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Infant Potential

In an early learning program, infants and toddlers learn language through their interactions with caregivers. For nearly a century, child development books have detailed the changes in language acquisition month by month. Now, the Infant Learning Environment (ILE) Program, which is a computer-based simulation, systematically undertakes the difficult part of language teaching by designing, developing, and delivering instruction in a manner that tightly binds speaking, text, and reality (as as images or animations) together within a highly structured curriculum. Moving from "what has been the case" (our tradition of only using caregivers to teach infants) to "what could be the case" (using our computer-based simulation environment) is often difficult to imagine, especially with the notion of teaching infants when seeking to simultaneously teach speaking, reading, and thinking. Here is a little thought experiment of how a caregiver would need to change to undertake what the ILE Program attempts.

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A Thought Experiement

What would it take for caregivers to simultaneously teach infants to speak, read, and think? How would caregivers have to change to do so?

  • First - Add an LCD screen to the forhead of caregivers.
  • Second - Whenever caregivers speak the content would be immediately placed on the LCD screen, scrolling left to right as one does while reading English.
  • Third - When the parent said something like "bottle" when no object is in hand, not only would the word appear on the LCD but its image as well.
  • Fourth - Give the caregivers an organized curriculum that resides in their "minds" so that it is delivered without thought so that no design and development work is required, almost like "instinctual" behavior.
  • Fifth - Give the caregivers a time table that guides them to automatically deliver the curriculum day-in and day-out with great consistency and, again, without thought.
  • What do you think would happen given the consistent linking of speech, text, and reality? It's just a small jump to infer that speaking, reading, and thinking would emerge together. The later emerges because of the highly-organized curriculum that exposes the speech-text-reality patterns of English. The hard part for the developers of the ILE Program was discovering the "organizing" framework that guides the content to be presented, one that will engage learners through their control over it. We will return to this framework in the curriculum analysis presented in other parts of our Program Summary.

The Biological Basis of Language Learning

The ILE Program is also guided by the "underlying" biology with which infants are endowed. They are the foundation as to why, with technology's help infants will learn to speak, read, and think at the same time. This biology is why many say that infants come ready to learn and identify the behaviors that infants can perform shortly after birth, as well as specify what events consistently "induce" these phylogenetically-based behaviors that support language learning. By designing the instructional environment to provide these inducers, the initial behaviors can be shaped (or scaffolded) into complex verbal behavior. These bits of endowment fall into four categories. All of them are documented in child development textbooks.

Infants imitate motor and verbal behavior shortly after birth

Since Meltzoff and Moore, these behaviors have been well-researched, although the time of onset and the types of imitation performed are still debated. If they imitate and the imitation leads so some "rewarding" experience and is repeated, most likely it will be repeated.

Infants look at and follow the human face and listen to the human voice

These phylogenetically-based activities result from a long history of living in groups and their importance to survival and reproduction. These behaviors make imitation possible.

Infants enjoy activities over which they have control

A plethora of experts seem to agree that humans are "agents of change." They seek control from their first moments. Every parent has witnessed this when their infant is hungry, sick, or soiled (i.e. inducing events). Infants let them know vocally. A little later, infants communicate their positive states. Some say this is a phylogenetically induced activity. Some say this "push" towards successful behavior is based on biology-based "motivating operations" like hunger, thirst, and comfort.

Infants have limited but sufficient visual, motor, and verbal control

At around 3 months of age, infants' color vision appears, visual acuity improves, and smooth visual tracking emerges. They lack controlled grasping and minimal coordination skills. Their verbal skills consist of mostly of babbling, crying and screaming.

It is with a focus on these known behaviors that the ILE Program simulation begins.

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Why ILE Program

Essentially, the ILE Program

  • Tightly bonds and links speech, text, and reality together.
  • It has a logically organized curriculum.
  • It can deliver it day-in and day-out.
  • It gives infants immediate control over it.
  • It consistently reviews material.
  • It takes into account the dispositions of infants toward lanaguge learning.

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