Could Providence’s Word Counting Project Be A “Boondoggle” As Well As Being Creepy?

I’ve previously posted about a new effort in Providence (see Providence Wins Grant For Project That May Hold Promise, But Also Sounds A Bit Creepy):

The City of Providence has just been awarded a $5 million grant from Michael Bloomberg’s foundation. They are going have small children carry recording devices that are attached to specially designed clothing and record all conversations they have during the day. They’ll then analyze the content of the conversations and use them to counsel parents on how they can increase the vocabulary knowledge of their kids.

I know that a big issue for low-income children is exposure to higher-level vocabulary, but I have to say that this project also sounds a little creepy to me. I also wonder what kind of role parents have had in developing the program.

The Boston Globe has a fairly lengthy article about the program today, though it still doesn’t answer my questions about it.

I was also struck by this quote:

Kyle Gorman, a researcher at Oregon Health and Science University’s Center for Spoken Language Understanding, thinks the program could turn out to be “a boondoggle.” “There is reason to doubt that the intervention will be effective either in its proximate goal (increasing language attainment) or the tacit social goal of leveling the socioeconomic playing field for children,” he wrote in an e-mail.

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