Ralph Nader on Early Childhood Education.

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When Ralph Nader visited Atlanta I shared our pilot programs for new moms, now named Educare, with him over a coffee.

Here are some of Nader’s thoughts regarding parents’ involvement in early childhood education. 

Nader believes education is clearly a significant factor in enhancing the future of impoverished children. Education levels bear heavily on efforts to bring families out of poverty and in providing livable wages for low and moderate and middle-income families.

Nader is adamant, “We need to invest in the nation’s children. We must assure an adequate safety net, health care, higher quality and more plentiful child care and vastly better educational opportunities, particularly as early as Kindergarten.” 

Parental responsibility should be encouraged by finding ways to help support parents in their efforts to help support their children as more families confront economic conditions demanding a greater deal of time be spent away from home. Parents should be as involved as possible in their children’s education; values do start with parents.

We both believe that early parental involvement is a way in which elementary education can be changed to make a real difference in the lives of our children.

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Lurie Children’s Hospital Offers Kids Virtual Escape from Intensive Care Unit.

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From scuba diving to snowboarding, patients in the pediatric intensive care unit leave the hospital behind with virtual reality For the first time in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), patients get a chance to scuba dive, snowboard, and go on a safari or other adventures, all from their hospital bed.

The 360 degree immersions into virtual environments were extremely well received by PICU patients and their parents, according to results from a pilot study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago that were published in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. All 32 study participants, ages 3-17 years, reported that they enjoyed using virtual reality. All of their parents agreed, with over 80 percent reporting that virtual reality experience calmed their child.

“We conducted this study to make sure that it is feasible to introduce virtual reality into a pediatric intensive care setting and that kids respond well to it,” says senior author Marcelo Malakooti, MD, from Lurie Children’s who also is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics-Critical Care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“We are now introducing virtual reality more broadly to critically ill children on the unit who are often alert, but stuck in bed just passively watching TV. Such minimal engagement with their environment over prolonged hospitalization can lead to delirium or other cognitive and emotional impairments. We hope that the stimulation and interaction that virtual reality offers will mitigate that risk and improve outcomes for these children.”

Based on the positive results of the pilot study, Dr. Malakooti, lead author Colleen Badke, MD, and colleagues at Lurie Children’s are now conducting a larger study to examine how virtual reality use in the PICU impacts pain, anxiety and physical factors like blood pressure and heart rate variation, among others. Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.

The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S.News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 212,000 children from 49 states and 51 countries.

Did you know your baby can hear you, even before they are born?

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child-kissing-pregnant-belly1Babies will begin to respond to language in-utero, and this will prime their brains for early language nutrition. 

What’s happening before birth:

Your baby can hear you, and can begin learning language even now! Begin reading to, talking, singing or even humming to your baby. This will help your baby get used to your voice and begin to recognize what makes up language. Rubbing, patting or touching your tummy throughout the day, is another way to communicate with your unborn baby. Because a baby’s brain is constantly developing, connections in the brain will increase and become stronger each time your baby hears new words.

What most babies do before they are born: 

  • Recognize mother’s voice
  • Respond to mother rubbing her tummy
  • Startle to loud noises
  • Can see light
  • Open and close eyes
  • Hear external noises and conversations
  • Gain preference for native language
  • Make facial expressions
  • Recognize rhythm and patterns of stories and rhymes
  • Recognize mother’s voice (and later, father’s)
  • Hear sounds of mothers body
  • Suck thumb
  • Detect strong flavors
  • Detect temperature, pain and pressure
  • Kick, squirm, move around
  • Turn head from side to side
  • Open and close hands
  • Open and close eyes
  • Suck, swallow and yawn
  • Curl toes
  • Stretch
  • Hiccup

Language Nutrition

Just as healthy food nourishes a growing baby’s body, language nutrition nourishes a baby’s brain. Quantity and quality of nourishing language, like healthy food, is critical to brain development.

Language-rich adult-child interactions, beginning at birth, have a direct impact on social-emotional and cognitive development and language and literacy ability.

The impact of adult-child interactions on the brains of infants and toddlers is unparalleled by any other stage of development, as this is the time when they are forming the neural “connections that build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all learning, behavior and health depend” (Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University).

cropped-screen-shot-2018-04-05-at-7-21-50-am1.pngA solid foundation of language nutrition – the use of language, beginning at birth, that is sufficiently rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context that it nourishes the child socially, neurologically and linguistically – is critical in developing a child’s capacity to learn.

Augmented reality in children’s books increases engagement translating into better learning outcomes.

