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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)tm and Ubisense tm 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.


 Juniper Gardens Children’s Project has an impressive history developing and refining eco-behavioral assessment, including use by Drs. Hart and Risley in their seminal work identifying the 30 million word gap. For young children with or at risk for developmental disabilities, eco-behavioral assessment has been used to identify: a) differences in home and classroom environments, b) changes before and after specific student and classroom interventions, and c) child and setting characteristics related to the talk children receive from adults. This team of investigators are laying the foundation to transform existing eco-behavioral assessment by observers to an automated digital eco-behavioral approach.image001

The innovative digital eco-behavioral approach will eventually allow teachers to collect meaningful, contextual data in preschool classrooms. The combined analysis of quantitative linguistic data (LENA) with indoor mapping capability of Ubisense potentially enables a new technology capable of addressing a number of yet unanswered questions about: a) where the hot and cold spots are in classrooms in terms of talk, b) how to make key changes and achieve goals related to promoting talk, c) how to identifychildren early with issues related to talk and atypical movement (e.g. wandering) in preschool and child care settings, and d) the progress of interventions aimed at addressing communication delays and disabilities in young children. Once fully realized, the Bridging the Word Gap Researchers suggest that the digital eco-behavioral approach will provide a better understanding of the classroom language landscape and enhance existing early intervention approaches — both which will positively impact the lives of young children and the teachers, parents, and other caregivers who care for them.