The Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University has released The Baobab, the first in a new series of three bilingual storybook apps to help with the acquisition of American Sign Language and English.
As reported on Decoded Science, The National Science Foundation-funded VL2 at Gallaudet University research center has developed The Baobab and two other storybook apps. The aim of the storybook apps is to help language acquisition and reading in all young children but when developing the product the team’s main focus was on those children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
In order to understand the needs of the hard of hearing population and produce a useful and successful product, the team of developers included deaf and hard of hearing members.
Digital Journal contacted Melissa Malzkuhn, VL2 Digital Innovation and Media Strategies Manager, for further information about their innovative app.
What age group are these storybook apps aimed at?Four and up, or you can say four-to-seven years old, as in early and emerging readers. In our focus groups, we had children as young as two years old enjoy the storybook app, and in some instances, there were eight or nine month old babies trying to follow and mimic signs.
The Baobab - interactive storybook app
Who is the target audience? We have received positive interest from people starting to learn American Sign Language, appreciating the storytelling (which is for all ages), and the glossary support. We plan to reach out to educators and parents through different magazines, publications, and news outlets. Where will the app be distributed, schools, libraries, individuals?Libraries and children’s museums are on our list in our effort to reach out. We are envisioning introducing them to every school in the country serving deaf and hard of hearing children, but at the same time, we see tremendous benefits for hearing children with deaf parents in using the storybooks.
Melissa Malzkuhn also mentioned that they have hidden an Easter egg in the app and added that the ‘accelerometer’ when in the 'read mode' should help the kids search for this item. When asked why they had decided to add this Malzkuhn replied, “ We want children to discover something on their own.”
More information about The Baobab is available on iTunes and users comments and reviews posted there seem very positive.
Two other story book apps will be released later this year The Little Airplane That Could and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Important teaching principles for deaf children
Interestingly, Gallaudet University states that research has proven that deaf children benefit more from deaf adults reading to them and that the academic achievements of deaf children with deaf parents are superior to those of deaf children with hearing parents. Taking this into consideration, Gallaudet has provided a list of principles based on the teaching methods used by deaf parents that hearing parents of deaf children can follow to help advance their children academically.