53274772_384802738767478_1285140844453560320_nThe popularity of technologies like augmented reality is increasing as more publishers use them to engage young readers. In the US, only 38% of 4th graders and 19% of 8th graders report reading on their own time, and technologies such as AR are seen as a way to reach a generation which grew up constantly interacting with screens and digital content.

This also forms part of a broader shift towards empowering readers and engaging them in the creative process. A recent World Economic Forum report listed creativity as one of the top skills needed for workers to thrive by 2020, and such interactive technologies are key in accomplishing this.

Augmented reality is far from a new phenomenon, however, and many in the publishing industry have been investing in this area for some time.

Publishers in this space tend to agree that this technology has the potential to combine the best aspects of both digital and print. The personalized books 3.2.1 Publishing creates are printed and then coupled with a 3D augmented reality experience that can be accessed through a free mobile app on any smartphone or tablet.

We believe it is not about what AR as a technology can achieve—it’s about the way it is leveraged in the book so that it hooks and enriches the young reader’s experience in ways that a normal book could not.

It should address specific pain points perceived by those young readers, who tend to enjoy books in a different way and want to get involved, not just from a reading perspective. That is where AR can provide additional depth and richness to make reading more fun, interesting and engaging.

UK Lebanon Tech Hub conducted market research amongst a sample of parents aged from 25 to 45 to learn what factors might appeal to them and encourage their adoption of AR technology.

The surveys and interviews found that while the vast majority – over 93% – of parents habitually used devices like smartphones, tablets or PCs themselves (and often let their children use them), they were often concerned that the content their children consumed should be both educational and interactive. While many viewed AR as a gimmick, once they were introduced to it they often perceived it as a potential way of improving their children’s short attention span and enhancing interaction with them.

Many believe that augmented reality and virtual reality work on reading because it uses multimodal learning, meaning we are using more than one sense in the brain to learn.  Gerald Gentemann founder of 3.2.1. Publishing explains, “AR creates a strong emotional tie for young readers, like they are attached to the book and part of the story. If you watch any kid read with augmented reality it’s as if they are playing a game.”

Two PhD researchers at the University of Central Florida, Maria C. R. Harrington and Emily K. Johnson investigated how augmented reality has the potential to foster engagement, and their preliminary results chime with a recent article in Publishing Research Quarterly which notes the technology’s positive impact on literacy and overall learning effectiveness through cognitive attainment: ”Augmented technology contributes to increasing engagement, invites participation, and develops appreciation of the context. Augmented books are proposed to incentivize curiosity, facilitate the interpretation of text and illustrations, and provide a learning tool that relates to the reader,” the paper concludes.

In an article published in the Computers & Education Journal, however, researchers examining the potential of AR for education warned that while the technology did offer many new learning opportunities, it also presented significant challenges. It’s more productive, instead, to approach AR as a concept rather than a technology.

Dean Velez founder of Anvel Studios one the pioneers in VR and AR edutainment believes this is the approach publishers are adopting, ensuring that their titles are “future proof” by designing engaging experiences anchored on great stories. Velez concludes, “If you have robust content, it will engage readers whether they’re viewing it on a smartphone, through smart glasses…or using whatever new device comes next.”

Language Nutrition™ – A Public Health and Education Imperative

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Just as healthy food nourishes a growing baby’s body, language nutrition nourishes a baby’s brain. Quantity and quality of nourishing language, like healthy food, is critical to brain development.

Language-rich adult-child interactions, beginning at birth, have a direct impact on social-emotional and cognitive development and language and literacy ability.

The impact of adult-child interactions on the brains of infants and toddlers is unparalleled by any other stage of development, as this is the time when they are forming the neural “connections that build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all learning, behavior and health depend” (Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University). 

And a solid foundation of language nutrition – the use of language, beginning at birth, that is sufficiently rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context that it nourishes the child socially, neurologically and linguistically – is critical in developing a child’s capacity to learn.  

GoMo Health, a leading population health management company, and Empowered Education a company that secializes in childhood development announces the launch of EduCare, an interactive program designed to promote early childhood literacy, learning, health, and wellness for families, caregivers and children ages 0-8 years old.

EduCare is a market-ready program with content developed by expert health care providers, educators, and behavioral scientists. Brain development through literacy is the most powerful tool in defining a child’s future success in school and life, and literacy development begins in the earliest months of a baby’s life, preparing them for a formal educational environment.

EduCare is available to moms and caregivers, delivering age-appropriate content and activities that coincide with baby’s birth date. Content includes health and literacy resources correlated to key growth and development milestones that guide them through early childhood development.