How children hear affects how they learn

    In the last few years, the industry electronic readers for children has exploded. They’re like colorful, plastic easy to use Kindles, for the preschool set. For a toddler, what is the difference between being read to by a human and being told a story by a machine?

    Linda Crowe, a Professor of Education at the University of Nebraska Kearney, wanted to see how young children under two responded to these speak-aloud books, versus an adult reading a traditional book. She says they treated the e-book more like a toy. And it was a toy that didn’t have varied speech patterns, and couldn’t answer specific questions.

    “To me, neurologically what is happening is they are getting the same information over and over and over where interactions with adults you get new information added each time that they have an exchange, so you’ve got additional neurological impact happening there,” says Crowe. She says it’s important for parents and educators to consider the trade-off’s that come with electronic readers.

    Crowe presented this pilot research at the American Speech Language Hearing Association conference this weekend. Also presenting at the conference was Michelle Harmon, a Professor of Speech Pathology at Mississippi University for Women. Harmon looked into how classroom acoustic affect learning. When you think of a school teacher, you may think of someone yelling for the class to be quiet. But quiet, it turns out, is a key ingredient to learning according to Harmon.

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    “What happens is the same thing that happens to you when your volume on your TV is too low. You become distracted because you can’t hear well. As so adults we just turn off the TV set if it gets too noisy. Well that’s what young children do in their minds,” she says.

    Harmon says in addition to being an obstacle to students learning, poor acoustics can burn out teachers more quickly.

    There are two bills pending in Congress that would provide funding to improve classroom acoustics. The fixes, says Harmon, come down to simple things like improved insulation, carpet and low ceilings.

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