Can Children Teach Themselves to Read?
Do we think it is possible for kids to learn to read on their own? A dispatch from a big bold idea in progress.
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
"Mine is on. I'm a lion!" A boy living in a remote village in Ethiopia said this in his native language after he figured out how to turn on a tablet. Eight months later he was writing the word "LION" in English on a drawing app. Here's the extraordinary part: no one taught him how to do that. He learned on his own, with the help of a language app developed by a team of researchers led by Cynthia Breazeal, who directs the MIT Media Lab's Personal Robots group.
Breazeal and her team chose Ethiopa for an innovating language learning project because it is a country in which "English is an aspirational language and there is a lot of social value in learning English." The children they gave tablets to had never seen digital technology of any kind before. That is one of the reasons Breazeal describes her project as a "convergence of big ideas in science, mobile technology and social."
What's the Big Idea(s)?
Thanks to the spread of cellular technology, there is a proliferation of content now available to children. We have a better understanding of how the "reading circuit" of the brain works, so researchers can develop a curriculum to guide language learning. Also, we understand that children will form "learning circles" to teach each other. That is how cognitive science, mobile technology and our understanding of social groups have converged.
Breazeal, who unveiled this project at The Nantucket Project, a festival of ideas on Nantucket, Massachusetts, said it was necessary to operate outside of her discipline, and indeed her comfort zone, in order to tackle this problem.
So can children learn to read on their own? In the video below, Breazeal describes "an idea in its formation," and how her team is taking risks to trying to understand it.
Watch the Video:
To learn more about The Nantucket Project and how to attend the 2013 event visit nantucketproject.com.
NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller is coming back to Big Think to answer YOUR questions! Here's all you need to know to submit your science-related inquiries.
Big Think's amazing audience has responded so well to our videos from NASA astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication Michelle Thaller that we couldn't wait to bring her back for more!
And this time, she's ready to tackle any questions you're willing to throw at her, like, "How big is the Universe?", "Am I really made of stars?" or, "How long until Elon Musk starts a colony on Mars?"
All you have to do is submit your questions to the form below, and we'll use them for an upcoming Q+A session with Michelle. You know what to do, Big Thinkers!
Anatomy and physiology professor David Harper claims a recent study in The Lancet is flawed.
- The low-carbohydrate group in a recent Lancet study were typically middle-aged, obese, sedentary, diabetic smokers.
- The study was not a randomized, controlled, double-blind experiment.
- Harper has been in ketosis for six years, and says it has profound effects on cancer patients, among other chronic ailments.
Calling all big thinkers!
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