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SBIR Phase I: Science-Backed Games to Enhance Early Language Acquisition

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1621725
Agency Tracking Number: 1621725
Amount: $225,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: EA
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2015
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-07-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2017-05-31
Small Business Information
2 Washington Sq Vlg 12F
New York, NY 10012
United States
DUNS: 079799542
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Tammy Kwan
 (760) 715-6923
Business Contact
 Tammy Kwan
Phone: (760) 715-6923
Research Institution

This SBIR Phase I project is developing digital apps for children that promote first language acquisition. Research shows that early language development impacts future outcomes: A toddler's vocabulary size predicts language skills years later as well as future academic performance. Parents keep track of language-related milestones, and if a child falls behind, they tend to jump to the worst conclusions. This project aims to reduce parental anxiety by developing science-backed apps to accelerate early language acquisition. Due to the growing use of touchscreen devices by young children and the corresponding need for high-quality children's apps, this project has the potential to generate significant returns on commercial and social levels. The existing market has a dearth of apps that are equal parts educational and engaging for a young child, and the proposed apps aim to fill this gap. While these apps are designed for use by all children, the impact could be most significant as a therapy for late talkers and for children with language-related disorders. The apps could also supplement current intervention programs for children with limited linguistic enrichment at home. This project departs from existing language-related educational apps by leveraging advances in developmental psychology. Existing products teach new words through mass practice, often with dubious success. In contrast, the proposed apps are based on the principle of learning-to-learn (L2L): teaching high-level abstractions that help children learn broad classes of new words. By teaching principles rather than individual words, children become more efficient learners in the way they learn best: at home through normal interactions with their parents and caregivers. Previous studies have shown that guiding children to the right L2L principles early can accelerate vocabulary growth, and through partnerships with the scientists, this project aims to translate this research into commercial products. This Phase I project will be evaluated through a randomized control study, testing the effectiveness of the first L2L app for accelerating early vocabulary growth. The project scope also includes the development of additional learning-to-learn apps that guide children towards other important principles of word learning. The proposed apps will be designed, and rigorously evaluated, to best support early learners, with the largest potential impact for the children who need it most.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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