THE POWER OF WORDS: BUILDING A CHILD’S BRAIN

I began my surgical career as a pediatric head and neck surgeon specializing in cochlear implantation. I soon discovered, though, that a successful cochlear implant didn’t always ensure a child’s success in learning to speak or understand language. My search to understand why led me to encounter the concept of the 30 million-word gap and how this profound disparity has a negative impact on everything from literacy to school readiness to academic achievement.

HOW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY COULD DECREASE THE WORD GAP, NOT WIDEN IT

When my 2-year old son is playing with my tablet, I could easily cease to exist for all he knows. His attention is so highly focused on tapping, making noises, popping balloons, and whatever inner satisfaction those activities provide him, that he never once looks up to check in with me. Perhaps that’s a good thing (he’s engaged with what he’s doing, I think!), but I’m sure I’ve done the same to him. At home, checking email on my phone, I get the results of a grant application. Emotions and thoughts flood me, and his bids for attention are now interruptions as I try to balance being a responsive mother with my reaction to whatever news my mobile device has delivered to me. It’s exhausting.

TALK WITH ME BABY: GEORGIA’S LANGUAGE NUTRITION STRATEGY

Georgia ranks as one of the lowest states in the nation for literacy and high school graduation. Nearly seventy percent of Georgia’s children are unable to read proficiently by third grade, which marks an important educational time when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. In response to this illiteracy epidemic, Get Georgia Reading – Georgia’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading set an expectation in 2013 that by 2020, every child in Georgia would be on a path to reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

PIONEERING A NEW DIGITAL ECO-BEHAVIORAL APPROACH WITH LENA™ AND UBISENSE™

Recent advances in the use of automated sensing technologies and pervasive computing are providing new and important breakthroughs in observational measurement. Workgroup 6 Members Drs. Dwight Irvin, Stephen Crutchfield, and John Hansen, along with Bridging the Word Gap Research Network co-PI, Dr. Charles Greenwood, are capitalizing on these advancements by combining the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA™) and Ubisense™ technologies for use in preschool classrooms. The LENA device is a small recorder worn by the child which quantifies up to 16 hours of the natural language environment (i.e., child, adult and peer speech) – eliminating the need for transcription. Ubisense is an indoor positioning and mapping system that relies on ultra wideband radio and sophisticated mapping software to provide second-by-second estimates of locations for multiple individuals wearing small location tags within indoor and outdoor environments. Bridging the Word Gap Researchers conducted a pilot study to assess the validity and reliability of using Ubisense in the preschool classroom with positive results. They are now exploring ways to use the combination of LENA and Ubisense to report to teachers on the verbal input children with, or at-risk for, developmental delays experience in specific classroom locations throughout the preschool day.