In this short course you will explore the possibility that children might acquire written language in a way that is similar to how they acquire spoken language—without instruction. You will encounter various aspects of behavioral science and technology that are relevant to this proposition. You will have the opportunity to learn the the perceptual, cognitive, and neurological capacities of children during their first years of life. You will advance your understanding of children and how they learn language. You will also be more attuned to current advances in the technology of human machine interactions, and what these phenomena imply for learning to read at an early age.
Lecture 2: There have been two primary theoretical frameworks to describe language and its acquisition. The nativist position holds that language and its acquisition are uniquely dependent on a considerable amount of innate abilities, and unlike other perceptual and cognitive functions. The empiricist position holds that very little, if any, of language depends on innate abilities and its acquisition can be accounted for by typical perceptual and cognitive processes. To evaluate these two theoretical frameworks, we will learn about language structure, how it is used, and how it is acquired.
Lectures 3 and 4: To set the stage for assessing the possibility of naturally acquired reading, we will explore speech perception and how it is acquired. Speech has also had two alternative theoretical frameworks, and we will consider relevant research that addresses their differences. The goal of this assessment is to better understand what is required for speech perception and its acquisition and how these requirements compare to the natural acquisition of reading.
Lectures 5 and 6: These lectures will give an overview of research and theory on reading and literacy. Given the possibility of naturally acquired reading, we will review the nature of reading and how it is currently taught. One of the main goals is to destroy prevalent myths about how we read. This discussion will highlight the assumptions in current practice and how they compare to the possibility of naturally acquired reading.
Lecture 7: As covered in the previous lectures, it is commonly believed that spoken and signed languages are acquired from birth onward by natural interactions with persons who talk whereas learning to read requires formal instruction and schooling. We consider the hypothesis that once an appropriate form of written text is made available early in a child’s life before formal schooling begins, reading will also be learned inductively, emerge naturally, and with no significant negative consequences. We will examine the role of perception and action modalities in language acquisition and use and compare spoken and signed languages to written languages.
Lecture 8: We will describe the demographics of literacy and illiteracy and their social and economic implications. The cost of illiteracy as well as the huge cost of formal literacy instruction is one of the major financial burdens on societies.
Lecture 9: We will study the implications of naturally acquired literacy for individuals who are spoken and/or written language challenged because of deafness or other impairments.
Lecture 10. We will review past technological developments to set the stage for peering into the future. We will discuss the various technologies available or soon to be available that will allow growing children to experience an augmented reality that will be capable of supplementing their real world experience with various forms of language generated automatically.
Dr. Dominic William Massaro