, that..

(If these aren’t phrases you use frequently, feel free to substitute your own!)

Review it:

  • Could you compare with a friend or family member – do they get the same options as you?
  • Looking at your predictive text on the phone, where do you think the most commonly used words are positioned in the list of suggestions? Why do you think that is?


  • What would the pseudocode or algorithm look like for predictive text?

Share it

We would love to see what you have created! Please send any pictures, videos, or files of your activities to us – either via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram  using #MicroChallenges2020 or to challenges@altitudefoundation.org. If you are emailing them to us, please let us know if you are happy for us to share your stuff on our social media platforms (with credit, of course). 

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